Give Songwriters Credit On All Formats

As the record labels continue pressuring broadcasters to increase the back-announcing of their singles, they themselves should pay more attention to another kind of song identification. It is time for labels to provide songwriter credits in all configurations of prerecorded music -- especially cassettes, which are the dominant sound carriers.

To be fair, some record companies already have a policy of providing such information. Although writer credits are occasionally omitted even on titles released by those labels, their attempts to identify music creators are laudable. Moreover, the fact that they manage to identify writers on most of their cassettes invalidates the claims of other labels that there is not enough space in tape packaging for writer credits.

While LP jackets and sleeves do offer more graphic display space than does the permanent packaging of cassettes or CDs (not counting throw-away boxes), it is certainly possible to list writer credits on cassette J-cards. CDs themselves are big enough to include writer names. And, if lyric reprints are included with a tape or CD, there is plenty of room for such information.

Some label executives complain that songwriters' names are not supplied to them in time to meet their schedule for preparing album artwork. They say publishers should provide complete writer information when an artist or producer hands in a master tape.

There is some merit to this argument. After all, publishers have a vested interest in their writers, as well as in having their own firms identified in label copy. But, in the last analysis, it is up to record companies to ensure that those who write the music and the words are given credit.

The composers and lyricists should be identified even on releases by a self-contained group. Very often, different members of an act write different songs, and outside collaborators are frequently brought in.

But those who need credits the most are non-performing songwriters, whose professional reputations rest on the number of hits they have penned. If they are not identified, the consumer naturally assumes the recording artist wrote the songs on his or her album.

Even industry professionals, including producers, managers, label executives, and other artists, will not know who wrote the songs if no one is credited. And if they do not know, the composer or lyricist will have fewer opportunities to place his or her songs on other albums.

The National Academy of Songwriters and the Songwriters Guild of America have been fighting for credits for three years now. Their cause is just, and the labels that have not adopted pro-credit policies can reap a free PR bonanza by falling in line. There is no excuse for further resistance; music creators deserve as much recognition as the artists who perform their songs.

(Reprinted courtesy Billboard Publications.)