Letter from Chris Gero  -  Summer 2015

chris gero headshotSongwriting is an elegant craft. The ability to connect words to create a profound message is not a gift many people are given. Some songwriters have created messages that have moved entire generations, like John Lennon or Bob Dylan.

But unlike the time in which these great legends wrote and showcased their craft and were duly paid for it, we now face an era where paid monthly digital streaming services are surpassing the sales of albums and music downloads. With rapid development in technology and sharing capabilities, modern songwriters are taking a punch.

Van Dyke Parks, a songwriter who has collaborated with Brian Wilson, U2, Joanna Newsom and The Byrds, to name a few, recounted this story for The Daily Beast after collaborating with Ringo Starr:
“Forty years ago, co-writing a song with Ringo Starr would have provided me a house and a pool. Now, estimating 100,000 plays on Spotify, we guessed we’d split about $80. When I got home, on closer study, I found out we were way too optimistic. Spotify (on par with other streamers) pays only .00065 cents per play.”

Although songwriters are facing the challenges of declined royalty fees, singer-songwriters are vastly emerging and gaining more recognition, thanks to the same technology. And Yamaha takes pride in finding these emerging and well-known singer-songwriters and connecting them directly with their target audience while providing promotional and instrument support.

However, while technology is creating amazing opportunities for music to reach new audiences, it's also creating real challenges for songwriters and composers, who don't have the same revenue streams as performing artists.

Recently, Taylor Swift wrote a public letter to Apple® denouncing their plan to not pay royalties to musicians during a free three-month trial period for its new streaming service. Thankfully Apple® listened and changed its policy. At Yamaha, we applaud Taylor for her courage and Apple® for making the right decision. It isn’t always easy to take a stand or to admit when you’re wrong.

It’s time for us all to stand up for songwriters. I’d love to have an open discussion on the Yamaha Entertainment Group Facebook page to address this topic. What do you think needs to change to make songwriter royalties fair in today’s digital age?

Kindest Regards,
Chris Gero

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