David Lowery

The Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery is now a researcher at the University Of Georgia, and he’s also become a crusader for musicians’ financial rights. He was most recently seen on this site decrying Pandora’s practice of paying musicians a pittance for streaming rights, and he also famously shamed an NPR intern last year for publicly admitting that she’d downloaded a ton of music illegally. And now, based on a study by Lowery, the National Music Publishers Association has filed take-down notices against 50 different websites dedicated to posting song lyrics.

As Pitchfork reports, Lowery has put together a study that names 50 websites, all of which post song lyrics without licensing those lyrics from music publishers. The site names Rap Genius, the massive CliffNotes-for-rap-lyrics clearinghouse, as its highest offender.

Rap Genius co-founder Ilan Zechory has been emailing with The New York Times about the issue. He won’t say whether the site has paid to license those lyrics (and it seems pretty clear that it probably doesn’t), merely saying that the site “can’t wait to have a conversation with [publishers] about how all writers can participate in and benefit from the Rap Genius knowledge project.” He also attempts to distance his site from the other offenders by claiming that Rap Genius offers a valuable service by getting its readers to interpret lyrics rather than just posting them.

Music publishing is a facet of the music business that can be easy to ignore, but it’s a huge deal. Bars have to pay publishers for the rights to play music, and TV sports broadcasters have to pay for whatever bits of marching-band music make it to air. So it seems entirely possible that lyric sites might legally have to pay for the rights to the lyrics they post. Still, the most interesting thing about this whole story is the idea that the crackers at Rap Genius, who have been accused of profiteering from a culture they don’t represent, might face their greatest challenge in the guy from Cracker. Obviously, the best way to respond to this whole thing is by posting appropriate parodies of Lowery lyrics in the comments section. I’ll start.

Comments (83)
  1. I guess we should pretty much ban all art from the internet. No more google images of the Mona Lisa, take down those Walt Whitman poems. Right Lowery?

    • i’m not sure if this is a great parody of hipster blog comment alarmism or if you’re actually unaware of the ground-floor copyright law concept of the public domain

      • Images of the Mona Lisa aren’t public domain. They’re the works of Photographers. Ever wonder why there is hardly any free sheet music for Classical Music though the composers haven been dead for centuries? It’s because any sheet music that isn’t an actual facsimile of the original score is the work of of person that transcribed the music. So in theory the concept of public domain is a nice one, while in reality it hardly serves its purpose.

        • Not really true. IANAL, but photos of the Mona Lisa may or may not be in the public domain, depending on whether they are sufficiently transformative. A straight on shot of the Mona Lisa is most likely in the public domain.

  2. “Get off this! Get on with it! If you wanna change the world, shut your mouth and sue Rap Genius!”

  3. “Hey! Don’t ya wanna go deeeoooowwn! Like some website that illegally posts unlicensed song lyrics!”

  4. “I don’t know what the world may want, but some websites that post unlicensed lyrics it surely don’t, so I think I’ll go and publish a study that gets all of them taken down.”

  5. That’s all I got. I don’t know that many Cracker songs.

  6. Right, because the guy from Camper Van Beethoven needs to protect his genius lyrics from all the greedy people who want to make money off of him.

    Some bands don’t even have websites, let alone publish their lyrics.

    Who the fuck cares, David Lowery? I can see being upset that someone stole your music, but your lyrics? Get outta here.

  7. Here’s some lyrics dedicated to Mr. Lowery:

    You could never be
    What you wanted to be
    Being an a-hole, it takes time
    Someday you’re gonna whine
    You’ll see

    You’ll be a gestapo diplomat
    You’ll be like douchebag aristocrat
    Take down the website, you say “I could be getting paid for that”
    Someday you’re gonna whine
    You’ll see

  8. Is David Lowery going to confiscate my high school notebook where I scribbled the lyrics to blink-182′s “Adam’s Song” songs along the margins and demand royalties for that, too? Is he going to demand all of the townie girls in my facebook News Feed pay up or remove lyrics to country songs posted in their Status Updates? He’s made some decent points in the past, but this one seems like a stretch by Internet standards.

