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MARTY'S SPEECH: FOR ALL THE SONGWRITERS

The Publishing Kings Remarks at Clive's Grammy Gala

Here are King of Publishing Marty Bandier's complete remarks at Cilve DavisGrammy gala, where he received the NARAS President's Merit Award. The presentation also included a star-studded "tribute" video that prompted huge laughs, with guests including Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams, Lady Gaga, Iggy Azalea, Sting, Pitbull and Motown founder Berry Gordy, as well as assorted comedians.

Thank you.  

First, I want to thank my good friends David Steinberg and Alan Zweibel, who put together the very funny and supposed tribute video. Unfortunately, it seems they took me too literally when I said, “You don’t have to make me look good and you can poke fun at me.” I’m not sure what part of the video actually paid tribute to me.

On a serious note, I would like to thank Neil Portnow and the Academy – I’ve always wanted to say that! So thank you to the Academy. Thank you Clive Davis, my wife Dorothy and my children Alison, Jennifer and Max for allowing me to indulge myself in my passion for music and songwriters.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that I have been part of two great companies that have supported me over many years. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone I have worked with at EMI and all my colleagues I have worked with these past eight years at Sony/ATV, Sony Corporation of America and Sony Corp.

But, as the first music publisher to receive this award, I would especially like to thank the songwriters. This includes not only those songwriters I have worked with and developed close relationships with over the years, but also those I have never met and those who came before me but whose words and music will nonetheless live forever.

Looking back, it’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed by songs. As a young child I took piano lessons and  hated them. But it was going to the movies at least once or twice a week with my grandmother, which sparked my passion for songs and music. And, yes, movies did have sound, even back then.

In those days the music business was very much aligned with the movie business and, while I would have preferred to have seen a Western or an action movie, my grandmother usually opted for a musical. It meant I got to see all of those great musicals from the likes of MGM and United Artists – and in my wildest dreams I never would have imagined that one day I would publish all of those amazing songs. While most people had left the theater, I chose to stay right until the end credits had finished just so I could catch the names of the artists who had performed the songs and, equally as important, those who had written them.

To me it was Leiber & Stoller and Elvis; Holland-Dozier-Holland and The Supremes; Goffin & King and The Shirelles. I think that is still true today.

While I was growing up, my brother, who is 10 years older than me, was another big influence. He listened to a lot of swing music so I got to know all the songs that were made popular by the swing bands and their artists as well as the songs that came from the Great American Songbook. 

And then Elvis came along and everything changed, including my musical tastes. Suddenly I embraced Elvis, doo-wop, the music of the Brill Building, The Beatles and, of course, my favorite, Motown. But I was always just as interested in the song itself as I was the performer. To me it was Leiber & Stoller and Elvis; Holland-Dozier-Holland and The Supremes; Goffin & King and The Shirelles. I think that is still true today.

Unlike other forms of art – and to me there is no doubt songwriting is an art form – few people know who created a classic song, unless it is the performer. Everyone knows who wrote The Great Gatsby or painted the Sistine Chapel, but if you asked someone about “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, while they would probably tell you Judy Garland sang it very few would know it was written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg.


That is why I have always felt that songwriters have never received the credit they deserve. This is particularly the case today when something like 95% of the songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart are written in whole or part by someone other than the performer. A songwriter doesn’t share lucrative touring revenue and they don’t do brand deals. Their entire livelihood is reliant on the income from the song and that proposition is now under threat in a way that it has never been before.

The music industry is changing in ways that I could never have imagined even just a decade ago; it is exciting for us that this has resulted in music lovers having new ways to listen to music as they move from CDs and digital downloads to streaming services. But it is also the case that songwriters are not being adequately compensated for their creations in today’s digital world. Their songs are the very reason these services exist; their songs are why we are all here tonight. As the saying goes, it all starts with the song.

Songwriters are not being adequately compensated for their creations in today’s digital world. Their songs are the very reason these services exist; their songs are why we are all here tonight. 

While I am honored that this award is celebrating my own success, I would not be here tonight without the songwriters who I have cared for and worked with. They and their songs have inspired me all these years. And it is because of them that I have made it my No. 1 priority to ensure they are fairly paid for what they do. 

In many ways, I am still that little boy, who sat in the movie theatre, watching the end credits roll, anxious to read the titles of the songs and acknowledge those who wrote them as well as those who performed them. That was exciting for me back then, and it is equally as exciting today.

So, while this honor has been given in my name, it is really about the songwriters and what they do. So thank you once again for this award. This is very important to me and I am very proud to receive it. 

 

Photo of Marty and Neil courtesy of Larry Busacca

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