Culture Trips

Top songwriters call for end to ‘bully tactics’ by artists over royalties | Pop and rock

Top songwriters for artists including Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande have written an open letter calling for an end to artists claiming royalties for songs they had no hand in writing.

As new collective the Pact, the songwriters – who do not name any specific artists – claim pop stars and their teams can “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”.

The Pact state they “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”.

Artists can claim performance royalties, as well as income from ticket sales, advertising deals and numerous other revenue streams, but songwriters behind the scenes rely on these publishing royalties that they claim are being encroached on. “Over time, this practice of artists taking publishing has become normalised,” the open letter reads.

Signatories of the letter include Victoria Monét, who has co-written many of Grande’s hits during a long friendship with the singer; Emily Warren, whose song with Dua Lipa, Don’t Start Now, was nominated for multiple Grammy awards this year; and Savan Kotecha, who has worked on chart-topping songs with Grande, the Weeknd, Ellie Goulding and more.

Justin Tranter, whose credits include songs for Britney Spears and dozens of others, wrote on Instagram: “My hope is that new songwriters can operate with a little less fear and [a] little more money.”

The songwriters’ statements arrive amid renewed debate over the compensation for those behind the scenes of pop. In the US, streaming services such as Spotify have mounted a legal challenge against a 2018 ruling that increased royalties for songwriters from 11% to 15% of streaming revenues.

As a UK parliament select committee discussed the impact of streaming and other forces on the income for artists earlier this year, Crispin Hunt, chair of the Ivors Academy whose yearly Ivor Novello awards reward songwriters, argued in March that record labels were taking too great a cut of revenues. “Record labels are still taking a manufacturing and distributing cut when all they’re doing is a marketing job,” he told the Guardian.

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