Chart-topping songwriter Mozella on how the DOJ has gotten streaming music royalties wrong

My name is Maureen McDonald, better known as Mozella in the music business and I write pop songs. I’ve co-written songs for Miley Cyrus, One Direction, and Rihanna to name a few. Today I’d like to discuss something that is of utmost importance to me and to my colleagues in the songwriting business.

In recent years, technology and innovation have changed the music industry in many good ways. While the listeners, the technology companies, and record labels have benefited from the growth of streaming music companies, those changes have negatively impacted the livelihood of songwriters. The antiquated laws, or consent decrees, that have traditionally regulated songwriting royalties for radio play and other uses of music does not address streaming music. As a result, the royalties paid to the songwriters for streaming are miniscule compared to those paid for commercial radio.

Songwriters like me depend on collective licensing through the two main performing rights organizations (PROs) in the U.S., ASCAP and BMI, to negotiate with licensees, track our performances, collect and distribute our royalties to us.  Songwriters cannot do this on our own. There are trillions of performances of our songs by hundreds of thousands of businesses every year.  ASCAP and BMI both operate as not-for-profits and pay out as royalties to us all the money they collect, deducting only operating expenses. They are governed by Department of Justice consent decrees to allow them to aggregate and license our rights without antitrust concerns. But those consent decrees were written in 1941 and are woefully out of date in the new music economy dominated by streaming, which wasn’t even invented the last time they were updated.

Music is enormously valuable to the streaming services.  In fact, it is the only product they offer to consumers.  And songwriters are the ones who make all of the music possible.  The problem is that because of the outdated consent decrees songwriters make almost nothing when our work is streamed while the streaming companies build their businesses on our creative work, without paying us fairly.

In a devastating blow to songwriters last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ruled that they will not review or update the consent decrees, ignoring the voices of copyright experts, members of congress, and thousands of songwriters like me. Those of us who write the music are held hostage by these antiquated consent decrees that make it impossible for us to be paid fairly in today’s world of streaming services that pay us almost nothing. All we asked for were reasonable updates to those consent decrees so we could negotiate fair rates.  Instead, the DOJ sided with the streaming businesses in essence picking them as marketplace winners at the expense of individual songwriters who are struggling to make ends meet. Under the consent decrees, streaming services like Pandora and Spotify can use our music even before we agree to the rates, and if we cannot agree, they still get to use our music and a single Federal judge appointed for life sets the rate.

Here’s where it gets really unfair: record labels (and the vocal artists signed to them) are allowed to set their own rates for streaming and they do. They do not have the same DOJ rate court system, so they are free to negotiate a fair market price for their product. And guess what? They’re making money. At the moment, the master recording of a song owned by a record label is earning about 14 times as much as the songwriter of the same song. For example, I co-wrote and own about 23% of the song Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. Pandora streamed Wrecking ball 260 million times according to the statement they sent to me. They paid me $3,000. My payment was similar from Spotify. The Wrecking Ball video also has nearly a billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) views on YouTube and I’ll will most likely make another $3,000 there.

Terrestrial pop radio has traditionally reimbursed songwriters at a fair rate but the music streaming industry is growing rapidly. Soon, streaming will be the only format for music listening and at current streaming reimbursement rates, even hit songwriters will not be able to make a living. Currently, many talented but less commercially successful songwriters are giving up songwriting altogether. Eventually, America’s greatest export (pop music) will disappear.

Still with me? There’s more. In addition to the decision to not update the consent decree, the DOJ also ruled in favor of something new called 100% licensing. This means the traditional, logical practice of ASCAP and BMI licensing only the shares or fractions of songs written by the songwriters they represent will be ended. In Variety magazine recently David Israelite, president and CEO of the National Music Publishers Assn., said that the decision was “a massive blow to America’s songwriters.” “The interpretation that the consent decrees demand that all works must be licensed on a 100% basis is both unprecedented and disastrous to the songwriting community,” he said. “The decision represents a misunderstanding of copyright law and directly violates the legal guidance given by the Register of Copyright. The defiance displayed by these career antitrust lawyers in ignoring the legal opinion of the Register of Copyright is shocking”.

