Speaking of L5 and song recording

Looks like the happy little diddy “Roll Away” from L5’s Monuments album will be the group’s next single. I still think it should have been singled earlier instead of “Out of My Darkness,” but nevermind … better late and all that. And, it’s worth nothing, this is precisely the kind of listenable, saleable, and generally good song that will NOT be recorded if Daywind has its way and forbids its artists from recording songs it doesn’t own. Unless you’re Rodney Griffin, I guess.Pretty clearly, I think this is the wrong approach to take to recording and publishing. I’ve singled Daywind out because they’re a powerhouse label but they’re only mirroring what’s going on more generally in the industry: everyone is insisting on publishing only songs they own, which means either good songwriters like Kyla Rowland and Sue Smith and Joel Lindsey don’t get their songs recorded (because most them need to retain publishing rights in order to continue devoting the majority of their time to songwriting and not, say, dishwashing at Ponderosa) or - and this is what happens more often - the group or the label only records songs one of them or their family members or employees has written. Take a guess which approach leads to better songs?

Increasingly, there seems to be this way of thinking out there that says “we need to own our publishing so we can make more money,” but the publisher’s and writer’s share of the profit combined on a ten-song project is only about 85 cents. It’d be worth it for the group to pay that 85 cents in the short term because one true, really good hit for a group would increase its honorarium FOR ONE DATE more than that group is probably going to make off the publishing for the whole record if the group cuts only songs its own. Plus, it would increase the group’s overall album sales (and the artist’s royalties on a record are typically around $1.10 to $1.15, not to mention the markup on product a group sells itself). So this “circle the publishing wagons” thing is really one big foot-shooting festival.

It’s easy to dismiss all this as armchair bidness talk, and I hate to sound so Puritanically anti-bidness about it (because as I’ve pointed out above and as everything Bill Gaither has ever done suggests, good music = good bidness), but it ought to be about recording good songs regardless of who wrote them or who owns the publishing. Greater Vision, for instance, would be unstoppable if, instead of packing their projects full of Rodney Griffin songs of uneven merit, they would record one or two of Griffin’s best songs in a given year along with a song from Kyla Rowland and Sue Smith and whoever else is writing the good stuff at that time. Maybe, as a friend of mine said the other day, the fans’ fascination with Rodney’s aw-shucks personality brings GV more business than good music would. But surely GV of all groups has sufficiently cemented its place in gospel greatness to experiment in the direction of better music. Surely?

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