May 17, 2018

The Story Behind the Song: Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” and the Legislation with the Power to Deliver More Hits Like It


For many, it was the song of last summer. And if its history is any indication, it will continue to ride the radio waves – and top the sales and downloads charts – this summer.

I’m talking about Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road.” It’s fun, it’s catchy, and it’s an undeniable, inescapable hit. The song spent more than 30 weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, shattering the record for the longest-running number one run after reaching 25 consecutive weeks. It quickly claimed a spot in the top three most-downloaded songs of any genre in 2017.

He’ll sing the song live throughout the coming months as a guest tourist alongside Luke Bryan. Arena merchandise stands will sell T-shirts and sweatshirts with his face on them.

But how did Sam Hunt – and “Body Like a Back Road” – get here?

Hunt worked with three co-writers, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Zach Crowell, to create and perfect his song, spending countless hours writing and rewriting. For what many listeners might consider a “simple” song, the writing process was anything but. In fact, the group jokes that they wrote sixteen different verses before settling on the final two. To discover the line, “The breeze and the birds!” the team estimates it took about nine hours of songwriting work.

Sam Hunt knows the value of strong songwriters first hand: he wrote singles for Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Billy Currington, and Reba McEntire before he set out on his solo career. Unfortunately, the outdated music regulations in the U.S. – some of which date back to World War II and beyond – don’t reflect that value.

Many songwriters and music publishers have trouble collecting their fair share of revenue and royalties associated with the songs they write. For example, for every dollar Spotify paid out to creators in 2017, only 19% went to writers and publishers. The Music Modernization Act is prepared to fix this imbalance.

The Music Modernization Act (MMA) will address the systemic problems facing songwriters and help them better reap the rewards of their hard word. The legislation will provide streamlined terms, a single entity to administer royalty payments, and a publicly available database of the authors and copyright owners in musical works. Additionally, the Music Modernization Act will give recognition to producers, mixers, and sound engineers who face similar barriers to compensation.

It’s no surprise that the Music Modernization Act passed the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote. Now, it’s the Senate’s turn.

Congress must pass the Music Modernization Act for the benefit of musicians and music lovers alike. Meaningful copyright reform will ensure we get to sing along to the next big hit, whatever it might be. Songwriters, start writing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Courtney Paul is the manager of communications for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center.

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