Most hit music is written in collaboration with a number of other writers. Songwriters work together and negotiate what percentage of the song each is entitled to. The collaborating songwriters may be represented by different PROs. Historically, each PRO would negotiate for the percentage of the song that the represented songwriter owned. Under the new 100% licensing, ASCAP and BMI may be asked to license shares of songs by writers they do not represent, throwing the entire music licensing system into unnecessary chaos for no good reason. The uncertainty about how works will be licensed will have a chilling effect on the creative freedom of songwriters to write with the collaborators they choose. If a PRO is collecting for a writer they don’t represent at a rate they didn’t approve, what rights do writers have regarding transparency, payment, etc.?

So why did the DOJ decide on the side of huge technology companies and not hardworking, independent songwriters? The technology lobby is highly organized and powerful in the nation’s capital and unfortunately independent songwriters are not. Keep in mind that when you pay for your streaming service, or when advertisers pay for streaming service ad time, the technology companies are making the money and not paying the songwriters fairly. With all the money they make, they hire lobbyists who work to influence decisions made in our nation’s capital. We need your help!

Help protect the future of the soundtrack to our lives: music.

The DOJ was unfair to us and we need your voices. Please email your local congressman/woman and senators in support of appealing these DOJ rulings and also in support of the Songwriter Equity Act which amends the Copyright Act and also voice your rejection of the 100% licensing ruling. It’s a small step, but everyone’s voice matters. Thank You. If you enjoy Daily News Bin, consider making a contribution:




Maureen McDonald
Better known as Mozella in the music industry, she’s co-written songs for Miley Cyrus, One Direction, and Rihanna among others

55 Comments

  1. Jack Marshall on August 19, 2016 at 12:51 am

    The 100% licensing rule is a good thing to weed out the many talentless “songwriters” (but grade-A music biz schmoozers) that don’t play an instrument, can”t sing, but apparently have the so-called gift of “top line” writing. Pop music today is riddled with too many songwriters on a song. I’ve remodeled 7000 sq ft. houses with less people than I”m seeing on co-writing credits of hit songs. Songwriters today need to learn how to write hit songs by themselves, or write strictly with the artist. If they can’t do that, they need to get out of the business altogether. Could you imagine if Picasso or Andy Warhol, had to co-paint their paintings? Technological challenges to the songwriting business aside, much of popular music today lacks individuality because there are too many cooks in the kitchen. The best songwriters will always have work because they don’t need any help. The same holds true now. While Max Martin, Diane Warren, and Dr. Luke all co-write, they don’t have to.

    • john on August 19, 2016 at 8:53 am

      amazing article. this reply is terrible tho.

    • Brandon Sciuto on August 19, 2016 at 9:00 am

      That is a totally moronic comment – I mean it makes zero sense. These guys co write more these days – period. If Picasso wanted a co painter he’d have gotten one and it wouldn’t matter. Totally misguided.

      • Jack Marshall on August 19, 2016 at 8:24 pm

        I don’t think it’s moronic at all, and frankly, I think you are quite misguided. People like Diane Warren, Max Martin and Dr. Luke have proven time and again that they don’t need co-writers to have hits. They’ve had numerous songs over their careers that were cut by artists where they were either the sole songwriters, or shared writing credit with the artist only (and in those cases, it is often vague as to what the “artist” actually contributed). Sole writers on cuts still happens quite a bit in the country music world where there still remains an ounce of musical credibility left, but in the pop music world its become a rare bird. This isn’t because there aren’t great unknown songwriters out there that can’t write without a team of co-writers , its because these unknown individuals will never be permitted to have any of their songs recorded by the powers that be because they didn’t sell themselves out to “co-write,” and therefore will never get the blessing of any popular music artist’s A&R department, because A&R people are also shaking in their boots that one misfire and they are cast out into the unemployment line.

        • Mynameisaugust on August 20, 2016 at 5:50 pm

          Jake Marshall, I don’t know who you are but you obviously have no clue what you’re talking about. Great article written above! Way to break it down in an accessible way. Now we need action!

