Undeniably, songwriters are suffering from the changes the music industry is undergoing as a result of digital technology, especially the internet. With income streams drying up or rapidly changing, a solution needs to be found for the songwriter.
Bruce Warila, at the Music Think Tank blog, offered his ideas in a recent blog post.
Noting that the songwriter’s royalty stream is drying up thanks to file sharing, the consumer cost of music decreasing, etc., Warila presents an idea that may have some merit, though I think are still a few kinks to work out.
What seems to make sense would be to enable songwriters to sell future options where bidders purchase (today) the right to pay a set price (determined by the songwriter) in the future. Songwriters would auction these future payment rights along with all the rights and income streams legally attached to the song. Buyers would be obligated to make future payments (prices predetermined by the songowner and most likely escalating) at set intervals. Buyers would lose all rights, including the right to perform (if I had it my way), if a payment was missed. It even seems like this could be done on either an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.
If a song is a dry wellhole, the purchaser simply ceases to make payments. If a song is a gusher, the purchaser happily makes every payment on time.
If you read his entire post, he seems to be eyeing the artist’s income from merchandise sales as a possible source of revenue. The problem I see is that even if a song isn’t a “gusher” the artist won’t want to loose the right to perform a song they’ve previously recorded. I do understand his thinking that songs are an important building block in an artist’s career.
His solution would rescue the artist from needing to make a large payment on the front end, and only compensate the songwriter largely, if the song was successful. How do you tie a song’s success to t-shirt sales though? Perhaps their is another way?
If you are in the business of writing songs, it might be worth your time to at least read the article and think about your options.