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Searching for lyrics online used to be an absolute mess. Plug in a lyric, and Google would display tons of sites with spammy banner ads, and incomplete or incorrect lyrics. Why? They weren’t licensed from the publisher, so the quality was low. Not anymore. Try Googling a lyric today and watch what happens. The lyrics are displayed right there in search, beautiful and correct, complete with the band’s name, the album, and a link to the song on Google Play. You’ll find the same with Pandora, and iHeartRadio, plus hundreds of others.
How is this possible? LyricFind. With lyrics being a top search term globally, and an explosion of music streaming, music publishers and songwriters needed a solution. So, LyricFind wrangled over 4,000 music publishers, including all the majors – and has also built a quality-controlled, vetted database of lyrics available for licensing and synchronized technology, tracking, reporting and paying royalties to publishers in over 100 countries.
I caught up with Darryl Ballantyne, LyricFind’s founder and CEO, to get the scoop on where the lyrics business is headed in 2017.▼ Article continues below ▼
Lyrics are obviously a passion of yours. Personally, do your write songs?
I have no musical talent whatsoever, purely music appreciation. Mom tried to teach me piano. My brother was big into playing music, always the first chair in sax. I was the guy who could listen to the song and be able to tell you who sang it, and the title. I was sort of the “Name That Tune” guy. I’d sit and listen to CDs and follow along with lyrics in the booklet. I had an Ugly Kid Joe album, and the lyrics to every song were listed except for “Cats in the Cradle” — it was the only cover song. I was a pissed off teen. That was the genesis of what I do now.
Can you explain to the readers the value of lyrics? For instance, in the Recording Academy deal, they are displaying only snippets but you are paying publishers the full display license.
The difference between those payments is one doesn’t have a payment (snippets are an allowed usage free of charge as a promotional item) but full lyrics get paid. We knew they wouldn’t be displaying the full lyrics, but we didn’t want no licensing paid for that use. So, they’ll bump a nominated song, here’s a piece of it, and a little lyric display, so we made sure there was a payment. We are trying to push the idea of full value of a full display.
There is obviously some money in lyrics licensing. In music licensing, I’m constantly searching lyrics to find songs with particular keywords/subjects. Is that a big part of this?
Absolutely; lyric display licensing revenue is primary. But the secondary reason is definitely discoverability, displaying in Google. If someone hears the song, they do a lyric search. If the content’s in the database and licensed, people find the artist and it creates a royalty. And as you mention, it works the same way with people doing syncs – using lyrical keywords for emotion, which is bigger money.
Tell me about the lyrics merchandising initiative coming in 2017?
Super excited about it. I think it is definitely going to be a huge revenue stream for publishers and songwriters. Here’s how it works: choose any line from any song, and turn that into a t-shirt, hoodie, coffee mug, phone case – all sorts of different products. It’s possible because of the growth of on-demand printing combined with our database and reach and distribution. Think about seeing Beatles shirts with lyrics on Canal Street; you know it’s not licensed. People obviously want these products, but now you know the right people will be paid, you can choose exactly what you want, and they’re fully licensed. There are a lot of possibilities.
Where else will we see LyricFind in 2017?
We’re really excited about many new partnerships, and continue to focus on multiple languages. We’ve added Musica.com, the most visited Spanish-language lyrics site, as a partner. And we will be launching a cool project with Linguician, a platform for individualized and personalized language learning based on music and lyrics. It’s really cool — think of it as Duolingo using music.
For songwriters who may not have considered their lyrics as a revenue driver, how can they become involved with LyricFind?
We do some direct deals for publishers with big catalogs – just email us. For U.S. publishers, the best way is a commission-free deal with the Harry Fox Agency (HFA). It’s the exact same amount of money. Go through HFA – everything flows nicely – lyric payment royalties, database inclusion, and opt-in to the merch program.
For more, visit lyricfind.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
–Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.