    • lit doof on August 19, 2016 at 9:41 am

      totally agree with you Jack

      • Jack Marshall on August 19, 2016 at 8:31 pm

        Thanks. Believe it or not, I hate writing about the current state of the music business (and don’t often do it) because it certainly never wins me any friends or popularity (as can easily be seen by reading some of the several responses to my post by other people, probably those that fit the description that I wrote about). However, just because what I’m saying hurts, it doesn’t make it untrue. And honestly, if one does the research, it is easy to see that my sentiments are very much supported (and have been repeatedly echoed over the past several years) by many music industry luminaries (songwriters, artists, former A&R people, etc.).

        • Shelly Peiken on August 20, 2016 at 4:22 pm

          Me again…I’m one of those songwriters who have had songs recorded that I’ve written entirely by myself and ones I’ve co-written. I blog a lot (and recently released a book—Confessions of a Serial Songwriter) about the changing music biz, writing processes, culture… and I’ve touched on (and agree with) a lot of things you’ve said. Personally, I don’t like the committee…I feel that it dilutes the idea I came into the room with…I get where you’re going on an artistic level. I do. But I try not to be judgy….cuz just because I prefer to keep things tight, doesn’t mean another writer doesn’t like a party. And Jack….some of your favorite songs were most likely written by more than 1 person. (Have MAX and LUKE written songs all by themselves?….I shall Google.) But all this is really beside the point that Mozella is making.

    • Frank on August 19, 2016 at 10:19 am

      your sir, are clueless. Imagine if the carpenter laborer who you paid a small percentage of your construction product was able to negotiate for the sale of your project without your consent, at whatever price he was good with. That is essentially what 100 percent licensing is. Imagine if the federal government had one judge, appointed for life, who set the rates for your and everyone else’s construction projects and even if you and your customer could not agree on a price, then the judge decided how much your customer had to pay. that is what consent decrees are. Imagine if you had contracts in place with your subcontractors, for completed projects and the federal judge came in and said that those contracts did not matter, you now have to pay them what the judge decides. Thats what the change from fractional to 100 percent licensing represents…

    • Dustin on August 19, 2016 at 11:11 am

      This comment shows a serious lack of how things work in the real world. Did you ever consider that maybe songwriters dont’ want to be big fat pop stars and pop stars don’t want to be songwriters?

      Songwriters being able to write for numerous artists as co-writers allows them more opportunities to earn a living. With this new law it already takes a difficult industry and makes it tougher by preventing certain artists to work together.

      I really don’t understand how someone can be so opinionated on something they know so little about. Honestly.

    • Shelly on August 19, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Jack Marshall,
      You said you remodeled 7,000 sq foot houses … You need to stick to talking about what you know. Make your replies to home articles or construction blogs. You clearly know nothing about the music business, songwriters or songwriting. Your reply is completely ignorant. How many songs have you written that have been successful? Actually, here is a better suited question for you, do your do your remodeling/construction jobs by yourself or do you work with people? Just because a person collaborated doesn’t mean they have to because of lack of talent …You are just so clueless and ignorant with literally everything you said …

      • Jack Marshall on August 19, 2016 at 8:59 pm

        Shelly, I know too much about the music business….that’s the problem. If somebody wants to co-write with another person out of personal preference (and not solely to schmooze into a supposed “talent circle” so that they can potentially get a cut on a major artist’s release), that’s something different entirely. But if you are trying to convince me that the majority of songwriters currently working in the popular music world today are all capable of writing cut/hit-worthy songs individually, then that would be a delusional position. It’s very simple economics, if someone has the talent, then they should choose to spend more of their time writing songs alone (and less time worrying about outdated copyright laws–and yes they are outdated and unfair) and thereby make more money. After all, for songwriters (that don’t want to be “artists”), this is a business, right?

        • Jack Marshall on August 19, 2016 at 9:24 pm

          As for songs that I’ve written that have had success—how are you defining success?