    • Proobably not..But you can continue to steal his music and lyrics

    • is your high school notebook being visited by thousands of people and are you getting revenue from it?

    • Well, I don’t know. Is your notebook a company worth tens of millions of dollars?

    • Is your notebook a circus? Is it a hot-air balloon festival?

      Could it be the case that your notebook is a movie theater? Do people stand in line to see your notebook, sometimes foolishly paying extra for 3D glasses?

      Is your notebook a stripclub? A graveyard? Can I buy stock in your notebook? Can your notebook buy stock in me? Am I your notebook? If I was, how would I know?

      What brand of notebook is it? Mead? Top Flight? Is it a spiral notebook, or a composition book (I hate those, they always fall apart!)? Do you have any stickers on it?

      Just kidding : ). I actually mean nothing by any of this. Just felt like asking some more annoying questions that didn’t need to be asked.

  9. “Every day, I get up and pray to NMPA/And they decrease the number of lyric sites by exactly 50/Everybody’s comin’ for free lunch these days/Last night there were Rap Geniuses on my lawn/Take the Rap Geniuses bowling/Take them bowling!”

  10. Haha fuck this guy.

  11. Ironically, it seems that Cracker is quite flexible with copyright law when it comes to images: https://www.facebook.com/CrackerSoul/photos_stream . I’m sure Bill Watterson approved that Calvin re-appropriation.

    • To the top with you!

    • Oh, for goodness sake people. There is a huge HUGE difference between posting a picture on your Facebook timeline, and making a living selling someone else’s creative work as your business.

      • You’re right that there is a HUGE difference between the two – what Cracker is doing is much worse. Cracker, to all appearances, is using trademarked images and copy-righted characters as promotional material, presumably without the IP holders permission. That weakens the IP’s brand power which lessens the value of the IP. It is also unfair to those who lawfully license such intellectual property because it cheapens the IP’s promotional value.

        So Cracker and lyric sites are dirty rotten thieves. But at least the lyric sites aren’t causing any active harm by their thievery. They are generating revenue by providing a fan service that is clearly in demand which hasn’t been attempted to be provided by legitimate outlets. Cracker, on the other hand, is okay with freeloading off others work, decreasing their earning potential, as long as no one does it to them.[start hyperbole font] i.e. They are destroying the economy. Thanks, Obama![end hyperbole font]

    • maybe he did.

  12. “Maybe he went to post lyrics of the Circle Jerks”

  13. i don’t know any cracker songs, but i do like to read lyrics (or laugh at what people think is being sung) while listening to songs. and i don’t know why this is a big deal? but i actually buy music and a lot of albums don’t include lyrics in the liner notes. so i don’t know why artists would care if their songs were being “interpreted” unless they want to tell us what they are singing and include it in the album packaging.

  14. There are good sites and there are lyric sites
    And there are cops and criminals
    there are song thieves and I’ve got lawyers
    Youre gonna be sued, you wait and see

  15. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Yes, because who *doesn’t* pay money to just read lyrics without even any music to accompany them?

    • This is so stupid I don’t even have anything to say.

    • Well, to provide a serious answer to your question, there are a couple of reasons you could argue.

      a) it’s not an appropriation: Copyright law can be pretty tricky when it comes to determining whether the boundary between an unlicensed appropriation and an allowable interpretation. If sites are cribbing lyrics directly from lyric sheets, that’s pretty obviously a copyright violation. However, if the lyrics on the site are products of listener interpretation and deciphering, that MIGHT be enough to say that it’s an independent work. Traditionally, courts have said that a work only needed to show a “low spark of creativity” to justify a copyright. (In a Supreme Court case, a phone book company was convinced its competitors was copying their book whole sale, so they included some dummy listings. When those listings showed up in their competitors phone books, they sued for copyright violation. In a divided opinion, the court ruled that the mere standard listing of phone numbers didn’t show the sufficient “spark of creativity” to justify a copyright.)

