Influencers 2010

Influencer: Dr. Luke Gottwald, Music Producer

Hot Music Producer Knows Where the Party Is -- and Where the Hits Are for Pop Stars and Pop-Culture Brands Alike

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Whether it was the radio, YouTube or prime-time TV, there was no escaping Dr. Luke's music in 2010. The pop music ├╝ber-producer had a hand in four Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 singles this year (five if you count the "Glee" remake of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream"), collectively notching over 18 weeks atop the chart, and 14 other hits over the past 12 months.

Dr. Luke Gottwald
Dr. Luke Gottwald
He was also the year's most successful producer and most successful songwriter in terms of chart longevity, and recently picked up a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year ("Teenage Dream") and Producer of the Year. And his singles for Ke$ha ("Tik Tok," "We R Who We R"), Ms. Perry ("California Gurls") and Taio Cruz ("Dynamite") have all become instant cultural references, parodied ad nauseum online (and by the "Today Show" anchors) and shattering records for digital downloads and radio airplay.

So how does the year's most ubiquitous producer stay fresh?

In the case of Britney Spears, whose forthcoming album he's co-executive producing with longtime collaborator Max Martin, it means fleeing to Stockholm.

Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald, 37, caught up with Ad Age from the studio in Sweden, where he went for a breather from putting finishing touches on Ms. Spears' new single, "Hold It Against Me," out Jan. 7. To hear him tell it, the new album will sound uniquely Britney but unlike anything Mr. Gottwald has done before. So none of his signature sounds (like the rubbery record-scratching baseline that pervades Ke$ha's songs and even "Dynamite") and nothing that sounds like it could've been recorded by Lady Gaga, Rihanna or even Ms. Perry.

"With the beginning of any record for an artist there's a certain amount of time of finding the blueprint and trying to find what the architecture is of the sound," Mr. Gottwald said. "And one of the main things for me was to just not to do what I've done before."

That also means relying more on his songwriting and production partners. For someone who's had a hand in virtually all of the year's biggest party songs, Dr. Luke doesn't get out much. So he turns to his network of 12 songwriters signed to his publishing companies, Where Da Kasz At Music and Kasz Money Publishing, as well as upcoming artists signed to his RCA Records imprint, Kemosabe Entertainment, for ideas and tips on hot new songs.

"To be totally honest, it's just staying open and being receptive to receiving new information and stuff from people," he said.

He also has a knack for artist development. Ke$ha, the breakout pop artist of 2010, was the first artist signed to Mr. Gottwald's Kemosabe label, and he has high hopes for Jessie J, a British singer-songwriter who wrote Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA."

"The first record with an artist oftentimes can be the most exciting. When it's not routine for them, when it's really new is the best moment in their careers."

He's also nurturing up-and-coming songwriters like Bonnie McKee (who co-wrote "Teenage Dream" and "Dynamite," among others) and producers like Ammo and Billboard to expand his pop-music empire. Mr. Gottwald knows his colleagues have made it when established artists tap them to work on their records, like Swedish pop star Robyn recently did with Billboard, or Ms. Ammo's upcoming work on the new Britney record.

But when it comes to measuring his own influence, Mr. Gottwald relies more on anecdotes than any numbers. His songs have been licensed for everything from Victoria's Secret ads to toothbrushes (Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" in 2004), yet the "Today Show" parody of "Dynamite" in which Matt Lauer, Al Roker and others sing along to the Taio Cruz hit, seems to be his ultimate acknowledgment by the zeitgeist.

"You're always superstoked when you see that your song did go the distance and people are recognizing it," he said.

And Mr. Gottwald, who began his music career playing guitar and other instruments for various jingle houses, is still open to lending his knack for ear candy with a brand -- if the idea's right, of course.

"I'm available -- Ogilvy & Mather, JWT, Saatchi -- bring it on."

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