        • Shelly Peiken on August 20, 2016 at 4:29 pm

          One more thing and then I’m off to see Todd Rundgren at Pershing Square. 🙂 Once terrestrial is no longer, and all our royalties come from streaming, songwriting will be an unsustainable profession even for the creator who is the sole writer of his/her songs. If Mozella made 3K for 1/3 of her song she’d make 9K for the entire pie. And even if she were lucky enough to have a few of those a year, that’s not going to raise a family. There is a gigantuan (is that a word?) imbalance in the distribution of wealth. And it simply won’t be solved by writing with less people.

        • Dimpleton on August 20, 2016 at 8:12 pm

          If you know “too much about the music business”, what are you doing remodeling other people’s homes?

      • Dimpleton on August 20, 2016 at 8:12 pm

        EXACTLY!!

    • Shelly Peiken on August 20, 2016 at 11:39 am

      Jack, you may have some valid opinions here, (some of which I share) but this really has nothing to do with the issues at hand that Maureen is writing about. Please re-read!

    • Dimpleton on August 20, 2016 at 8:09 pm

      Yeah Jack, you TOTALLY know your stuff. Losers like Lennon-McCartney, Page-Plant, Taupin-John and their ilk should have quit while they were ahead. *pfffff* No shortage of proclaimed experts on the music biz.

      • Dimpleton on August 20, 2016 at 8:11 pm

        But then again, that’s what we get when a house re-modeler weighs in on the music business!! Ha haaa!

    • High Risk Records..... on August 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

      This has to be the dumbest shit i have ever heard…Stick to painting (or what ever you do )something you know about… This seems to be to complicated for you…This is the music business without the writers a lot of music that we love would never be written… Writer like to work with other writers because we love what we do and surround ourselves with other like minded people…. You a painter and you work with other contractors to get the job done. Without the electrician and the plumber and roofer and concrete guy and the builder you wouldn’t have shit to paint… Everyone have a job to do to get to a finished product… This Shit is not right and I’m a record label owner…. Yes owner founder and CEO… Therefore this benefits me and have made money from it but I don’t agree with it and will be one the front line to fight it..

      • Ray on August 22, 2016 at 12:57 pm

        Bullshit, Jack and his opinion for the majority is correct. Every generation has had its puff pieces of music but the recent years have brought crap including Wrecking Ball and One Direction teenage junk. Yes it sells but these lyrics have to be co written? Give me a break, they are simplistic in nature and say very little message wise. Do they sell? Yes because America and its population have become convinced by gatekeepers that only shit and ear worm loops are what you need to listen to. Look are some tweaks needed to the system? Yes but are their plenty of hacks whom take advantage of co writing in name? Yes and by the way I am a lyricist for up and coming prodigy Denise Bestman and there are only two of us who wrote the whole album, lyrics by me, melody by Denise. The music also has messages overt and subtle. I consider myself one of the best lyricist around able to write in many genres and for male or female. Bottom line you either have the skill or you don’t. And you will soon see that the twosome of Denise and I have it PERIOD.

    • bob on August 23, 2016 at 11:55 am

      this is completely idiotic. you sir, are a buffoon

  2. glen king on August 19, 2016 at 8:17 am

    On the other hand, if I co-write with someone, Their publisher can “give away” my half to whomever they want without my permission. I would like to exercise some control over my own product. Remodeling houses and writing songs are not the same thing.

    • Jack Marshall on August 19, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      Your overcomplicating the comparison, and it’s actually very simple. The point is that it shouldn’t take a team of 10 people to write a good cut-worthy song (or for that matter, even an average or poor cut-worthy song). However, it could very well take 10 people (or more) to restore a 7000 sq. ft house. The other issues you pose in your post again relates to dilemmas affecting people who choose to co-write. I’m sure you’re talented, so quit co-writing. The times dictate that it’d be a good business move.

