Martin Bandier on Best Original Song Oscar's 'Dumb Rule' (Exclusive Q&A)

Martin Bandier, chairman/CEO of Sony/ATV, doesn’t pull his punches. News broke yesterday that Bandier had sent a letter to the Oscars critical of the organization’s failure to replace disqualified Best Original Song nominee “Alone Yet Not Alone” with a runner up. He called the rule not to replace the song “heartbreaking” while questioning the process’ “fairness.”

Billboard reached out for comment from the head of the world’s largest music publisher and Bandier’s candor continued. Here he called a rule by the Academy of Motion Pictures Art & Sciences in which only songs with three songwriters or less are considered eligible “dumb,” though the powers that be were willing to bend the statute for U2. All of which raises the question of whether the Best Original Song Oscar rules need to be reformed.

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Billboard: Did the Academy respond to your letter on not having disqualified songs replaced?
Martin Bandier: They tried. We kept on missing one another. We never connected, although eventually a message was left, saying something about it being hard to change the rules.

Do you know if others in the music industry have also sent a letter with the same complaint?
I don't consult with others in the business. When I see something that diminishes songwriters, I say something.

What about the criteria limiting only songs for the nomination process that have three songwriters or less, does that unjustly preclude songs from being nominated?
That's a dumb rule. In today's music industry you can have multiple contributors to a song, where one could write the music, one could write the top line, one could write the lyrics and one could write during the production. It shouldn't be that songwriters have to comply with a form's nominating criteria like someone going to fill out a form for the department of motor vehicles.

Some in Hollywood are annoyed that a U2 song got nominated with four songwriters. Does it sound like The Academy is taking their own rules seriously?
I don't get that one either. But the rule that a song can only have three authors or less to be eligible is like they are treating songwriters like they are at the end of the totem poll. Anytime I see something that diminishes the songwriter, if I can see a way to change it, I will try. I can't say I am always successful, but I am still always going to speak out.