Maury Phillips/Getty Images for ASCAP
“Little by little our names are being erased from existence.”
Those opening remarks from Songwriters Hall of Fame member Desmond Child jumpstarted one of the most informative sessions at ASCAP’s I Create Music Expo Friday (April 14) at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles. During the 75-minute session titled “Getting Credit Where Credit is Due,” Child and fellow panelists singer/songwriter Aloe Blacc, composer Alex Shapiro and Niclas Molinder, founder of independent song data web platform/app Auddly, outlined how songwriters and producers can ensure proper song credits in the virtual world of streaming.
As moderator and entertainment attorney Dina LaPolt noted, 51 percent of all music sales in the world last year was through streaming. Between that, the demise of liner notes and decline in physical sales, “attribution, credit for your work is virtually being ripped away from you and this is a problem,” LaPolt said.
Further underscoring his opening remarks, Child displayed several slides that listed which music sources “give us some credit more or less” (CDs, Tidal Apple Music, Shazam, vinyl albums, iTunes and Amazon Music) and those that provide “no credit at all” (Pandora, Vevo/music videos, Spotify). He related a recent exchange he’d had with a publisher, who told him that because there isn’t enough public demand for song credit information, they don’t provide it.
“I just went insane,” Child told the audience. “Say it’s 2 a.m. and you’re so hungry that you buy a Twinkie and wolf it down. Are you going to read the credits [on the package]? No. But they have to be there by law. So why is our music not even as important as a Twinkie?”
One of the session’s liveliest exchanges occurred when Childs invited audience member and Pandora’s head of publisher licensing and relations Adam Parness -- who'd changed appointments to attend, said Child -- to address why the service doesn’t provide credit information. Parness countered that the service does indeed display credits on its two radio services as well as on Pandora’s newly launched premium offering.
“Not to call out the research here [which Child earlier noted was done by his assistant]," said Parness, “but we do display songwriter and publisher credits from licensed lyrics that we get from LyricFind.”
Shapiro then asked Parness about including credits for composers, arrangers and librettists who create music without lyrics and including program notes like those that accompany symphony performances. “How can we work with you guys to make that information available to listeners,” she queried, “because it’s so crucial to experiencing the music?”
Parness admitted that the service’s current integration of credits “is not a full solution. But it’s something we’re committed to working on with the industry. We want our listeners to learn about the people creating music.”
Among other session takeaways:
Molinder: “Many songwriters see data as so boring. That’s the reason why I started Auddly. I’m a songwriter/producer myself and I know how it is to be so passionate about what you’re creating. But there are tons of information connected to that piece of music that you need to take care of. Only one group of people in the world know the truth: you guys that were in the studio. No manager, publisher or anyone else can tell you how you should split a song , who played something or produced it. Together we as creators need to take more responsibility.”
Blacc: “I’ve sent messages to Spotify and Apple and there’s been no real response. But the ask is that we as songwriters, performers, engineers and mixers deserve our credits into the system. It’s digital, we can provide it to you and you should provide it to viewers. I was signed to Interscope by Jimmy Iovine [how Apple executive]. I tapped his name into Apple and the only song that comes up is the one where Macklemore is dissing him. But I think of all the other songs he’s related to from Fleetwood Mac to Dr. Dre either as an executive, producer or engineer. All of those things should be searchable. Why not? If I fall in love with a songwriter, I should be able to type that name into a service and listen to those songs regardless of who the singers are. The story behind the song is just as important.”
Child: “Split songs equally and let the good times roll for everybody. Sometimes in the politics of what’s going on you have to make compromises. You can’t be stupid. If you start out clean from the beginning, you stand a better chance of having more of a piece at the end of the line.”
LaPolt: “This is a sad situation. We’re in the fourth year of trying to move copyright reform forward. There’s current legislation on the table; we have to get this bill passed. There are more regulations on the American songwriter than there are for the pharmaceutical companies. That is f---ing sad.”
The 12th annual ASCAP I Create Music Expo concludes Saturday (April 15). Highlights include the “Get In and Get Out” master session with Michael Abels, film composer for the box office hit Get Out, and the “Higher Ground” keynote session with Stevie Wonder. The 25-time Grammy Award winner will be interviewed by singer/actress Janelle Monae, who will also join ASCAP president Paul Williams in presenting the inaugural Key of Life Award to Wonder.