At the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) Centennial Annual Meeting in New York this month, Sony/ATV CEO Martin Bandier was awarded the Life Service Award. In his speech, he spoke about how songwriters and music publishers are not given their fair share of revenue and recognition in the wake of the streaming revolution.
“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.”
“When I look today at the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, I ask: where are the names of the songwriters?”
Bandier noted than in any given week, 95 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart are written in part by someone other than the recording artist. He mentioned that “without the songwriters coming up with the words and the music in the first place, there would be nothing for the artist to record and no music to stream.” He proposed that all streaming services start displaying songwriter names as prominently as the artists who have recorded the songs. He thinks this small step will remind everyone of the immense value songwriters provide the music industry, and hopefully ensure more equal compensation for songwriters and publishers in the future.
A newsworthy catalog to hit streaming services this month was Taylor Swift’s. She and her label chose to withhold the catalog from all streaming services except Apple Music in November of 2014, citing piracy and Spotify’s free tier. But since then, the streaming market (and revenues) have grown exponentially. In the first week of the songs being available, Billboard estimates that the catalog generated about $418,000 in the US alone. Only $64,000 of this was generated by the compositions and will be split between all co-writers and publishers of the songs. The discrepancy between the revenue generated on the master and composition side is immense and quite unfair. In sync licenses, masters and compositions are typically licensed at the same rate for both sides; so why is the difference so large in royalties from streaming?
Streaming has clearly become the main format for music listening. Spotify recently reached more than 140 million active users and is integrating a collaborative playlist tool into Facebook Messenger. As we continue through this “streaming revolution,” as Bandier said, “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...Ultimately, it will play a part in ensuring that these will become the best of times for everybody, including the songwriters and music publishers.”