Publishing

Top Songwriters Ask Artists & Execs to Stop Taking Credit for Songs They Didn't Write in Open Letter

The Pact Songwriters Open Letter 2021
Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Emily Warren, Justin Tranter and Ross Golan and others are supporting a new group called The Pact advocating for songwriter rights and royalties.

Top songwriters including Emily Warren, Justin Tranter and Ross Golan are taking a stand against what they view as unfair practices in the music industry where artists and executives who did not write on a song take credits on it anyway.

On Tuesday (March 30), a group of songwriters calling itself The Pact released an open letter to the music industry asking fellow songwriters to agree to no longer give songwriter and/or publishing credit to anyone who did not "contribute to the composition without a reasonably equivalent/meaningful exchange for all the writers on the song."

Within two hours of the letter going live, songwriters including Warren -- who sources say spearheaded the effort -- Tranter, Golan, Victoria Monet, Tayla Parx, Joel Little and many others signed. Collectively, those songwriters have worked with artists including Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Lorde and more. (“Emily is the one that has really fucking led the charge here so this moment can actually happen," Tranter tells Billboard.)

The Pact is a newly formed organization, which debuted over the weekend posting as @_the_pact on Instagram declaring it was "time to make some changes" for the betterment of songwriters.

This effort arrives when songwriters -- and their catalogs -- are under a brighter spotlight than ever. Investment companies like Merck Mercuriadis' Hipgnosis are spending billions to acquire publishing catalogs (resulting in a quick payday for songwriters). And last August, the Copyright Royalty Board's proposed 44% increase for publisher and songwriter streaming royalty rates was vacated by an appeals court -- a victory for DSPs including Spotify, Amazon, Pandora and YouTube.

"We are simply asking that we give credit where credit is due and only take credit where credit is earned," U.K. songwriter Plested, who has worked with Lewis Capaldi and Little Mix, posted to Instagram after signing The Pact's open letter.

Jes Sheldon/Courtesy of The Pact

Read the full letter below:

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 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.

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.

Sincerely,

The Pact

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