The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) launched two new songwriter-focused initiatives at its 2022 annual meeting on Wednesday (June 15) at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center: She is the Songwriter and the NOTES Program. Announced by the trade association’s president and CEO David Israelite, the programs are designed to empower songwriters to be a part of positive, industry-wide change.
“When I think about the relationship between publishers and songwriters,” Israelite said the day before in a speech at the Association of Independent Music Publishers’ conference in New York City, “I believe passionately that we have a shared common interest in increasing the value of songs.” This sentiment was put into action with the announcement of National Organization to Empower Songwriters (NOTES) at the NMPA annual meeting. With this program, the association hopes to create the “premiere songwriter advocacy organization in the U.S.” so that top songwriters have access to fighting for their own interests alongside the National Music Publishers’ Association and other advocacy groups in this sector of the music business.
Though there are a number of other songwriter advocacy groups in operation, NOTES’ direct alignment with the NMPA will help songwriters get involved in the association’s continuous fight for licensing and payment from emerging digital platforms using unlicensed music. Successful past agreements between the NMPA and platforms that originally claimed they did not need to pay for music (including Roblox, Twitch, Peloton and others) have provided NMPA members with new income streams, equalling 29.11% of total revenue in 2021, Israelite revealed.
This year, the NMPA hopes to add to that figure. The association announced it will be taking legal action against about a hundred different apps that use music without a license and will also send notices to the Apple and Google app stores for permitting these allegedly infringing platforms on their platforms. “Responsibility of licensing music is not just limited to the app companies themselves. The app stores which empower these apps also have responsibilities to make sure that the apps that they make available to their customers are legal and non-infringing,” said Israelite.
Songwriting — especially at the highest levels — however, still remains a boys club, with men making up 85.6% of all Hot 100 songwriters for 2021, according to USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The NMPA’s annual meeting addressed the gender gap in songwriting with the announcement of a new program called “She Is the Songwriter” during its women in music panel.
Featuring some of the sector’s top female executives and creators — Jody Gerson (chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group), Golnar Khosrowshahi (founder and president of Reservoir), Carianne Marshall (co-chair and COO of Warner Chappell), and Autumn Rowe (Grammy-winning singer-songwriter) — the women in music panel focused on the obstacles still facing women in the industry and how to remedy the divide. With the newly announced “She is the Songwriter,” a program created in partnership with She Is the Music and funded by a $100,000 grant from NMPA, young women in songwriting can find mentorship, networking opportunities and skill development from other women as well as female-only writing camps.
“The idea of She is the Music is very simple,” explained Gerson, who co-founded the organization. “women supporting women will create opportunities and change.”
In addition to the announcement of talent-focused initiatives, the annual meeting honored key songwriters for their musical contributions. This year, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen was named the NMPA’s iconic song recipient and Lin-Manuel Miranda was given the award for songwriter icon, making Manuel the first musical theater and film-focused songwriter to be chosen for the top prize. “We throw the word GOAT [Greatest of All Time] around all too casually in this generation, but when you truly have the GOAT in the house, you have to pay your respects,” joked Grammy-winner Jon Batiste, who opened up the meeting with a medley of Miranda’s hits, including “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto and “Wait for It” from Hamilton.
Singer, songwriter and actor Chris Mann honored “Hallelujah” later in the meeting with a performance, featuring music students from The New School. In introducing the performance, the NMPA described the song as one of few songs to “stand the test of time” and “has the ability to be reinvented over and over.”