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.