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Sunday, 29 March 2020

SONGWRITING FOR OTHERS IS NOT CHEATING




Two days ago, after breakfast, I heard my eight-year-old son singing in the sitting room. He enjoys singing my songs and the songs of other singers and songwriters and he does so everywhere; bathroom, kitchen, etc. He has a lovely voice too. 

He and his elder brothers listen to my songs after I compose them. They make their comments and I edit the melody or lyrics if necessary before I hit the recording studio. They are my cheerleaders.

The following conversation ensued between us;

ME: My baby, you love singing so much. Would you like to be a professional singer in the future?

SON: No, mommy. Have you forgotten about the things that I want to do?

ME: Certainly not. You want to become a footballer and a robotic engineer. Right?

SON: Yes, that is right.


ME: You can still squeeze in singing or drop one of these careers along the line. That will not be difficult since you already play the piano and the drums. You never know.

SON: Even if I decide to sing, I do not know how to compose songs like you.

ME: I can write your songs for you.

SON: No, that would be cheating. A singer is supposed to sing and write his or her songs too.



ME: No, it is not compulsory for a singer to also write his songs. It is called music publishing. In fact, some popular singers do not write any of their songs and some songwriters have terrible voices. Some songwriters who write only the lyrics of a song (lyricists) may not be able to provide a melody for their words (composers).

SON: No, mommy. I do not agree with you.

ME: So, if a singer is supposed to do everything, will you also produce your own songs; play your own piano, guitar, drums, etc at the same time?

SON: (Silence).

So, I got him there.

In practice, many international singers do not write their own songs. Many great songs are not written by the people who performed these music.

The likes of Rihanna and Elton John of this world are simply not gifted with the art of songwriting. Albeit, Elton John creates melodies from the lyrics of Bernie Taupin, his lyricist. Thus, Elton John is a joint copyright owner with Bernie in the songs that Elton performs. (Lyrics + Melody = Song).

This simply means that poets (lyricists) can have their poetry converted into songs by working together with a melody creator (composer) and make extra cash for a lifetime.

Whitney Houston never wrote any of her songs. Beyonce collaborates with other songwriters. She has never written one song by herself.

The likes of R. Kelly, Chris Brown and DJ Irawo *winks* can write for themselves and for other singers. Thank God for our multiple talents.

The late Michael Jackson wrote 99% of his songs too. His children are now swimming in billions of dollars from royalties made from all over the world.

Do I need to tell you that Fela Anikulapo Kuti's children are basking still basking in millions courtesy of their father's self written music from all over the world?

This is the beauty of music publishing.


Independent music artists or their independent record labels seek songs from music publishers. Major record labels like Sony Music have their own publishing company.

It is only in Nigeria that a Nigerian singer will want to write his or her own music by force even if he or she is poor at it. 

Even if he or she gets songs from a songwriter or music publisher, the singer will want to buy off the song instead of licensing it and will want the songwriter to be hush-hush about the song so that Nigerians can say about the singer, “Oh wow! What a wonderful singer and songwriter he/she is!”

Songs like Yolo performed by Seyi Shay, Nackam performed by Yemi Alade, Ferrari performed by Yemi Alade, Sade performed by Davido, Applaudise and Gift performed by Iyanya were all written by a Nigerian songwriter who does not sing professionally. His name is Ikemefunna Nwanbonye.

Gobe and Aye performed by Davido were written by Password and Runtown respectively.


In music, there is no such thing as 'too many cooks spoil the broth'. The more, the merrier. 

Simply involve your intellectual property lawyer and music publisher (if you care to hire me) in your deal to avoid future roforofo.

In advanced countries, about five to seven people can write just one song and the song will become a hit, generating millions in performance fees, blanket licensing, mechanical licensing, performance licensing, synchronization fees, general and specific royalties.

We should begin to collaborate more and follow due process in the Nigerian music industry for its further growth and development.





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