Abba star Bjorn Ulvaeus has launched a campaign to ensure musicians don’t miss out on millions of pounds in royalties.
The so-called credits due is intended to ensure that all songwriters and musicians are correctly identified when recording a song.
Currently, missing and incomplete data mean that around 500 million pounds are missed or incorrectly allocated worldwide every year.
“It happens a lot,” Ulvaeus told the BBC. “That means streaming services don’t know who to pay for.”
The scheme will also ensure fans see the correct credits for songs – from the writers and producers to the session musicians and engineers.
“We want to go back to the experience we had when we opened a double-sleeve LP and listened to the songs while we read the liner notes,” explained Ulvaeus. “I think this is a very valuable experience that young listeners lack today.”
The scheme ensures that everyone involved in the creation of a song is “clickable” in the digital liner notes, so you can look up every other record they have worked on.
“Every new person who enters the recording studio is registered,” said Ulvaeus. “Even in a symphony orchestra, every member can be clicked on.”
The Abba star kicked off the program at the Ivor Novello Awards in London on Tuesday – recognizing the contribution of songwriters. The idea met with broad approval among the participants.
“I think it’s really important because there are a lot of people behind the scenes who don’t get the recognition they deserve,” said singer Emeli Sande.
“There are musicians who have practiced and refined their art all their lives – so yes, I am very happy to support Björn.”
Songwriter MNEK, who wrote hits for Little Mix and Beyoncé and sang his own number one single with Head and Heart last year, said, “I think it shows that there’s more to making music than just being a pop star . “
‘What a mess’
The Credits Due campaign addresses one of the music industry’s boring, broken, complex, and most important problems: metadata.
When a song is released on either CD and vinyl, or on a streaming service like Spotify, it contains a large amount of underlying information, including titles, alternate titles, featured artists, songwriter and producer names, publishers, and much more.
This information needs to be synced with databases around the world to ensure the right people are paid when a song is streamed, purchased, or played.
That often doesn’t happen – and with 60,000 new songs uploaded to Spotify every day, the problem grows. “Can you imagine what a mess this is?” asked Ulvaeus.
The new program is supported by the Ivors Academy for Songwriters and the Music Rights Awareness Foundation, which Ulvaeus founded in 2016 with songwriters Max Martin and Niclas Molinder.
Together they are launching an app that helps songwriters, producers and record labels collect all the necessary data before a song is released.
“It’s in all of these people’s interests to get it right,” said Ulvaeus. “Today, in 2021, there really is no excuse.”
The star spoke three weeks after Abba unveiled her comeback – with a new album and virtual tour set to start in the UK next May.
Her return after a break of 39 years was enthusiastically received worldwide. Two new singles, Don’t Shut Me Down and I Still Have Faith In You, entered the UK’s Top 20 while the album Abba Voyage broke pre-order records.
“I didn’t think it would be so global,” said Ulvaeus. “I don’t know how that happened. But I’m very grateful.”
He stated that the concert will be a mix of live music and pre-recorded elements, with a live band complementing the “Abba Avatars” on stage.
Some of the songs may sound different – the singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad are now singing “one note lower than before” – but he said the group “laughed the whole time” during rehearsals.