Publishers Say Lyrics Are A Growing Cash Cow

One of the more pleasant finds in these painful times was discovering the value of lyrics as a cashflow generator, panelists at MIDEM revealed Tuesday.

In a panel on maximizing license and business opportunities for lyrics, EMI Music Pubishing executive VP of media and business development Jonathan Channon said that for years the industry has been putting lyrics on album covers for free and maybe getting a small fee when fanzines published lyrics.

But a few years ago many discovered a value that was sitting under their nose: the lyrics right. “And it doesn’t even need the master rights,” Channon added.

Since putting lyrics onto mugs, clothing, toys, greeting cards and other merchandise, EMI has had to grow into becoming a manufacturer and distributor, Channon said. But its definetely a volume business as EMI said 3 million units of one lyric-licensed merchandise piece for a department store chain in Australia realized about 30,000 pounds profit.

Meanwhile, ICMP president and Sony/ATV Music Publishing France president Nicolas Galibert says the music publishers trade group is undertaking an ambitious gambit to build a complete French lyric database for a business-to-business web site that would facilitate lyric licensing in the online world.

The target is to have 50,000 song lyrics on the site by the end of this year, filled with domestic repertoire from France — and two publishers have offered to put lyrics from their international repertoire on the site too.

The website lyrics would be managed on the back-end by the respective publishers of the songs on the site. But on the front-end businesses can do one-stop shopping to license songs through a small society that currently collects royalties for photos but has the infrastructure to handle the lyrics site.

Such a site would serve as a tool to offset the hundreds of thousands of sites that have unlicensed lyrics. When the words “Mr. Blue Sky” and lyrics are entered into a search, it returns thousands of separate sites offering those lyrics, and publishers “don’t get one red cent,” one panelist said.

But Metro Lyrics CEO and co-founder Alan Juristovski said that publishers shouldn’t shut down pirate sites—rather, they should convert them to legitimate sites by trying to get them to license the lyrics, something which he claimed his site does.

He said that the company offers lyrics to users free of charge but gets about 400 paid advertisements a month, and Metro Lyrics shares the revenue from those ads with music publishers.

Late in the day, the A2IM booth became the place for all U.S. attendees to gather as the trade group threw a cocktail party and brought it big-screen television sets to broadcast the swearing-in ceremony of President Barack Obama.

Americans, armed with bottles of Heineken, glasses of wine and cocktails (and waving U.S. flags distributed by A2IM), cheered the new president and hissed the outgoing administration.

Depending on the estimate, the crowd ranged from 300 to 700 people, and in addition to Americans, there were plenty of curious music industry executives from around the world watching the proceedings.

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