Want to sound like a policy insider this weekend? Here is your Cocktail Party Comment of the Week:
Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images
Spotify Moves To List Producer, Songwriter Credits
Earlier this month, Spotify made the major announcement that their credit listings will now include both songwriter and producer information on the desktop version of the streaming service.
The updated credit feature displays the information provided from record label metadata, and will transparently show the source of the info to users. Spotify also acknowledged they would continually update and advance the feature to provide users with the most accurate credit information.
"The more we share information, the more opportunities we can help create for songwriters," Annika Goldman, Spotify director of music publishing operations, told Billboard. "This is just the beginning of making songwriter and producer credits more easily available to Spotify listeners, and we look forward to continually improving that information, in close collaboration with our music industry partners."
We know your fans love to know who wrote and produced their favorite songs which is why we're excited to start showing songwriters and producers credits in @Spotify's desktop app. Find out more here: https://t.co/OfFxstMSBy pic.twitter.com/AadMuEszuu
— Spotify for Artists (@spotifyartists) February 17, 2018
This signals a welcome change as the Recording Academy has been advocating for credits on online music services through the "Give Fans The Credit" campaign. Vinyl LPs and compact discs provide liner notes with full credit information to allow fans to discover all the creators behind their favorite music. Though Spotify is finally getting onboard, this hasn't been the case with the digital music ecosystem.
Voracious music fans want to know who wrote, produced and played on their favorite tracks. Accurate credits in the hands of fans will lead to more music discovery, as fans are prone to want to explore more music to which their favorite songwriters and producers have also contributed. And of course, all music creators deserve to be credited for their work.
"Songwriters are an integral force behind the music we love," said Tiffany Kumar, Spotify's global head of songwriter relations. "With the newly launched credits feature, we aim to increase songwriter and producer visibility and, in turn, foster discovery among new collaborators, industry partners, and fans."
While Spotify's credit information change represents a step in the right direction, hopefully other companies will soon follow suit so that all music creators get their due recognition to keep the music playing for many years to come.
"I grew up on Top 40 radio; it's what I was exposed to and what attracted me," said GRAMMY-winning songwriter Diane Warren. "I loved listening to my older sisters' records, people like the Beatles and all of the Motown artists. But, believe it or not, I was more fascinated by the songwriters: Carole King, Leiber and Stoller, Burt Bacharach, and Hal David. Those were my idols.
"I want the next generation of great songwriters to have the opportunity to discover their musical heroes too. Let's 'Give Fans The Credit' so music fans can be inspired by everyone who works to create great music."
Aloe Blacc, Tom Douglas: Music Modernization Act A "Fair Deal" For Songwriters
"Aloe Blacc and Tom Douglas are two amazing songwriters, responsible for huge hits, yet both find it hard to make a living just from songwriting. It's clear the system needs to change. Royalties for songwriters need to reflect fair-market value and creators should always be properly compensated for their work." — Conversations In Advocacy #9
Make no mistake, the entire music industry is built upon the foundation of one thing: songs. Think about it. Without them, there'd be no radio, no streaming services, no Super Bowl halftime performances, and certainly no GRAMMY Awards.
Unfortunately, the integral role songwriters play in shaping the industry's foundation is not recognized properly in the form of just compensation.
This is a problem GRAMMY-nominated songwriters Aloe Blacc and Tom Douglas know all too well. In a bid to move the needle for music creators in the right direction, the duo addressed the House Judiciary Committee during "Music Policy Issues: A Perspective From Those Who Make It," a GRAMMY Week field hearing held in New York City on Jan. 26.
Though Douglas' name may not be as ubiquitous as Maren Morris or Luke Bryan, millions of lives have been enriched by his creative footprint. As a professional songwriter who makes magic behind the scenes, the Atlanta native has penned country hits such as Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me," Lady Antebellum's "I Run To You," Tim McGraw's "Grown Men Don't Cry" and Martina McBride's "God's Will," among others.
With his impressive catalog racking up millions in streams, you'd think that would equate to robust royalty sums. Think again.
"When my first hit song, [Colin Raye's] 'Little Rock,' was climbing the charts, artists sold millions of albums and broadcast radio was not being challenged by streaming companies yet to exist," testified Douglas. "My royalties for record sales or terrestrial radio broadcasts were counted in pennies. When my song is streamed, royalties are counted in micro pennies. For songwriters, it is not uncommon for millions of streams to equal only hundreds of dollars in royalty payments.
