Check it out. Kelly Clarkson refuses to take writing credit when she didn’t participate in writing a song. Imagine that. Sometimes she even refuses when she did participate if she feels her contribution was minimal.
"There's a lot of times in my career where you don't see my name on the song and that's because sometimes I don't write them," she said. "A lot of times I do change the song in a way that probably you should ask for credit, but I don't because the song was already great – I just made it more me. I think a lot of artists steal credit a lot from writers, which I think is super crappy because that's their livelihood."
Whaaaaat? Excuse me. I need to find my reading glasses.
I think we’ve all experienced when a recording artist wants a piece of a song for a number of reasons:
They think they know how to write.
Writer’s cred means a lot to their fans.
Times are hard for artists, not just songwriters. If terrestrial radio paid them performance royalties (it’s called Fair Play Fair Pay and I support it), maybe they wouldn’t need to dip into other pockets. (As if there’s enough to go around after our Spotify payout. Yikes…crumbs.)
Some artists don’t even show up to the writing session and still demand 50% of the copyright just because they record your song. Honestly, as offensive as this is, in some cases we’d be foolish to object. Cutting the nose to spite the face.
Sometimes they participate as best they can but make the song worse with bad ideas. Or you turn around and they're texting non-stop or Googling themselves. You leave the session feeling like that precious idea you’ve been saving for the right session…was wasted.
All this said often artists do contribute. I actually love when I get in the room with someone to write for their album and they know exactly what they want to say. They enjoy the adventures of co-writing and trust that another mind can give them perspective, fill in their blanks. All good. Respect and credit due.
And if an artist is a tasty stylist and can venture melodically where I dare not go…that counts. I mean, of course melody counts, but I’m going so far as to say…if they veer, twist, add a small gesture or quirky cadence to a stanza (umm..did I actually say “stanza”?) which can turn a line into a killer HOOK—then by all means bring it. I didn't used to feel this way about styling. But I've changed my view. I've come to appreciate how instrumental twists and turns are if a song is to become a hit record.
Back to Kelly. A number of years ago I was called by a producer to jump in on a song that he and Kelly started but never finished. I filled it out and another artist recorded and released it. When the label copy was being compiled I strongly urged my producer colleague not to forget to include Kelly as a writer. He "forgot." About 6 months later he heard from her attorney. She wasn’t happy. I don’t blame her. I was mortified beyond. It was not the right thing. I'm all about the right thing. Sometimes it gets me in trouble. Like I'm a Pollyanna or something. But I don’t care. What’s wrong with the right thing? Are we losing touch with it as a culture? Letting our morals and ethics slide?
Here's to doing the right thing.
Thank you, Kelly. I think I can speak frankly on behalf of the whole songwriting community when I say we couldn’t love you more and we wish there were more of you. Please keep doing the right thing. Good luck with your new album, Meaning of Life.
Thanks as always, for reading. Confessions of a Serial Songwriter is now available as an audio book, narrated by me! Get your first book free on Audible! Sign up for this Blog! Find me on my Serial Songwriter Facebook Page, or Twitter or Instagram. Check out my whole website. And last but not least, if you're a voting member of The Recording Academy, please be aware that "Confessions of a Serial Songwriter" has been submitted for a Best Spoken Work Nomination. Juss sayin'.