Until recent scandals regarding illegal music downloading, people didn’t give much thought to how recording artists would be affected by online companies. For the most part, artists allow the use of their songs on downloading sites, as well as in other forms, such as TV shows and commercials. But some aren’t so quick to hand over their tunes.
American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson recently discovered the high price of being in demand. On Jan. 17, Clarkson and her RCA record label announced that her songs would not be licensed for outside use. Two days later, it was decided that Clarkson would allow American Idol to use her songs on a case-by-case basis. Oddly enough, this decision came after the caustic American Idol judge Simon Cowell criticized Clarkson for not allowing her songs to be used on the show. The fact that Clarkson completely reversed her position on the issue in just 48 hours makes me wonder exactly how much pressure artists are under to allow others to use their songs.
While musicians want credit for their songs, not licensing them for outside use may not sit well with fans or record labels.
I agree with song usages on a case-by-case basis. Artists who write, compose and perform their own music should have full ownership of those songs. However, many of today’s artists have songwriters and bands that do a majority of the work for them, and the creators receive little, if any, recognition when a song becomes popular. In these cases, the decision to share songs should not be left to the artist, but the label. American Idol winners should not be obligated to let the show use their songs. American Idol merely publicizes people’s talents, it does not create talent.
Broadcast Music Inc. is a company that works through the U.S. Copyright Act to gain permission from owners of musical pieces to allow those works to be used for public performance. In order to gain this “sample clearance” from a song, a person does not even need to consult the artist, according to an article by attorney Richard Stim.
While some artists just put their vocals into a song that has already been written, that is their job. When someone else comes along who wants to record the same song, the artist should absolutely have a say.
These days, artists who once had strict licensing policies are easing up. In the past, country/pop star Shania Twain had been known to keep her songs close by and not allow them to be used by others.
However, not only has Twain allowed her songs to be used by iTunes, but she also recently allowed them to be used in commercials for Scentstories, a Febreze fabric freshener product.
Maybe Twain has had a change of heart and no longer wants to keep her songs for herself. Or maybe Twain wanted to get back into the spotlight. If that is the case, then she did so cleverly by using her most popular songs in the commercials.
Whatever the case may be, it is evident that popularity often wins out over ethics. When even the most private of artists start becoming lax, I have to wonder if the pressure to be popular in the music industry forces artists to turn a blind eye to their own principles.
Shannon McDonald can be reached at email@example.com.