Martin Bandier, who as Sony/ATV chairman and ceo oversees the music industry’s largest portfolio of music publishing assets, today attacked streaming services for not giving credit to songwriters at the annual National Music Publishers’ Association meeting in New York.
Airing his views before a roomful of friendly publishing industry faces during his acceptance speech (full text below) for the NMPA’s Lifetime Service Award (which he received from legendary Motown songwriter and recording artist Smokey Robinson), Bandier didn’t mince words in advocating for composers and publishers.
While he acknowledged that songwriters and publishers are beginning to benefit from the uptick in revenues with the rise of streaming, which after more than a decade are finally outpacing declining physical revenues, he was quick to note that “songwriters and music publishers, while we’re headed in the right direction, the fruits of our labor are not being equitably rewarded and we are not benefiting from the streaming revolution as meaningfully as we should.” He added that “there would be no streaming services without songwriters.”
The 75-year-old exec spoke about specific efforts fighting the Copyright Royalty Board over interactive streaming rates and outdated ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, but concluded these efforts begin and end with the “proper public recognition for the songwriter and what they do.”
Towards that end, he called upon “the wider world – and most especially streaming companies – must start to fully acknowledge the essential contribution that songwriters make to music and to the success of the music business. And that should start by identifying them today.”
“When I look today at the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube,” he continued, “I ask: where are the names of the songwriters? They are either not there or so hidden that you would have to be a special prosecutor, or perhaps The Washington Post – to find them. It is as if the songwriters do not exist and the only people who matter are the recording artists. However, without the songwriters coming up with the words and music in the first place, there would be nothing for the artist to record and no music to stream.”
The Sony/ATV head evoked the Billboard Hot 100 in arguing that the role of non-performing songwriters in creating hit songs is “greater today than it has been at any time since the heyday of Tin Pan Alley.” In a typical week, he said, the Hot 100 has “something like 95 out of the 100 songs written in part by someone other than the recording artist. Take those contributions away and there is no Hot 100 chart and again no streaming services.”
Bandier ended his speech by again calling on streaming service and others to “prominently show the names of the songwriters who write songs just as they clearly credit the artists who recorded them. It’s a tiny step but a hugely symbolic one that will once again put the role of the songwriter front and center and remind everyone of the songwriter’s vital contribution to music and the industry.”
Full Text of Martin Bandier’s Acceptance Speech for his NMPA Lifetime Service Award
Thank you everyone.
When I was first approached about receiving this award I have to confess that I was a little reluctant because as soon as you hear someone is receiving a lifetime award you’re thinking, “This guy is going to be playing a lot more golf pretty soon and having lunch with his wife more often than usual.” But at this crucial time in our business we need more voices than ever to speak up on behalf of songwriters, so here I am speaking up on their behalf.
That has been a good part of my life’s work, and I am grateful to be acknowledged for it today.
And while some of you may think I was at the first NMPA meeting in 1917, believe it or not, I have only been a Board Member for 25 years. And that is certainly enough time for me to have a great perspective on what the NMPA accomplishes for both songwriters and music publishers.
The fact that the association has been active for 100 years is a remarkable achievement in itself, but given the challenges we and our songwriters face today their advocacy is more necessary than ever before. Under David’s leadership the NMPA has become a tireless, effective and sophisticated organization that stands as one of the most important protectors for our community today. We are grateful that we can count on their support.
And speaking of support, I want to thank everyone who I have worked with in music publishing for the confidence and the support that I’ve received, both during my time at EMI as well as the past 10 wonderful years at Sony.
And, of course, thank you to Smokey Robinson for presenting this award today. Smokey, you’re not only a good and trusted friend but one of the greatest songwriters and recording artists of all time. On all fronts I continue to be one of your biggest fans. After hearing your first big hit “Shop Around” by you and The Miracles I really thought I could become part of the group but, of course, no one asked. I next thought I could be one of the Temptations. After watching them dance to so many of the songs you wrote for them, I believed I had all of their incredible moves down pat; I could easily have been the sixth member. The good news is no one asked me again so, fortunately, I had to become a music publisher. Thank goodness for that!