      That probably won’t work, but it might influence the second argument

      b) Fair Use: Fair use is an affirmative defense, where you admit copyright violation but you argue that the appropriation was justified by mitigating circumstances. Examples of fair uses are educational use or parody (so Tom, you’re in the clear). It helps a fair use defense if you aren’t making money from the use. Here sites could argue that they are not appropriating the whole work, only a non-definitive version of the lyrics; also, they could that they aren’t profiting directly from the appropriating, they are profiting because they serve as an aggregator. Rap Genius has a very solid case for this because they can argue that their ad-revenue generating “clicks” aren’t driven by the lyrics but by the listener interpretations. These interpretations, by themselves, are 100% not covered under the artists copyright.

    • c) Legal Philosophy: Copyright was founded as a right in equity, not in property. The law decided that it wasn’t fair that a artist would lose all rights of control over a creative work once he sold a copy of that work, so it gave the copyright holder a series of rights lasting for a period beyond the original sale. However, over the previous century as the entertainment industry has gotten more and more powerful, that initial sense of an equity driven right has been grievously warped. Copyrights are now treated as concrete property rights rather than abstract theoretical rights (and that’s without diving into the realm of work for hire). Copyrights now last wayyy too long for any equity-based justification, and give holders such stringent rights that they can somewhat overwhelm a property holders rights. What started out as a method to give some sort of fairness to the producer of creative work has devolved into a supervening property right that is often out of the hands of the person who provided any “spark of creativity.”

      which leads us to

      d) being a self-righteous, greedy douche: It’s one thing thing if someone is profiting by violating your copyright and taking money out of your pocket, but that’s not what’s happening here. There’s no record industry alternative to Metrolyrics or Rap Genius that has a database of song lyrics. Know why? Probably because there isn’t enough money in it. The official sites that do provide fan lyrics (like the excellent bobdylan.com and if Dylan is okay with giving away his lyrics, who the fuck is Lowrey to raise a stink over it?) do so as a fan service. So Lowery is pitching a fit because sites that are providing a service for consumers whose support allows artists to make a living (who, let’s assume, bought the music) make a few book a year from ad revenue by hosting content that (kinda, maybe) appropriates his copyright. It’s not just greed, it’s a solipsistic greed.

  16. Something about the very notion of “intellectual property” strikes me as not awesome. It’s like patenting a gene. Make nature manifest but don’t try to own it.

    Protect the muse from advanced capitalism and Cracker!

    Opossum out.

    • I think you’d change your tune if someone blatantly stole your creative work, passed it off as their own, and got all the credit and/or a nice payday from it. Of course, the above issue is quite different from a copyright violation at its most basic, but I think it’s fairly clear why those rights are important. No IP rights would be a big disincentive to create.

      • “… if someone blatantly stole your creative work, passed it off as their own…”
        Please show me in the story above where he is talking about plagiarism or not giving the author credit for his work. This is not Lowery’s argument at all.

        His argument about lyrics (similar to his views on Spotify) is that the artist should basically be paid every time someone hears their song (on the radio or streaming online) and apparently that they are paid every time their music’s lyrics are read. Agree or disagree, that is his argument, not the thing you said.

      • Well you took it to the extreme, Mr. Cornell, but in that case I wouldn’t be upset that I’m not making any money off of it. I’d just be sad that someone was such a dick to me. Still, the idea that it’s “your creative work” seems like a fiction. Yes, I am the direct cause of the production of the work, but I don’t think I deserve so much credit that I get to claim ownership over it. Also, it might be a disincentive to create for a lot of people, I’m sure…but I don’t think those people are creating for the most awesome of reasons.

        Opossum’s thoughts.

  17. “‘Cause I got lyrics but you ain’t got none
    If you come to battle bring a shotgun”

  18. I think a lot of commentators here are missing the point. He’s going after sites that explicitly flaunt no rights usage. I’m sure you’ve all come across sites that have something like “We do not have usage rights for these lyrics.” Considering that many artists find their lyrics inextricably linked with the song itself, it stands to reason there would be, albeit small, grounds here for something (on the reverse there are likely just as many you couldn’t give a shit about lyrics). I do think a lawsuit is overboard. Bringing attention to the issue, much like artists have done with Spotify and the like have done without legality mumbo jumbo would’ve been a sufficient first step.

