Awards Business News Labels & Publishers

Sony/ATV chief calls on streaming platforms to credit those songwriters

By | Published on Thursday 15 June 2017


Streaming royalties for songwriters and publishers may be slowly increasing as the so called digital pie is slightly re-sliced, but there’s much more to be done. Oh, and can we start crediting songwriters in the streaming domain? I mean, how difficult can that be? Come on, stream-makers, you can credit a songwriter now and again can’t you? What, you need a Global Repertoire Database to do that? Poor excuse my friend, poor excuse.

Not my words, I should add, but the words of Sony/ATV boss man Marty Bandier. Well, my words. His sentiment. He didn’t fake a conversation with a generic streaming platform while accepting an award from the US National Music Publishers’ Association, but he did have good moan about streaming royalties and songwriters going uncredited.

The music publishing game is “more complex and more challenging than ever before” reckoned Bandier, and while the streaming income received by publishers and songwriters is on the rise, “the fruits of our labour are not being equitably rewarded and we are not benefitting from the streaming revolution as meaningfully as we should”.

And can we please start crediting songwriters again? “I’ve always believed that songwriters are not getting proper recognition”, Bandier continued. “This is even more prevalent today on the leading music streaming services. Far too often the songwriter’s contribution is overlooked or even forgotten. I have no doubt that this lack of public recognition has played a major part in why songwriters are not treated on an equal basis as the recording artist”.

Actually, when it comes to streaming royalties received, that’s not true. Recording rights earn more than song rights because the streaming services always do their labels deal first in order to access content. And the digital music business was modelled on the CD business where labels always took most of the money. And the major music conglomerates – like Sony – would ultimately prefer more money to flow through their label businesses than their publishing businesses, because record and publishing contract conventions mean that way they get to keep more of the cash.

He’s right about it being rubbish that songwriters don’t get credited more though. “When I look today at the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, I ask: where are the names of the songwriters?” the Sony/ATV boss continued. “They are either not there or so hidden that you would have to be a special prosecutor, or perhaps The Washington Post, to find them. It is as if the songwriters do not exist and the only people who matter are the recording artists. However, without the songwriters coming up with the words and music in the first place, there would be nothing for the artist to record and no music to stream”.

Noting how many hit songs now are at least partly written by a non-performing songwriter, Bandier added: “The wider world – and most especially streaming companies – must start to fully acknowledge the essential contribution that songwriters make to music and to the success of the music business. And that should start by identifying them today”.

He concluded: “So I call upon all music streaming services and others to prominently show the names of the songwriters who wrote the songs just as they clearly credit the artists who recorded them. It’s a tiny step but a hugely symbolic one that will once again put the role of the songwriter front and centre and remind everyone of the songwriter’s vital contribution to music and the industry. And, ultimately, it will play a part in ensuring that these will become the best of times for everybody, including the songwriters and music publishers”.

Hurrah for that, I say! What’s that Mr Streaming Platform? The labels won’t provide songwriter information – or even a unique song identifier – and the music publishing sector’s failure to build a one-stop publicly accessible database of songwriter and publisher information sorted by each track’s ISRC identifier makes providing accurate songwriter information tricky? Poor excuse my friend, poor excuse.