Does It Matter?

Beyoncé Knowles singing "Dangerously in L...
Image via Wikipedia

Beyoncé has had a very successful career, starting with the group Destiny’s Child which rose to fame in the late 90’s, and more recently on her own with several albums as a solo artist.

However, all through her solo career there have been rumours that the songwriting credits she receives (and awards, I might add) don’t really belong to her. She began receiving those credits with Destiny’s Child, and according to the Wikipedia site: “Knowles was recognized as a songwriter during the run of Destiny’s Child in the 1990s and early to mid-2000s. She won the Songwriter of the Year award at the 2001 American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Pop Music Awards, becoming the first African-American female and second female songwriter of all time to accomplish the feat. Knowles received three songwriting credits in a single year for co-writing “Irreplaceable”, “Grillz” (“Soldier” was sampled on the song) and “Check on It”, the only woman to achieve since Carole King in 1971 and Mariah Carey in 1991. In terms of credits, she is tied with Diane Warren at third with nine number-one singles.”

That last sentence is the one that caught my eye. Tied with Diane Warren? If you are a serious songwriter, you know who Diane Warren is. If you don’t, she is probably the most prolific and successful songwriters around, receiving not just Grammy’s but also Academy and Golden Globe awards and nominations, and she has been ASCAP‘s Songwriter of the Year six times. She is not a performer, all she does is write. She is 53 years old.

Beyoncé is 28. I can appreciate that she may have shared bits and pieces of songwriting ideas with co-writers, but considering how hard she works, appearing not just in her own concerts but also on Broadway and in films, I cannot believe she has the time to write, let alone write these massive hits.

I recently found the link below, which further exacerbates the rumours. A recently-fired Sony Music (Beyoncé’s label) person apparently has confirmed that Beyoncé essentially just demands writing credits and sometimes pays the songwriters off in order to receive them. You can read the post and follow the link to the Sony letter yourself:

Lipstick Alley Link

At first I scoffed at the fact that this is a celebrity gossip site, so who can trust that? But after I read Beyoncé’s bio, I think there is probably some truth to it.

So here’s my question: does it matter? The general public won’t care too much who wrote the song. But as a songwriter, you should be concerned about this practice. This is what happened to a lot of blues artists a number of decades ago in the U.S.: the record labels would lay claim to all of their songs, and these artists who usually wrote their own songs often died in poverty while the labels made gobs of money. As a songwriter, if Beyoncé offered you a tidy sum of money for a song of yours, you’d probably be so flattered (and maybe even impressed at the amount offered!) that you would be tempted to take it. And that’s your choice.

But it’s a crappy practice. It’s dishonest and it takes advantage of those who are SO OFTEN taken advantage of by people in the music business. It’s your song, you should ALWAYS be given credit for it. It may be the last number one song you write, don’t kid yourself. Most of us aren’t Diane Warren’s who are set for life because of all of the hit songs with our names on them out there. Most of us will be lucky to see even a little success from one or two songs in our lifetime.

Demanding songwriting credits is a greedy and self-serving act, and any artist or songwriter who does it should be ashamed of themselves.

IJ

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