  3. Joe on August 19, 2016 at 8:40 am

    You should do what any trade group should do when wages are unfair. Strike. Collectively just all stop writing (or at least releasing) songs until the DOJ is forced to act. Sounds daunting, but if there is enough collective will amongst the pro songwriters, very doable. It would drive the corporate suits nuts to have the brain candy they pop music they sell to the 20-somethings in short supply. Create a bottleneck. Another approach would be for all pop songwriters to just start writing terrible songs, but..,well apparently they already tried that and it failed. I kid the pop songwriters…on the square.

    • Clay Mills on August 19, 2016 at 9:52 am

      Joe, it’s against the law for songwriters to strike. For 75 years they have been under a consent decree from the government. We have zero negotiation power. The government tells us what we make. We are the only profession in the history of america to have the government set our pay.

      • Frank on August 19, 2016 at 10:22 am

        but they don’t have to re-negotiate existing agreements with their PRO’s when the PRO’s ask them too. This will make their PRO unable to license their songs in a 100 percent licensing environment. songwriters need to not respond or decline to renegotiate valid legal contracts for songs in place.

  4. Frank on August 19, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Maureen McDonald.

    This is so well written. Most people (construction workers excluded apparently) will be able to grasp the key issues on a complicated subject. Nice work!

    • Jack Marshall on August 19, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Frank, I don’t disagree that the article is well written—-I just completely disagree with one half of it (that being the 100% rule being a total negative). While I understand that my post was unpleasant for you to hear, it doesn’t make what I said untrue—and your personal digs at me leave me rather unmoved (although a real construction worker might be offended by your condescension). Frankly, your response to my original post does not at all negate the point I was making in that the 100% rule dilemma is more of a problem for those that need to/voluntarily choose to co-write with a tribe of others on every song that they pitch, then it is for those who do not need to do that. Mozella is obviously a talented person. If she wants to make more money in light of the current laws, then until further notice (i.e. the laws are someday changed) she should opt out of all co-writing sessions (with the sole exception being sessions with the actual artist she’s writing for that likely will extort her for songwriting credit in exchange for a cut) and write the songs entirely alone.

      • Karen on August 21, 2016 at 12:11 pm

        And if the artist has a different pro than u what then?

        • JMarshall on August 22, 2016 at 6:17 pm

          A songwriter with no cuts would have three options: 1.) Only work with artists with the same PRO; 2.) Only work with artists who don’t write in any capacity but still have the integrity not to extort an undeserved songwriting credit in exchange for a cut on their album; 3.) Work with artists of a different PRO and accept whatever fate falls upon you when it comes to collecting.

          A songwriter with a solid track record of proven cuts (or even better, a track record of writing hit cuts) would have all of the same options as above, but might have the leverage to demand (and if the laws don’t change, this is a very likely possibility) a separate exclusive agreement from the artist (known as a unilateral contract) between themselves and the artist that they are writing for/with (of a different PRO), that would indicate that the artist is promising that any difference in income that the artist derives from their own PRO for the song that would ordinarily be due to the songwriter (of a different PRO) of which may not be collected by the songwriter’s PRO due to the 100% rule, be forwarded on to the songwriter by the artist. The difference would be based upon whatever percentage the artist and songwriter agree to ahead of time regarding their ownership of the song. These contracts would be signed between the songwriter and the artist for each respective song he songwriter is writing for the given artist. In addition, if the songwriter is under a publishing contract, they would likely have to sign a similar unilateral contract between themselves and their publisher (or incorporate such a promise-term into their existing publishing contract) indicating that any money collected directly from an artist due to this same 100% rule situation, then be forwarded to their publisher in accordance to the terms of the publishing agreement.

    • Dimpleton on August 20, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      Yes, this is clearly and beautifully written, and I hope it inspires a wave that brings it to Washington DC!

  5. Bob Hilgenberg on August 19, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    My brother and his partners are rolling out a company that takes dead aim at the YouTubes of the world. For Music, Films and everything that profits these companies. REAL money for artists!!

  6. Dave on August 20, 2016 at 3:47 am

    most comments here are about songwriters who are not artists, and Mozella gets all that right 100%. But let’s also remember that songwriting royalties can act as the 401k for artists who write their own material. Artists often only have a very small window where they are creating money making music. Similar to pro athletes. Yet their music lives in to affect lives of millions. They need to be compensated for that fairly as well. The DOJ is in bed w tech, and they have lost sight of artists. This is actually one issue that republicans and democrats can come together on.

