“The Middle” is a hell of a song, and as it turns out, it took a hell of a lot of work to pull off.
We, the listening public who helped the tune reach #1 at pop radio and #5 on Billboard’s Hot 100, know it as the work of Zedd (the Russian-German EDM superproducer), Maren Morris (the Texas-bred, Nashville-based country singer), and Grey (the LA-based producer brothers). A new New York Times video feature about the making of the song reveals how many other people were involved, including at minimum two more producers (the duo the Monsters & Strangerz), one songwriter (young Australian native Sarah Aaron), and more than a dozen vocalists who auditioned for the part that eventually went to Morris.
Now, Variety has revealed the names of those singers, and you’ll likely recognize quite a few of them. Those named in the report include include Demi Lovato, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tove Lo, Camila Cabello, Cabello’s former Fifth Harmony group-mate Lauren Jauregui, Anne-Marie, Bishop Briggs, Bebe Rexha, Daya, and Elle King.
The report also traces the twists and turns that led to the song’s release. For instance, “The Middle” was almost a Lovato single last spring, before Zedd was even involved with the song, but she chose “Sorry Not Sorry” instead. Cabello was ready to release the song last fall, but she pulled out two weeks before its scheduled drop date because she didn’t want anything to overshadow her #1 hit “Havana.” Then it was going to be an Anne-Marie single, but among other political machinations, Zedd didn’t want a single with the British singer at the same time she was releasing “Friends” with rival EDM hit-maker Marshmello.
Furthermore, the piece includes this eye-opening breakdown of Spotify’s royalty payouts:
In simple math, a million streams on Spotify averages out to around $6,800 in revenue, the lion’s share of which ($6,000) goes to the master rights holder (the label). The remaining (around $800) is allotted to the publishers, which then divide the earnings between their writers based on percentages of ownership (rates vary between paid and free streams). “The Middle,” as of this writing, had 236 million streams on the streaming service, which could net out $184,000 to the publishers — and that’s just for Spotify. Factor in other DSPs like Apple Music, and it’s already at $250,000. By comparison, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You,” the biggest song of 2017, has 1.7 billion streams on Spotify. A songwriter’s share of that track easily tops a seven-figure payout.
If you think that’s fascinating, read the whole report and check out the NYT video below too.