An Open Letter To Songwriters And Publishers

By Carlos Martin Carle

Don’t put your name on something that isn’t yours.  A most basic of statements.  A simple moral ethos that we as a society have agreed upon to insure academic, journalistic and creative integrity; and, one that the founding fathers’ codified in our constitution (Article I, section 8).

Intellectual Property protection has allowed the development, and commercialization, of Art and Science.  So far…so good…right!?  Well, then how do we as a creative community of individuals who pay the bills within this system find ourselves in our current predicament:  The widespread practice of crediting cut-in“writers” for work that is not theirs?

cut in is a person who did not author a song but is still credited as a songwriter. Why does this happen? Greed and the profit motive can always be pointed out.  However, I’ll give these cut-ins (and those who fight for cut ins) the benefit of the doubt.  In our difficult business, people (recording artists, record labels, managers) want to be compensated for making something a hit - even if that contribution is not authorship.  This quest for revenue sharing, however, is easily remedied by negotiating a share of the publishing share of a given work, among other creative revenue sharing agreements.  Mayimba had the honor of representing the catalog of one of Latin music’s most important songwriters who also happened to be a successful recording artist.  This songwriter refused to take writer credit when working as a producer/arranger and/or guest artist.  if a portion of the copyright was to be negotiated, he insisted on a percentage of the publishing.   He believed, and continues to believe, that claiming authorship without contributing lyrics or music (melody) is simply wrong.

The practice of cut-in writers is certainly not new, and one need not be a star investigator to read liner notes and make an educated guess as to who really wrote the song and who was cut in.  That superstar performer that you know is not a writer having writer credit - cut in; that record company executive’s name showing up as writer - cut in.  These practices have generally just gone un-noticed by the public.  However, this year, the practice has led to some particularly egregious situations.  ASCAP, for example, awarded the Latin Songwriter of the Year Award to a non-writer.  I can only assume that Paul Williams was not aware that this award was going to a cut in.  

This is our industry, and it’s up to us a Authors, Composers, and Publishers to impose our will on what sorts of business practices can not be tolerated.  Perhaps this is a Jerry Maguire moment, but I can not let this practice go without speaking up and voicing what every writer has been whispering.  

Sincerely,

C. Martin Carle

Mayimba Music, Inc

New York