One of the most interesting meetings at this year’s Midem music conference in Cannes was a panel devoted to lyrics as a business. As regular readers of A-Lyric.com probably know by now, music lyrics are frequently in the top 10 search terms. The interest in song lyrics is phenomenal, and shows no signs of abating. Yet until very recently, the industry was unable or unwilling to satisfy the demand. This is now changing…
One of the speakers at Midem was Alan Juristovski, CEO of MetroLyrics. Some time back, they took the unusual step of licensing the use of the 500,000 lyrics they feature. “We pay for the use of the lyrics, and are happy to do so,” he explained. “With some 30 million unique visitors per month, we have become the seventh most-visited music destination on the Internet.” What’s more, he argued in favour of licensing illegal sites rather than shutting them down (one of the bigger recent victims is Paroles.net in France).
Other panellists such as Jonathan Channon of EMI Music Publishing gave examples of new uses, such as huge quantities of lyric-based keyrings being sold to major supermarket chains. “Although the margins are not very big, it is becoming a business”. EMI also licenses Java-based games for mobile phones in addition to the inevitable T-shirts and apparel.
Time didn’t allow the ensuing discussion to go very far. It would have been interesting, for example, to discuss how the money trickles back to the lyricists when songs can be published and sub-published in different territories. Another important issue is how the publishers justify the use of song titles, which I have always understood cannot be copyrighted separately. Concretely, what could stop me running off “All You Need is Love” or “In the Name of Love” T-shirts if I don’t refer to the Beatles or U2 specifically? Advertisers do it all the time. Something tells me that a lawsuit or two will soon give us the answer.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a more accurate source of lyrics, check MetroLyrics.