Smokey, it’s talented songwriters like you and all the other great songwriters that I’ve had the good fortune of working with which is what I love most about my job. It has kept me motivated and still wanting more.
For songwriters and music publishers the music business has become more complex and challenging than ever before. The good news is that streaming has finally taken hold, and with over 100 million paying subscribers worldwide it is growing at an unprecedented pace… and this is just the beginning. Songwriters and publishers are certainly starting to benefit from this growth – which is demonstrated by the fact that for us at Sony/ATV the growth in streaming is now outpacing the decline in physical and digital downloads. However, we are still not receiving an equitable share of the enormous amount of money that is being generated by the streaming services. And let’s be clear, there would be no streaming services without songwriters.
I’m sure that we have all read articles proclaiming that the music business is poised to enter into a new golden age and that streaming will take us all to the Promised Land. While we all hope that this is true, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that songwriters are fairly compensated for the essential and irreplaceable contributions they make to our business.
One recent news article suggested that the three major record companies combined turned over more than $1.1 billion in revenue from streaming in the first quarter of this year, which works out to almost $5 billion for the full year. So if you are a streaming company or a record label, congratulations to you, these may well be the start of the best of times. But for songwriters and music publishers, while we’re headed in the right direction, the fruits of our labor are not being equitably rewarded and we are not benefitting from the streaming revolution as meaningfully as we should.
I’ve always believed that songwriters are not getting proper recognition. This is even more prevalent today on the leading music streaming services. Far too often the songwriter’s contribution is overlooked or even forgotten. I have no doubt that this lack of public recognition has played a major part in why songwriters are not treated on an equal basis as the recording artist.
When I look today at the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, I ask: where are the names of the songwriters? They are either not there or so hidden that you would have to be a special prosecutor, or perhaps The Washington Post – to find them. It is as if the songwriters do not exist and the only people who matter are the recording artists. However, without the songwriters coming up with the words and music in the first place, there would be nothing for the artist to record and no music to stream.
The irony is that the role of the non-performing songwriter in creating hit songs is probably greater today than it has been at any time since the heyday of Tin Pan Alley back when the NMPA was founded. Take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 and in any typical week something like 95 out of the 100 songs are written in part by someone other than the recording artist. Take those contributions away and there is no Hot 100 chart and again no streaming services.
I am pleased to report that we may be making some progress on this front as Spotify has just launched a new songwriter ambassador program to highlight the work of some of the songwriters behind the hits. This is a small step but a welcome one as it starts to recognize the value of the songwriters. But there is still a long way to go before the songwriters are given anything like the same status and recognition as artists. Credit for a songwriter is like them handing you their business card.
With the lack of public acknowledgement that songwriters receive, I believe it’s not surprising that they and music publishers are not given the full benefits of their work. This lack of recognition could be one of the reasons why songwriters and their publishers receive a disproportionate share of royalties from the streaming services and other music users.
I’ve made it a priority to fight on behalf of songwriters for fair-market rates and I will not let up until I achieve this. But while the specific battles we fight at the Copyright Royalty Board, which will set rates for interactive streaming for the next five years, or over the outdated ASCAP and BMI consent decrees are hugely significant in achieving my aims, I believe it all begins with proper public recognition for the songwriter and what they do. That means the wider world – and most especially streaming companies – must start to fully acknowledge the essential contribution that songwriters make to music and to the success of the music business. And that should start by identifying them today.
So I call upon all music streaming services and others to prominently show the names of the songwriters who wrote the songs just as they clearly credit the artists who recorded them. It’s a tiny step but a hugely symbolic one that will once again put the role of the songwriter front and center and remind everyone of the songwriter’s vital contribution to music and the industry. And, ultimately, it will play a part in ensuring that these will become the best of times for everybody, including the songwriters and music publishers.