Confessions of a Serial Songwriter: Streaming and Dreaming


Oh. My. God. Oh. My. God. Omgid Omigod Omigod. I am so embarrassed. I'm a grown woman and I just got the equivalent of a time out.

This morning, I sat down to address some comments on a blog post of mine, and what did I see? Or not see? At the end of it where there used to be a video of Lea Michele and Cory Monteith singing a song from Glee, there was now a black rectangle with a little red guy inside and a message that said, 'The YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple notifications of copyright infringement.' Like I said. Omigod.

Horrified, I scrambled to my YouTube account. It was still in tact. Phew. Apparently I was not the infringer. I did not upload that video, but indeed, I borrowed it. And that wasn't very nice of me. I embedded that naughty uploader's tainted URL. Or "Earl" as I have come to call it. (Isn't that so much easier to say than U-R-L?)

Truth is, in the back of my mind I knew I was doing something I wasn't supposed to do. Me of all people. Me, writer of songs for which I would like to be compensated fairly.

I've pretty much been a law-abiding blogger. I've been paying $15 a piece for licensed Shutterstock images.

Hard copy images have always had a price, (just like recorded music). And when the cyber revolution presented itself and it became possible to use an image without paying for it laws were put into place that prevented that from happening. Photographers have families to feed. They bust their butts to do good work and make a living. I totally get it. But what about songwriters?

The digital marketplace has made fair compensation for use of music problematic.

My songs are streamed over and over again. And my royalty statements reflect a mere pittance of what they used to. There is more and more easy access to music but less and less compensation for the creators of it. As James S. Levine reported in his recent commentary, "The World Has Changed, It's Time Our Music Licensing System Did Too," it takes one million streams on Pandora for a songwriter to earn $90. Sigh.

Anyway, I did what I often do in the fluster of an internet faux pas (or when I'm embarrassed because of a poorly formatted tweet). I had a chat with my go-to media gal in London. She has some kind of Batphone on which we can communicate affordably. She always has a sober way of explaining online best practices to someone who, up until Jan 1 of this year, didn't know how to send a friend request or tag a photo.

She explained the difference between previewed images and ones that appear on a host site. She talked to me about Creative Commons and savings packages on Shutterstock. Today I'm a little more image savvy than I was yesterday. Although she's preaching to the choir. I understand how important it is to make sure the photographer survives. Even the despicable paparazzi who intrude on people's private space. And private parts. Like the one who took that infamous photo of Britney's crotch. Even him. (He's probably streaming one of my songs right now.) If we can protect him, why can't we protect the livelihood of the musician?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not asking for the real reasons. I know the facts. I know all about the consent decree, (royalty rate regulation which hasn't been updated since the 1940's.) I've signed the Songwriters Equity Act and I imagine I'll be in Washington in the near future marching for the cause. I know about the lobbyists who argue on behalf of digital media companies against balanced reform. I'm not seeking literal answers. I ask out of sheer exasperation. This is strictly emotional. Rhetorical.

If we were able to sort things out so civilly for other vulnerable parties, why can't we cut through the muck and get it right for the songwriter? We have families too. :(