Songwriters Call for Artists to Stop Demanding Credit and Publishing

Three days after an anonymous songwriters group named the Pact called for artists to stop demanding credit for songs they did not write, the group has followed with a letter signed by Emily Warren, Ross Golan, Justin Tranter, Victoria Monet and others pledging that the signatories “will not give publishing or songwriting credit to an artist who did not create or change the lyric or melody or otherwise contribute to the composition without a reasonably equivalent/meaningful exchange for all the writers on the song.”

The writers who signed the letter have written songs for or with such Grammy-level artists as Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Pink, Shawn Mendes, Selena Gomez and many others, although the writers did not name names of the artists at whom the letter is directed. Other signees after the letter first posted include Savan Kotecha, Tayla Parx, Ian Kirkpatrick, Amy Allen, Scott Harris, Lennon Stella, Billy Mann, Shae Jacobs, Joel Little, Deza and Jordan McGraw.

The letter is available here for songwriters to sign.

It’s a bold statement to a policy that has long been an open secret in the music industry.

The key paragraph of the letter, which follows below in full, states: “Over the last few years, there has been a growing number of artists that are demanding publishing on songs they did not write. These artists will go on to collect revenue from touring, merchandise, brand partnerships, and many other revenue streams, while the songwriters have only their publishing revenue as a means of income. This demand for publishing is often able to happen because the artist and/or their representation abuse leverage, use bully tactics and threats, and prey upon writers who may choose to give up some of their assets rather than lose the opportunity completely. Over time, this practice of artists taking publishing has become normalized; and until now, there has been no real unity within the songwriting community to fight back.

“That is why we have decided to join together, in support of each other, and make a change.”

It has long been an open secret in the music industry that certain artists and/or their management demand a percentage of publishing and a songwriting credit on songs they did not write (or made minor contributions to) as a condition for the artist releasing the song. Songwriters often go along, on the premise that a smaller percentage of a hit song by a major artist is better than a large percentage of the same song when it isn’t a hit. Some songwriters are able to negotiate points on the master recording or some other form of compensation in exchange for the publishing they’re giving up — i.e. the “reasonably equivalent/meaningful exchange for all the writers” referenced above — but not always.

This practice dates back at least to Elvis Presley’s early superstar days and has continued to varying degrees ever since. Multiple songwriters and executives acknowledge that it exists, but decline to name names to avoid harming their careers.

The Pact’s goal is clearly to illuminate and address the imbalance songwriters face in the music industry, by noting the multiple revenue streams an artist can participate in — “touring, merchandise, brand partnerships, and many others” — while many songwriters rely solely on publishing. That revenue has grown smaller than ever in the streaming age, particularly when artists, their managers, A&R executives and others often take a percentage as well.

The Songwriters of North America non-profit issued a statement supporting the Pact’s letter: “The egregious practice of a recording artist asking, pressuring or even forcing a songwriter to give up songwriting credit, and a percentage of a song’s income, when they did not participate in writing that song has, unfortunately, been business-as-usual for decades.  But in the digital era, when artists and labels are already receiving most of the revenue from streaming, demanding a piece of our work is kicking us when we are already down and is simply greedy and cruel. The working songwriters and composers of SONA endorse The Pact and will support any songwriter who stands up and speaks out against this unfair practice.”

Other songwriter and publisher organizations did not immediately respond to Variety‘s requests for comment.

The letter follows below in full:

To whom it may concern:

The beauty of the music industry is that it operates at its best as an ecosystem. Behind most songs, there is a story of collaboration. By the time of release, a song has been touched not just by the artist, but by songwriters, producers, mixers, engineers, record labels, publishers, managers and more.

Over the last few years, there has been a growing number of artists that are demanding publishing on songs they did not write. These artists will go on to collect revenue from touring, merchandise, brand partnerships, and many other revenue streams, while the songwriters have only their publishing revenue as a means of income. This demand for publishing is often able to happen because the artist and/or their representation abuse leverage, use bully tactics and threats, and prey upon writers who may choose to give up some of their assets rather than lose the opportunity completely. Over time, this practice of artists taking publishing has become normalized; and until now, there has been no real unity within the songwriting community to fight back.

That is why we have decided to join together, in support of each other, and make a change. What we are saying is this:

This body of songwriters will not give publishing or songwriting credit to an artist who did not create or change the lyric or melody or otherwise contribute to the composition without a reasonably equivalent/meaningful exchange for all the writers on the song.

To be clear – this action is being taken for two main purposes. First and foremost, we hope that this action will protect the future “us”, the next generation of songwriters – those who believe they have no leverage and no choice but to give up something that is rightly theirs. The second purpose is to shift the rhetoric and perspective surrounding the role of a songwriter. As songwriters, we are fully aware of the importance of the artist who goes on to perform and promote the songs we write, the role of the producer who takes the song to the finish line, and the role of the label that finances the project and plans for strategy and promotion. In light of that, we are not suggesting we dip into those revenue streams, we are not asking for something we don’t deserve. We are simply asking for that respect in return. We are simply asking that the ecosystem stay in balance; we are simply asking that we not be put in positions where we are forced to give up all we have in exchange for nothing; we are simply asking that we give credit where credit is due and only take credit where credit is earned.

If we take the song out of the music industry, there is no music industry. As of today, we will no longer accept being treated like we are at the bottom of the totem pole, or be bullied into thinking that we should be making sacrifices to sit at the table. We are all in this together, and we all need each other for this wheel to keep turning. So let’s start acting like it.

Sincerely,

The Pact

 

Source: Music – Rolling Stone

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Related Post

NEWSLETTER

Sign up for Breaking News, Newsletter, Blog Posts and Special Deals from 1631 Digital and their media/marketing partners.

Subscribers agree to be contacted from 1631 Digital News and/or their media/marketing partners for breaking news alerts, newsletters and special media marketing offers via email, mail and/or texting communication.