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Songwriters: too-low royalties threaten musical landscape

We all know what powerhouse musical entertainers do when their accountants and other business advisers tell them that the well is drying up a bit.

They tour.

And ticket sale proceeds for big-name artists and groups clearly reveal how that is going: entertainment icons with storied histories and large musical catalogues routinely make scores of millions of dollars when they hit the road.

That is of course not true for the songwriters who have penned many of their biggest hits. The masters of song execution are flatly envious, looking wistfully at the profit-generating opportunities that exist for others who exploit their creativity yet are denied to them in the wake of their musical creations.

Many of those writers, along with the musical organizations that represent them, are currently telling a judicial panel that, unless the scheme for compensating them is materially revised, the universe of music that the public enjoys will wither on the proverbial vine.

And the reason is this, they say: Existing royalty arrangements simply don't provide songwriters with enough money to warrant their continued exertions.

In recent years, so-called "music streaming" has emerged in dramatic fashion as the single largest source of incoming cash for the musical industry.

And the writers say that they are simply not getting enough of the profits, given what a recent media report terms the "byzantine process" for awarding royalties. That process provides that writers get a share of revenue taken in by the various streaming services, which they say is comparatively injurious to them vis a vis other parties who are paid through the arrangement.

What the writers want is a royalty rate that is pegged to a per-stream formula.

"We should get compensated every time someone streams a song," says one advocate for the writers.

If that doesn't happen, say songwriters from across the industry, the pool of creative craftsmen will dry up appreciably in the future.

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