Submit Your Research

We invite your assistance in compiling relevant studies and examples of original research collaborations.


What Makes a Song Really Sing?

  • October 2, 2014
  • By Allison Engel     
Using background vocals increases the chances that a pop song will top the charts, a USC business researcher found.


Joseph Nunes, professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business, together with doctoral candidates at the USC Thornton School of Music, analyzed thousands of songs from Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 to determine which combination of instruments and vocals comprised the most popular songs in the United States over the past 55 years. The compilation of hit singles began in 1958.

The research found that using background vocals in your song increases your chances of reaching the top of the charts, said Nunes, a music lover and beginning guitarist fascinated by the psychology of music.

Photo: Backup singers Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer, from left, perform in the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom (Photo/courtesy of Gil Friesen Productions)