Songwriters Advocacy Group 100 Percenters Stages Protest Outside Universal Music Group Offices

Songwriters Advocacy Group 100 Percenters Stages
Tiffany Red at a 2022 protest on Sunset Blvd. (Photo: Adam Battaglia)

Advocacy group the 100 Percenters staged a protest outside Universal Music Group’s Santa Monica offices today (Feb. 6). The nonprofit founded in July 2020 by Tiffany Red, a Grammy-winning songwriter, is calling for songwriters to receive fair compensation — or as Red put it, “not giving credit where credit is literally due.”

The protest came on the heels of the 65th Grammy Awards ceremony, held on Sunday at the arena in Los Angeles. Red, along with fellow Grammy-winning songwriter Kimberly “Kaydence” Krysiuk, said aligning with music’s biggest industry event ws “bittersweet.” This was especially so after the first-ever songwriter of the year award, handed out to Tobias Jesso Jr., the day before. Said Krysiuk: “I think the acknowledgement for our work is great, but at the end of the day is just like, damn, but how am I going to pay rent? It almost comes off like you feel like a fraud.”

Universal Music Group is the world’s biggest music company and home to such top-selling artists as Drake, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and Sam Smith. Its Santa Monica offices house the labels Republic and Interscope, among others, as well as Universal Music Publishing Group. It is run by Lucian Grainge, who was a key architect of its Sept. 2021 IPO. UMG’s market cap currently stands at 47 billion dollars. The company has not yet commented on the protest.

The 100 Percenters are pushing for specific changes to the way the industry does business with songwriters, advocating for contracts detailing the writer’s contribution and commensurate payment and royalty structure before the song is released, as well as fees for sessions and studio time and participation in SoundExchange payouts.

Red says the aim is for the artists and fans to recognize how much time, energy and talent is spent on crafting a song. Said Red: “The [artists] exploit us, too. The reason why everybody makes so much money is because they aren’t paying everybody. If you were paying people you wouldn’t have as much power. It’s a hierarchy. Songwriters are the help.”

“I don’t think the artists are as impacted as the songwriters,” Kaydence added. “We’ve tried to get artists to pull up. [Artists] feel like they don’t want to ruffle those feathers or relationships. So at the end of the day, we’re getting used. I don’t think the artists like fully grasp how bad it is.”

The small but boisterous group of advocates gathered also highlighted the collaborative process with artists, citing a longtime misconception. “There’s the illusion that artists write their songs,” said Red. Indeed, many of this year’s Grammy-winning and nominated songs featured credits that went into the double digits.

Providing an example, Red references multiple Grammy winner Whitney Houston. “We knew Whitney Houston did not write all those songs, but that did not take away from her gift,” said Red. “It didn’t take away from her star. It didn’t from her power, from her money, from her impact, it didn’t take away from any of that. But when artists do that shit, it’s taking away from us — taking away from our money, our impact; our voice; our value.”

From Variety US