    For myself, I’m torn. I loathe capitalist systems but at the same time I can empathize with artists who, because of the conditions that surround us, have to make a buck. It’s a dicey situation we find ourselves in.

  19. I agree with Bryce.
    This article makes Lowry seem like a cranky Luddite, but his argument is much bigger than just rap lyrics.
    Check out this short interview with him on Radio 360.
    It changed my mind on the entire issue.


  20. Nah, fuck this guy. Dude’s got a serious stick up his ass, and he seems rather out of touch with the reality of the world we live in. Music piracy is never going to go away, and the best course of action is to somehow adapt it into a structure that benefits the artist. The question of how to do this has not yet been effectively answered. But his bullshit whining about one thing or another related to music piracy and attempts to shut sites down is definitely not going to solve anything or help to answer that question. As soon as these sites get shut down, 50 more will pop up to replace them soon enough (with the exception of RapGenius, which I will get to in a minute). It reminds me of the War on Drugs. Clearly not a plan that is working! It isn’t wrong to want to keep drugs off the street, but the brute force methods of prohibiting their distribution/use has been wholly ineffective, so to continue in that vein won’t solve anything. The guy might not be wrong, but I don’t think he is completely right on this either. This is duct taping a hole in a sinking ship.

    And as trivial as it is to try and stop unlicensed lyric websites from existing, I might agree with the principle if it weren’t for one major exception, that also happens to be at the top of the list, and it being there kind of defines my whole opinion that Lowery is just a giant asshole. That exception is RapGenius, and to shut that site down would be the equivalent of shutting down Wikipedia for the same reasons. RapGenius is a valuable site that often times has submissions from the artists themselves, and is a very helpful tool in terms of informing the listener of the context and background of many more subtle or not easily understood lyrics. Lowery is shitting on something that I would argue makes a net positive contribution in terms of music appreciation even though they are probably unlicensed. And for that I think he crosses the line from being a Wet Blanket Who Might Have a Point to just being an Asshole.

    Personally, after the shaming of the NPR intern incident, I refuse to respect what this guy has to say on any of these issues, as he seems like he’s just an bitter jerkoff from a completely forgettable, second rate 90′s rock band and is trying to make a name for himself or get paid more or whatever.

  21. People use lyrics sites to look up lyrics to songs they are already listening to, not as any kind of substitute for the music itself. There is no viable analogy to the taking of music itself. Reading lyrics is not a substitute for listening to music. And most artists no longer post lyrics with the liner notes so looking them up on lyrics sites is the only way to learn that information.

    • The argument isn’t that the end user is stealing anything. It’s that the guy running a lyrics site is using other people’s work as content on a site he’s making money off of. It’s not analogous to somebody at home downloading music; it’s analogous to a company like Ford or Pepsi using a song in a commercial without paying the artist.

      He’s not even bagging on lyrics sites in general, he’s only going after sites that profit using content they didn’t create.

    • What are you talking about? I read Party In The USA every morning 4X before I brush my teeth. It’s even better than the song.

    • Another benefit – having fewer liner notes/none at all is a green method. If an artist doesn’t want people profiting off their lyrics, they should have their own lyrics on their website and a forum beneath. Clearly since many artists aren’t doing that, they don’t mind lyrics sites.

  22. As a hearing impaired music lover, FUCK THIS GUY. Lyric sites further my appreciation for songs. I schedule and value the time I spend to sit down with an album I love and (as a commenter here once said) have a fucking read-along. Rap Genius is one of the best because it is more concerned with interacting and engaging with its audience rather than better SEO and selling ads.

    But back to FUCK THIS GUY. I’d be less pissed off if he personally came and took a shit on my kitchen floor. The music (or all art, if you want to get flowery) you create becomes your children, not your pets. It leaves your house and becomes something else. Hopefully something better if you did your job right. So do your job right, asshole.

  23. Does that mean that Wikipedia should be shut down?

    • No. Because Wikipedia isn’t making money using other people’s work.