  7. Mike james on August 20, 2016 at 10:41 am

    What is so ironic is that all these songwriters are inherently democrats and their democratic DOJ is showing them who they are.

  8. Dimpleton on August 20, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    This article is timely, clear and well-written and despite the sad current situation, Ms. McDonald has succeeded in presenting the facts in an inspiring fashion. BRILLIANT!! I hope songwriters from coast to coast hear and heed the call to action.

  9. NostraThomas on August 22, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Why is this a surprise, given the track record of the current Justice Department?

  10. Frank D. on August 22, 2016 at 10:25 am

    I’ll admit I don’t know a whole lot about this argument except that 1 million streams to receive $125 is not right. I do write my songs 100%. Whether it’s 100% or with others the rate of pay for the song play needs to be up dated.

  11. […] a brilliant article originally posted to Daily News Bin, prolific songwriter Maureen McDonald (professionally known as Mozella) describes the dire […]

  12. Hizboy Elroy on August 22, 2016 at 10:51 am

    I wonder if Jack Marshall is Steve Albini’s contractor?

    • JMarshall on August 22, 2016 at 5:57 pm

      I’m not, but Steve Albini is in my hood, and so if I were really a contractor I’d be pleased to remodel his house.

  13. David Nyro on August 22, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Great piece, Maureen. Simple, direct, easy to understand and hits all the core bases.
    Obviously, there are some layers here that are hinted at. Yes, the lobby, once again, as with tobacco, pharma, the NRA, and on and on, trumps. (Sorry to use that word…)
    I agree that many talented types will be forced to seek other outlets for their creativity, IF they want to make a living, including remodeling 7,000 square foot homes. We all know the bittersweet truth to songwriting, or any creative pursuit, is that people will still create, no matter what. It’s part of our DNA. And there will be those who keep giving it away, just for the sake of getting it out there. Could Van Gogh NOT have painted just because he wasn’t making any money to speak of? (He made a few francs, btw. And he did, in fact, desperately want fame and fortune.) The answer is “no.” When I was in radio, I had people offer to pay me to let them come on the air and do a show! The “biz,” and the world in general, taps into that “desperation,” if you will.
    Can you imagine that happening in other occupations? “Oh please let me sell insurance! I’ll pay you!!”
    Ha ha.
    “The industry,” be it streaming services, record labels, even the marketplace, counts on an infinite stream of hungry, passionate talent to feed it’s ungrateful need. So what if a lot of talented songwriters are forced to “retire?” Thousands are “at the gate,” waiting and willing to take their place, money or no. That’s why a strike is wishful thinking. Too many scabs. Yes, if every single songwriter past, present and future, went on strike, joined by their brothers and sisters in performance, it COULD work. Yet it could also create a “musical Cuba,” if you will, with everyone simply listening to all the amazing music that’s already out there. I mean, that could be a very, very, very long strike. Look at Cuba. (In case you didn’t get the reference, I’m referring to them still driving all the old cars from the 1950’s.)
    Again, complicated, but seems to me our best (and maybe only) solution is to fight fire with fire and do all we can to make our lobby beat up their lobby. Fat chance we’ll get people voted out of office on this issue.
    So, whose got a few extra mill? (Wonder what the long-term price tag would actually be to wage an effective campaign?) And I’m not forgetting about the appointed-for-life judges. Though someone appoints them. (Elected lawmakers?)
    As for the “go solo or write by committee” quagmire, I realize that’s the new normal, but can anyone really argue that it’s not simpler and more “profitable” (I use this term loosely) to write by oneself? Especially when so many of the producers, publishers, labels, licensing and music supe folks are messaging “Must own 100% of everything.” Obviously, that’s often not going to be the case, but that SEEMS to be the ideal they’re looking for. But maybe I’m missing something?
    Anyway, I’ve been writing songs for years and haven’t made a dime, so why stop (songwriting)/start (making money) now? (Ironic ha ha.)
    Good luck to us all!

