Over the last few years, there has been a growing number of artists that are demanding publishing on songs they did not write. These artists will go on to collect revenue from touring, merchandise, brand partnerships, and many other revenue streams, while the songwriters have only their publishing revenue as a means of income. This demand for publishing is often able to happen because the artist and/or their representation 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. Over time, this practice of artists taking publishing has become normalized; and until now, there has been no real unity within the songwriting community to fight back.
Many of the successful songwriters in the music industry have dreams of becoming artists themselves, and it isn’t unheard of for artists to break out of gig songwriting to become stars in their own right (a legacy that stretches as far back as Carole King
and as recently as Julia Michaels
), but for now, many of these songwriters are depending on those publishing royalties to pay the bills.
I think about some of the things I’ve discussed over the years
(and even recently
) about being able to own your own publishing process. And I realize that a lot of other industries need this too, because there are always middlemen asking for someone brilliant to pay the toll. And to some degree, it’s important to remember you’ll have to pay—that toll gives you access and authority that would be difficult to claim on your own. But it has to be earned, a fair value exchange.