      • Seriously, I think 98% of the people complaining in this comments section has no clue what is even being discussed. It’s all just entitled belly aching.

      • Can’t you argue that Wikipedia does feature work and does receive money from donors? I’ve absolutely seen lyrics, album art, photos of artists, and actual audio clips of music on Wikipedia. I’ve also seen images of copyrighted visual art. I have ALSO seen many excerpts from articles other people wrote. So Wikipedia does earn donations through sharing this content.

  24. It seems to me that Lowry is willfully conflating a number of issues here: a) illegal music downloading; b) legal music streaming; c) illegal lyric reproduction; d) sites that analyze and discuss lyrics. What I resent Lowry for mostly is his inability to distinguish all of these very different issues–thus leaving it to us to distinguish them. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to be someone who thinks, for example, that illegal downloading of music does deprive musicians of revenue, while supporting a viable platform of streaming music that can be fair to musicians (even if that platform may or may not be Spotify). Or that some lyric sites violate publishing rights, while others may be legitimate forms of analysis and discussion. That Lowry decided to name Rap Genius as the #1 offender suggests to me that he himself doesn’t have all of the issues straight and if he is in fact going to be the public spokesman for musician’s rights he might want to do a little soul searching first. Moreover, hasn’t Rap Genius actively reached out to rap musicians to participate in the annotation of their own lyrics? Doesn’t this suggest that the owners and operators of the site have an interest in reaching out to the very community that people like Lowry claim they are exploiting.

    Finally, I would like to point out that it’s not like the NMPA has always been on the side of artists or have always had the best interests of artists. They have resisted fair use laws for artists who wish to sample work for years and have actively brought suit against certain artists who wish to appropriate lyrics for their own creative content. If this sounds like a certain genre of music that sites such as Rap Genius actively attempt to promote, well, then, everybody should connect the dots (btw, I’m fully aware of the problems surrounding the race of the owners and operators of Rap Genius and have followed for years the complaints about the site within the rap community. It’s good that this conversation takes place. Shutting the site down without offering a viable alternative ends that conversation).

    • Yes. You make a lot of the points I tried to make in my comment, but yours is articulated better. Saying unlicensed lyric sites take money away from the artists is one thing, naming Rap Genius as the number one offender is a bunch of bullshit that implies Lowery is either unaware of or refusing to acknowledge the differences in the issues here.

    • I’m kind of sad they went after Rap Genius first (those guys clearly do add value to what they post) but it must be pretty annoying to see people get SIXTEEN MILLION in investment for posting your copyrighted lyrics online without asking for permission.

      I think the issue here is that people have got used to being able to do things on the Internet that aren’t actually legal, mostly because there’s no money to be earned going after individual people. But when you’re talking about a company worth millions of dollars I don’t blame the record companies for feeling they can afford to spread the love a bit. My hope is that Rap Genius can sort out licensing and become an income source for the people whose lyrics it’s posting.

  25. The point of this is to say “dear soul-sucking internet: please stop capitalizing off of the work of other people, both living and dead, who are or have been artists, but you only regard as content-producers, and who you give exactly zero fucks about.”

    If you think it sucks that people are pissed about the theft of their work, that those people don’t “get it” and should be *thankful* that various and sundry shitty websites are helping people “discover” them – well then, best of luck with being an easily duped sheep-person.

    • The theft of their work? Get the fuck outta here with that nonsense. Lyric sites don’t pass off the lyrics as their own, no one is claiming to have written the lyrics that are posted on those sites, they’re there so people have easy access to the lyrics of their favorite songs.

      This issue is made even more stupid by the fact that many artists don’t even provide the lyrics to their albums with the albums! Where are you supposed to go to find the lyrics for your favorite song if the album that you paid for doesn’t have the lyrics included and you can’t go to a lyric website?

      I understand that artist’s want to make money off their work but this is getting fucking ridiculous.

      • Let’s not forget that printing costs are the reason most of these artists don’t include lyric sheets in their records and it’s not like the lyrics come with the legal mp3 downloads either.

