Industry’s Top Songwriters Call For An End To ‘Artist Bullying’ Over Royalties

Songwriters for some of music’s biggest artist’s have penned an open letter to everyone within the industry calling on them to stop pressuring these writers to give up their publishing royalties. Writers for artists like Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga, and Ariana Grande have all signed the letter in a new collective known as the Pact.

The songwriters themselves don’t name any specific artists within the letter, however, they do claim that pop stars and their teams can “abuse leverage, use bully tactics and threats to prey upon writers who may choose to give up some of their assets rather than lose the opportunity completely.”

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The Pact claims that as a group 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.”

Besides the performance royalties, artists generally receive an income for ticket sales, advertising deals, and numerous other revenue streams that have to do with the artist’s image itself. Songwriters, on the other hand, need the publishing royalties as that’s their main source of income when it comes to producing music.

“Over time, the practice of artists taking publishing from songwriters have become normalised.”

Victoria Monét was one of the signatories of the letter. She’s written many of Ariana Grande’s songs, as well as Emily Warren, who wrote the Grammy-nominated track Don’t Start Now. Savan Kotecha has written numerous songs for Ellie Goulding and Grande as well, and Justin Tranter, writer for artists like Britney Spears, also signed the letter.

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“My hope is that new songwriters can operate with a little less fear and [a] little more money.”

These writer statements come after a long debate regarding streaming services and the revenue they provide artists. In the US, streaming services like Spotify had to increase the royalties they gave to songwriters from 11% to 15%.

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.”

At the end of the day, songwriters are finally taking a moment to credit themselves for their contributions to the industry, and are demanding that they be treated with the same respect and admiration as the artists that bring their words to life, and wouldn’t have a career without them.