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Songwriters warned to secure their creations

Published:Thursday | October 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Gussie Clarke

Moving the music industry from an informal institution to a proper business models, is again at the forefront of discussions in the entertainment industry.

This followed a recent claim made by a St Lucian songwriter against Grammy-nominated singer Jah Cure. Late last month, songwriter Tamara Stone said that she was not credited on a song she wrote for him. The latter has been a hot topic in the sphere for the past week, and has reopened the debate surrounding how songwriters are treated in the industry.

Over the past few years, many key players from organisations such as the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP) have lamented that although they (songwriters) are perhaps the single most important players in the industry, they do not get the recognition or the respect they deserve. While the latter may be true, entertainment insiders believe a change is possible but say that the onus is on these

creators to protect themselves. Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, at least two industry players believe that if songwriters begin to approach their craft as a business, rather than a hobby or a means to an end, the revolution could happen sooner than later.




"Songwriters are the ones who create the raw material for the industry. Without them, we wouldn't have an industry because all the other parties add value to what they create. With that said, copyright is a private right, and it is incumbent on these songwriters to exercise their right to protect their intellectual property," said Dean McKellar, music rights analyst and board member of the JACAP. McKellar continued: "The legislation has already provided the legal framework, and, therefore, the onus is on them to seek out the necessary protection - and there are so many options available. But the first step each songwriter should at least take, is to get their work registered so they have some record of ownership and authorship if they feel they are being cheated by an artist who has recorded a song and doesn't want to credit them."

McKellar said that it is full time songwriters put value on their own work and learn to do the necessary paperwork on projects. "What has been happening in the industry over the years is that if these songwriters insist on being credited on the song by these artistes, they are immediately shown the door, and so in order to make some headway, these songwriters bypass the contracts and all."

Gussie Clarke, director of Dubplate Music Publishers, who is also a member of JACAP agrees. "The issue is that songwriters are not as visible and prominent as an artiste or producer, and these parties often take advantage of that. A writer sees an artiste as an opportunity for them to 'buss', so they accept all kinds of substandard deals just to get their song out there. But it really should be the other way around because it's the artiste who needs the song," he said. "Many songwriters often say dem nuh wah build no bad vibes between artistes or producers and so dem don't bring up any paperwork because they are securing future opportunities, but what they aren't seeing is that if they set the rules, and do things properly from the beginning, it will benefit them in the future. Think about how you can ensure that the rights you have as creators are protected."

Clarke says that songwriters should think long-term as a song can 'buss' two decades after it was originally written and recorded. "I see this happen every day. A man have two words in a song and 30 or 40 years later, him a make more money than he made his entire life," Clarke said.

Pointing out that information is available to help songwriters secure their rights, McKellar urged these creators to educate themselves and join organisations that can help them.