      • Whoa, way to go with a straw man argument. Nobody’s saying that the creators of Rap Genius are literally claiming they wrote Juicy. On the other hand, they are making a fortune off selling ads against lyrics other people wrote. I don’t blame record companies for feeling they can afford to share the love a little.

        • Record companies shouldn’t be asking for money. The ARTIST should, if anyone, and if artists really want to control their lyrics they should post them on their own site.

  26. Why not let music fans sue musicians for not FUCKING ENUNCIATING?!?! Or PRINTING THE LYRICS on the bloody records or liner notes?!?! Jesus-titty-fucking-christ on a cracker! Do you realize how many song lyrics of of Montreal I have to look up because I can’t understand a fucking word? Not all bands have the cadence of funeral march like Camper Van Beethoven and it’s sometimes difficult to pick up the nuance of the lyrics if you have no idea what they are saying. This guy is a dick, not a music fan. This is out of hand.

  27. The take-down notices were not filed by Lowery. They were filed by the NMPA, based on a study that he conducted. I have no opinion on Lowery’s music because I have never heard it. I am guessing I might recognize that Cracker song, but I am not sure. I just want everyone to be clear on the fact that Lowery is not personally going after these lyric sites.

    Here is something to consider… As a thirty-something with kids, I spend almost $200 a month on a Time Warner package that I barely use. I mean, a home phone (really?), slow internet and digital cable. There is nothing on cable that I want to see, save for sporting events and the occasional news. I pay for like 600 channels of garbage, but feel fine spending $200 a month for it. Our home internet gets used, but never for anything of note: email, occasional browsing, etc. Why do we as a culture feel like that is okay but wince at paying for an album?

    What if a service were to charge a solid fee, like $150 – $200 a month for unlimited access to content. Could they then pay more to the artists? What if you could create an a la carte type of “channel” based on genre or something…? I feel like I would do that.

    i want artists to make more money. I enjoy music, but I also felt fine paying $15 for a tape or cd back in the day. That felt fair. In my book, we cannot bitch and moan about artists not making any money and then go and stream free albums all day long. Music is something worth paying for, IMHO.

    • The problem is a lot of people view that $200 per month internet/cable expense as their admission fee to a buffet of “free” entertainment. Too bad, you know, zero of that money goes to the artists. Spotify isn’t a perfect (or even a particularly good) solution for musicians, but it’s at least a semi-legit way to consume music that gives people less of an excuse to engage in out-and-out piracy.

      • I agree that the idea behind Spotify is a legit, but I am wondering if the cost just isn’t sustainable. I mean, why do I pay $200 for – lets be honest – crap on TV and think it is okay? Internet-wise, all of the heavy lifting is done at the office (which I pay for, as well), so I would gladly pay a higher fee to unlimited access to music in order for artists to be better compensated.

        Obviously actors on TV are making money, right? I mean, you don’t hear many stories about James Van Der Beak living in a 400 square-foot apartment, eating beans out of a can. It works for TV, so maybe it can work for music. I am trying to be solutions-oriented. I think we would all pay more for music if we knew it was getting to the artists.

        I am not sure Spotify is evil, necessarily. I just think they charge too little for their service. It needs to be more expensive. Someone needs to come along and create a platform where artists make a sustainable living while consumers have clear access to content. There has to be a way to make it happen, even if it requires that older music is not included. For instance, Radiohead has a catalog of music that is dripping with music executive royalties. What if they decided that all of their future music would be available to a new Spotify-like service that charges users like $100 a month. obviously, other bands could do the same and it critical mass would eventually make it worth-while to the consumer. It seems like it is doable…

  28. One of these days
    When you figure, figure the lyrics out
    Well be sure to let me know
    The words are sittin’ right here
    On RapGenius, but I won’t
    Get ‘em from that site, oh no

  29. What a crazy Cracker!

  30. 9 times out of ten crackers dont pay attention, and when there’s tension in the air 9′s come with extensions

  31. So are we psyched that Rap Genius is getting sued or nah? Cause fuck those guys.

    • And by that I don’t mean that I don’t understand that the whole issue feels a little like a foregone conclusion: now that it has already happened, it’s probably a little late to try and stem the tide of unFair Usage/etc., but seriously: fuck Rap Genius

