Legal Song Lyrics Coming to the Web

It’s been covered in a few tech journals today, but the news that Gracenote will soon distribute song lyrics online is great news for songwriters and for working musicians alike.

Although the web seems like a perfect place for song lyrics, copyright and trade association rules about distributing sheet music has made it pretty hard to turn lyrics into a viable business. That songwriters get paid for reproduction of their lyrics is a covenant that goes back decades — and the wild, wild web had a hard time presenting this information legally and profitably. Sadly, well-meaning lyrics site operators often get lumped into cease and desist notices along with shady companies that plaster the web with song lyrics next to “punch the monkey” type ads or forced downloads.

Song lyric searches are huge, not just for fans that want to understand what their favorite acts are saying, but for working musicians who want to learn the words to popular songs so they can perform them. I’m not sure what, exactly, the method of tracking payments to songwriters will be — I would guess it will probably be similar to the radio/venue pools administered by the PROs. Either way, making this information more readily available to the public is a great step.

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