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OP/ED: DOING THE
WRITE THING

In every corner of the entertainment industry, the writer is held up as the crux of the creative work.

But the acknowledgement of writers in the music business simply doesn't match the TV and film industries. The Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys and SAG Awards all specifically recognize the role of the writer in the creation of a final product.

This isn’t the case with NARAS. And it’s time for things to change. Why don’t we have a Songwriter of the Year award?

The writer is under duress in nearly every aspect of the business, particularly with the trickle-down economics of digital music and streaming. Cash flow for their work has diminished considerably in the last decade. Producers and performers, meanwhile, have developed new paths for revenue, lit primarily by the spotlight our business gives them—we’re great at championing the artist and the producer.

Yes, Song of the Year spotlights a single achievement by songwriters. But what about a writer who is behind multiple topline melodies, and not only authored a potential Song of the Year but racked up a billion streams for multiple other works? Why don’t we separately acknowledge these creatives for their cumulative contributions, as we do with the Producer of the Year category?

For every Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin and Max Martin, there’s an equal contribution by a corresponding tunesmith, whether it’s Bernie Taupin, Leiber & Stoller, Dan Penn, Patrick Leonard, Doc Pomus, Savan Kotecha, Justin Tranter, Ali Tamposi, Ester Dean or Jason Evigan.

Of course plenty of brilliant writers have also been performers— Lennon & McCartney, Smokey Robinson, Joni Mitchell, Dylan, Prince. But this isn’t about the stars who write. It’s about the behind-the-scenes working writers, and the reorganization of how we recognize their works –not just one “Song of the Year.”

This dynamic isn’t the case at all in Country, a genre and musical community that prides itself on the excellence of writing. Top Nashville tunesmiths have the opportunity, via the ACMs, to be specifically recognized as Songwriter of the Year, while the Grammys, for some reason, do not.

If NARAS can pony up a Disco category for eight years to respond to the pop-cultural movement of the time, perhaps they could re-examine their stance here, and assign some shine. It’s past time to create a category that honors a backbone of our musical world. 

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