  14. Paul Morris on August 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I fail to see why Jack “the Carpenter” feels that “talent-less” songwriters need to be “weeded out”. Why should any songwriter be coerced into a certain number of collaborators? Jack says less is better, but that’s an opinion not a fact. I think each work stands on it’s own merits. You always have the choice to work alone, even if others work in groups of 10. I can make the decision if I’m willing to work alone for 100% of the royalties or if I want to do song splits with collaborators. The public will decide what to purchase/stream and I can guarantee that no one is deciding what they will listen to based on number of songwriters. We’re allowed to have different opinions and preferences in America so why should YOU limit my choices as either a songwriter or a music consumer?

    • JMarshall on August 22, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      Paul–the issue isn’t whether or not someone has the choice to work alone or with a bakers dozen on each song they write. The point of the article concerns economical/legal issues currently affecting the profession of songwriting. the professional songwriting community (and by professional songwriting community, I mean those doing it or trying to do it as a means of gainful self-employment) is overly congested today with people who don’t really belong there, and never did, but are there because technology has made it possible to become involved in the process of record making—regardless of ability or any real devotion to learning the craft as others in the past have done. And it shows in the results—-not much is selling, and it can’t all be blamed on technology and laws. The stats do not lie: whether you like the album or not, the best selling record (Adele-21) of this decade (and one of the biggest selling of all time) was a heartfelt adult contemporary record in which every song on the record but one contained only the artist (Adele) and one co-writer. And a good portion of those sole co-writers from that album (Dan Wilson, Ryan Tedder, etc.) were the sole or primary writer/producer in their own original groups (Semisonic, One Republic, etc.). It’s very simple— you want to make more money in songwriting, quit co-writing. It’s not a debatable point really.

      • Paul Morris on August 23, 2016 at 11:39 am

        Not debatable? Well now, aren’t you the cutest little know-it-all! Music is a creative space, and while we like to make a living doing what we love, getting rich is not the end all be all (for me at least). I’m not going to refuse to work with a musical friend because they joined a different PRO. You’re awfully arrogant to decide for me that the law should be a disincentive to songwriters assembling to create regardless of race, religion, national origin, orientation or PRO. It seems you want to create an arbitrary and artificial barrier because you don’t like the way songwriters collaborate. Do as you like, but don’t try to stop me from my freedom to choose. It does not impede solo songwriters in anyway if others choose to collaborate with many (regardless of how you judge each participant’s contribution. Who are you to tell me I must work alone to make money?

        • JMarshall on August 23, 2016 at 4:46 pm

          Paul—I’m not telling you to do anything, I couldn’t care less what you do or how many people you do or don’t write with. I think you’re the arrogant one for assuming that me or the law cares what you decide to do as a musician. The laws are what they are, but where in anything that I posted anywhere did I articulate that I endorse or in any other way actually approve of the current legislature itself? I simply offered that current state of co-writing in today’s popular music business has a lot of negatives both economically and artistically, and that some of the legislatures biggest issues can be lessened with less co-writing. I’m not sure what article you’re reading, but this one is about the current legislature causing economic hardship for professional songwriters. My points have nothing to do with “getting rich” (but on that note, what is wrong with trying to get rich?). Like I said, for a songwriter that is trying to make songwriting a means of gainful employment (as the author of the article is), one measure to make more money in lieu of the current legislature is to co-write less, and write alone more. How is that a debatable point?

  15. Jodi on August 22, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    This is a really important and well written article so bravo Mozella. I know you have taken pivots in the industry but continue to create, and now advocate.
    And really, it may be true that there are a few too many songwriters on a song these but that is not songwriters making it so. I’m sure many songwriter would love to have a cut they don’t have to share with enough people to build a mcmansion. It is how the industry is set up, seemingly more so than ever these days with a focus on making hits that can cut through the clutter. And my understanding is that Dr. Luke and Max Martin–while very brilliant–have a very large stable of songwriters on staff that are in essence co-writers.

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