  32. About every six months or so I see an article like this and it annoys me. For a lot of the same reasons mentioned above I feel like Lowery and ppl like him are out-of-touch and a bit cranky. And then I pause to think about the amount of music I’ve listened to for free lately and I feel a certain rush of guilt. I think back to being a teenager in the ’90s and having to actually buy CD’s. I inevitably go and purchase a bunch of MP3′s on iTunes out of this guilt that I otherwise wouldn’t have, out of habit, mind you.
    So, yes, Lowery sounds like a dipshit, most of the time. But in my particular case, I need these dipshits to remind me once every so often that I haven’t been [financially] rewarding my favorite artists enough lately.

  33. In my legal opinion (I have no legal knowledge), Rap Genius would win any litigation on this, because the “annotation” tool they use will protect it as Fair Use (criticism, analysis, etc.). All the lyrics are properly attributed to their authors/performers, and a lot of the artists themselves are actually using it as an opportunity to bring their own songs back from obscurity.

    Lowry seems to think that once you create a song, it should be monetized in perpetuity. So whenever “Euro-Trash Girl” is played on the radio, it’s “F— you, PAY ME.” But why? He gets a small royalty when his songs are played on Spotify, but why should he get rich off it? The songs are 15+ years old. I don’t get to keep the songs. If anything, it’s a three-minute advertisement for his tour.

    I saw Cracker 2 1/2 years ago in concert, and they were pretty good. Lowry is a smart, thoughtful guy, but he is dead wrong on this one. A bridge too far.

  34. Just out of curiosity, I went to a few lyrics websites to see how each one justifies their posting of lyrics.

    Both AZLyrics and LyricsOnDemand use the “educational purposes” claim at the bottom of their respective pages:

    “All lyrics are property and copyright of their owners. All lyrics provided for educational purposes only.”


    “All lyrics are property and copyright of their respective authors, artists and labels. All lyrics provided for educational purposes only. Please support the artists by purchasing related recordings and merchandise.”

    Sing365, on their “About Us” page has: “WWW.SING365.COM is a not-for-profit website. All advertising proceeds are used to maintain its servers.”

    The most interesting, though was MetroLyrics (from their “About Us” page): “MetroLyrics was the first lyrics site to provide users with licensed song lyrics and to compensate copyright holders for the content through its partnership with Gracenote.” So they apparently do pay artists royalties for posting their lyrics, which I hadn’t realized before. The part that interests me is that they are still a website that allows users to submit said lyrics. In other words, they’re paying artists for lyrics that might not even be correct, but rather someone’s best guess as to what was sung. For me, this just complicates things. If MetroLyrics is an honest way to do it, shouldn’t they at least stick to official lyrics, such as those culled from album booklets or artist websites? It’s good that they pay the artists, but it’s weird that they’re paying them for what might be inaccurate representations of their art.

    So if one site pays artists, I guess they all should? Or maybe the “educational purposes” claim is a valid excuse? Or maybe it’s just not that big a deal at all, because they’re just fucking lyrics? Whatever the case may be, I still dislike David Lowery for his condescending “Letter to Emily,” and I always feel inclined to disagree with him because of that. And targeting Rap Genius, the site that has the most legitimate claim to the “educational purposes” argument, seems like an unwise course of action.

  35. Dear Stereogum,

    Please stop posting my words in your comment section. What gives you the right? Failure to comply will result in legal action against your website.

    Thank you,
    Jimbo Slice
    (very infrequent commentor)

  36. When I was in my early ’20s, I was a huge fan of Cracker. Even saw Lowery and company at a tiny little venue in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

    At the time, I thought the tongue-in-cheek sarcasm of his lyrics was extremely clever (and often hilarious).

    However, it’s sad to see he’s now become just a washed-out, grouchy old hipster (or is he too old to still be a hipster?)

    • I used to be a fan too. I’m so disappointed at what he’s become. If you want more money, Lowery write some more songs. When people hear your songs they will find you by looking you up on those lyric sites you’re trying to destroy.

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