Over the past week or so you may have heard something called The Pact has been trending. There have been articles on BBC News, Variety and numerous other platforms. So what is it? Well it’s taken my interest so I thought I would explain why it has been trending and why it is important to songwriters.
The Pact is a group of top songwriters who have joined together in an open letter to end the practice of artists demanding credit and Publishing of songs they didn’t write. It has been an open secret in the industry since the days of Elvis Presley, when his manager Colonel Parker, would make sure Elvis was given co-writing credits on songs he only recorded. A phrase was even spawned, “Change a word, take a third”. While in truth it isn’t as cut and dried as that saying might suggest, the songwriters behind The Pact in an interview with variety noted, “There isn’t a songwriter who has released 10 cuts who hasn’t” [been asked about a percentage of Publishing being taken]. The percentage can range from 1% to as much as 20% and in some cases even higher.
For those of you who don’t know what Publishing is, Publishing is the part of a song’s profits that earns money from performance royalties (playing at a venue/on the radio), mechanical royalties (a copy is made) and sync (having it played on a tv show/movie/advert). Usually, the publishing goes to the writers and is divided between them while the other part, the Master (which includes sales, downloads, syncs...), goes to the label, producer, engineer and artist. This obviously can differ with some artists writing their own songs. The Master is more profitable than the Publishing, but percentage deals encroach on this smaller side of the profits. According to The Pact, this has become normalised and has sent them into action. On their website; https://www.the-pact.org they have very helpful posts, explaining the monetisation methods that I have just mentioned in more detail.
It is important to note this isn’t songwriters vs artists and labels, it simply bringing awareness to the fact that this shouldn’t be happening. The Pact states how it has two goals:
1. Create backing for songwriters, so that if a writer is faced with a deal they will have the support of the group;
2. To make sure writers know their worth.
In the same interview, Emily Warren, songwriter and one of the main organisers says that “Writers are often told how lucky they are to [work with a certain artist] or have a cut on someone’s album...” and because of that, Warren continues “we think that in order to continue to keep doing this as a career, we have to give in.” The Pact want to make sure up and coming songwriters are given the support and while conceding the song isn’t everything, it certainly isn’t the least important part.
Since debuting their letter, writers and producers like The Chainsmokers have become members of The Pact with half of the duo, Alex Pall, stating, “Songwriters are the foundation of the music and the business that surrounds it. It’s about time they get the recognition and respect that has long been deserved but missing.” It is a movement that is gaining traction with more and more followers each day. It wants to make sure there is fairness in the industry where in some cases there hasn’t been in the past. I hope this helps explain what has been going on. It’s certainly an interesting subject and one that, as a songwriter myself, I will be keeping a close eye on.