Our songs identify American culture and move hearts and minds across the globe. Our songs have value."
Douglas shared his optimism in the Music Modernization Act as a potential "right path" solution. As part of a comprehensive music licensing reform package that also includes the AMP Act and the CLASSICS Act, the MMA would establish a new rate standard for songwriters' digital mechanical streaming royalties, a new blanket licensing system to address song ownership issues, and entitle songwriters to funds from digital mechanical royalties, among other provisions.
"For many years songwriters have begged Congress for relief," he said. "The entire American songwriter community is hopeful we will begin finding that relief in the Music Modernization Act."
Blacc, whose hits include "I Need A Dollar" and "Wake Me Up" with Avicii, offered the committee a tangible real-world example to drive home the fact that songwriters are getting a raw deal in today's music industry landscape.
"My biggest hit — 'Wake Me Up' — was streamed by the two leading interactive streaming services for a combined 136 million times in the past four quarters alone," said Blacc. "Yet, as one of three co-writers on the song, I only received about $2,400 total — that's only 1.8 cents for every 1,000 streams. It's hard for a songwriter to earn a living when counting pennies."
While Blacc argued that more music is being listened to today now than ever, he stressed that — thanks to streaming services — it's actually being valued less.
"This is because the government-regulated marketplace has suppressed the rates paid by digital music services for streamed songs, and the royalties from these services are remarkably low," he said."
Like Douglas, Blacc urged Congress for reforms that would constitute a "fair deal" for songwriters by bringing "our laws into the digital age."
"This is a defining time for music licensing reform. I can tell you we are in desperate need of change if we’re going to protect what is arguably America’s greatest export: music," Blacc concluded. "Now is the time to take action. I urge you to move this legislation through quickly — songwriters need this relief."
"Conversations in Advocacy" is your weekend digital tip sheet on the policies that affect music makers and their craft. New installments post every Friday.
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images
White House Budget Proposes Slashing Critical NEA Arts Funding
The National Endowment for the Arts would be on its way to being eliminated under the proposed budget released by the White House on Feb. 12 for fiscal year 2019. In a trade-off between expenditures meant to stimulate the economy and long-term cuts, it would be destined along with 20 others for the chopping block.
The details tell a distressing story of vast reductions meant to wind arts funding down. In the case of the NEA this would reduce its $150 million 2018 budget to $29 million in order to "begin shutting down."
From music lessons and local festivals to advanced media projects, and throughout nearly all 435 congressional districts, the funds from NEA grants and programs have supported the talent and spirit that makes U.S. intellectual property one of our greatest national assets, with a trade surplus. NEA Chairman Jane Chu said she "cannot engage in advocacy, either directly or indirectly," however she also said the agency plays a "vital role in serving our nation's communities." We are the ones able to engage in advocacy to preserve that vital role.
At only a few cents per capita, the NEA supports a $730 billion industry that accounts for 4.2 percent of the annual GDP and 4.8 million jobs. In the music industry, the NEA has supported $423.8 million in funding to a wide variety of domestic music programs.
Fortunately, administration-proposed budgets do not simply pass into law and, as many members of the music community will remember, this is the second year that this White House has expressed its disregard for the arts in its initial statement of priorities. Last year's budget proposal also called for the elimination of NEA funding, but thanks in part to the efforts of Recording Academy members lobbying in support of continued NEA funding at events such as GRAMMYs On The Hill 2017 and the role Congress played in defending funding, not only was the funding rescued but the NEA budget was increased by $2 million. An equally fervor will be required from the music community to ensure America continues to support music and the arts.
"The proposal from the White House this week to eliminate the NEA — like that before it — will be defeated by the voices of Americans who believe in American culture," said Recording Academy Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer Daryl P. Friedman. "The Recording Academy is confident that our Congressional champions will fight to protect and preserve the agency. We will ask Congress to maintain funding for the NEA and ensure that we remain steadfast in our commitment to the arts and to the American creator."
Although last year's budget drama had a happy ending, protection for arts funding demands vigilance, for example at GRAMMYs On The Hill or "The Fight For The Arts: Congress' Crucial Year-End Funding Decision" a few weeks ago. Now the fight is upon us and this is the critical time to be outspoken on behalf of the arts, its place in American life and the need to keep funding to sustain it in place.