what’s original about originals?

If everybody does it, what’s original about writing original songs?

The reason our musical culture has grown such an overwhelming emphasis on original songs is that owning compositions is lucrative.

Revenues from compositions can be more enduring than from sound recordings, because performances go in and out of style, but new performances can bring an old song back to life.

And this way of evaluating the virtues of a piece of music complements the corporate basis of the business. Corporations need to be able to think of their work as investments. Compositions are assets that can be bought and sold, amassed, licensed, published, attributed. As a result songwriters can get corporate backing, which in turn enables them to rise at the expense of non-songwriters.

It’s an economic thing, not an art thing.

1 reply on “what’s original about originals?”

Songs at least have the virtue of liberal licensing through the mandatory royalty system, but I’m never sure how that works when it comes to on=line posting. There must be an answer,but my impression is that the answer is un-economic for cover songs. I need to read up a bit.

I think that ownership of the original song is the traditional form of royalty an artist ideally actually receives, as opposed to so many other royalties that can get swallowed up by record label silliness.
It would be interesting to see songwriting culture arise again as it did in the 50s and 60s, though the worst excesses of that NY formulaic writing I will not miss.

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