Prominent Songwriters Sign Letter Calling For Artists To Stop Demanding Credit For Songs They Didn’t Write
A coalition of prominent professional songwriters have signed an open letter calling for artists to stop demanding credit for songs they didn’t write, Variety reports. Victoria Monét, Justin Tranter, Emily Warren, Ross Golan, Savan Kotecha, Tayla Parx (pictured), Ian Kirkpatrick, Amy Allen, Scott Harris, Lennon Stella, Billy Mann, Shae Jacobs, Joel Little, Deza, and Jordan McGraw are among the signees. The group comprises some of the most in-demand writers in pop music — having written or cowritten tracks by Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, Selena Gomez, the Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Halsey, Britney Spears, Ellie Goulding, Usher, Jason Derulo, John Legend, Khalid, Panic! At The Disco, Troye Sivan, Kesha, and many more. They did not single out any artists as the target of their campaign.
The letter arrives three days after the launch of an Instagram account and website for The Pact, a then-anonymous group who explain their cause like so: “This body of songwriters will not give publishing or songwriting credit to anyone 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.” A series of graphics on Instagram elaborated on the songwriters’ argument. For example:
How does an artist make money? Live/ touring, TV performances, VIP + meet & greets, merch, brand partnerships/ endorsements/ sponsors, feature fees, private performances, SoundExchange/ PPL [performing rights], points on the master [recording] … and publishing.
How does a songwriter make money? Publishing.
And yet, more and more often songwriters are being asked to give up publishing to artists who did not contribute to the composition in any way. It’s time to make some changes. #ThePact.
Here is the full open letter:
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.
According to Variety‘s report, the practice of giving artists unearned songwriting credit dates as far back as Elvis Presley. Gabz Landman, a Warner A&R exec and songwriter manager, shared the Pact’s open letter on Instagram, writing, “A very famous artist’s rep recently told me that giving them publishing despite their not contributing to writing the song in any way was ‘The tax you pay to be on ______’s album.’ That makes me sick. This is stealing, plain and simple. I do not know ANY other industry like this. A songwriter’s sole income is publishing and yet artists reduce the writers’ share for absolutely 0 reason beyond greed. A tax is not an excuse.”