December Songwriter News

December 29, 2015

By Dwight Brown

The holiday season is a perfect time to look back at the gains and challenges of 2015 and anticipate what direction songwriters should take in 2016.

Even in the midst of this rapidly changing digital age, the songwriting industry is booming, the U.S. Copyright Office could get an update, co-songwriters are getting advice on protecting their rights, music publishing can find new frontiers and you can sing “Happy Birthday” anytime, anywhere—for FREE.

This December, the world of songwriting and publishing continues to turn…

Business is booming for songwriters in the global market

upwards leading arrow in stock market exchange

Songwriters have been singing the blues about diminishing returns, but Music Business Worldwide, based on the findings of a leading industry economist Will Page (Spotify’s Director of Economics), thinks they should be rejoicing. To quote MBW, “Across 2014, the worldwide music copyright industry – that’s recorded music income plus publishing and songwriting (‘musical works’) – generated a grand total of $25.28 billion.” Breaking it down further, “… the income from publishing and songwriting (‘musical works’) was $11,338bn!  

Page was on a mission to give the publishing community facts that had not been extrapolated before, “I wanted to plug the knowledge gap, as industry analysts and professionals often don’t appreciate the sheer value of musical works that songwriters and publishers create,” says Page. His three keen observations:

  1. The songwriting/publishing sector is large and more importantly it’s growing!
  2. Collecting societies have been reporting ‘record collections,’ in contrast to the recording industry, which has seen its top line halve in size.
  3. Publishers are seeing direct revenues make up an increasing share of their business as they expand their licensing activities in areas like sync.

The global music market, for songwriters, is generating billions more dollars every year than most people thought.

New bill aims to modernize U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright intellectual property and digital copyright laws conceptual illustration with symbol and icon and a gavel on black background.

The U.S. Copyright Office could move out of the analog era into the digital era if three members of Congress can get their CODE Act (Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act) passed. MusicWeek points out that co-sponsor Congressman Tom Marino knows the deal, “…we have allowed our Copyright Office to fall behind the fast-moving pace of America’s creators… This bill will ensure the Office has great autonomy to more quickly adapt to changes in technology.” Congresswoman Judy Chu concurs, “The copyright industries are responsible for millions of jobs and billions of dollars in our economy, yet the office responsible is running on analog in a digital world.”

Key points in the bill:  

Remove Copyright Office from Library of Congress and make it independent.

– The President would appoint the Director of the Copyright Office.

– Administrative functions under Library of Congress become CO responsibilities.

Key powers and duties of the new Copyright Office:

– Advise Congress on national and international issues relating to copyrights.

– Provide advice and assistance to the Executive and Judiciary branches.

– Participate in meetings of international intergovernmental organizations.  

CO strategy:

Conduct “ongoing technology studies to ensure the office remains current with technology.”  

To read the entire text of the CODE Act, click here.

Do “split sheets” provide enough protection for co-writers?

Several American Dollars ripped or torn in half symbolizing the destruction of the economy

When songwriters co-create new music and work together they take credit for their work. Typically they sign a “split sheet,” a document that specifies each person’s contributions and ownership percentage on a given track. According to an article at Hypebot, Artists should make an effort to take further legal precautions in order to avoid issues down the road.” Having nothing more than a “split sheet” could cause some serious complications for co-composers if they don’t consider all possible outcomes.

These issues could be come a challenge if you only have a “split sheet:”

* The right to request a proper accounting from the other parties

* The right to recover certain documented expenses

* Proper attribution or credit on the finished work

* Indemnifications for potential unauthorized sampling

Clearly, the traditional “split sheet” may not be enough to serve all the best interests of co-songwriters.

Is streaming giving songwriters a raw deal, or is there hope?

Is the future looking up or down for songwriters seeking royalties from music streaming? A Music Business Worldwide article that summarized a MBW podcast delved into that subject when it featured a candid interview with Justin Kalifowitz, CEO of Downtown Music Publishing. Kalifowitz represents songwriting copyrights for artists from John Lennon to One Direction and is surprisingly  “very bullish” about the future of music publishing.

Regulations: “Quite simply, whenever the government’s not involved, publishers tend to get a much higher percentage of the overall pie.”

Metadata matching issues: “Less than 80% of [due money] is making its way to songwriters and publishers because of [meta] data issues.”

Forcing more value out of “Freemium” services: “As an industry if we continue to [allow that to happen], I think we’re going to be shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Here’s the silver lining: “When you think about the fact that less than one sixth of the world’s population currently lives in places where music publishing as an industry is mature, that’s a very exciting proposition.”

If there’s room for growth, there’s room for hope in 2016.



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