Announcing the “Fair Trade Music” Initiative

I thought that ethnomusicologists would be interested in the following announcement from the Songwriters Guild of America, the Songwriters Association of Canada and others...

Announcing the “Fair Trade Music” Initiative, World’s Songwriters and Composers Unite to Form a Global Advocacy Network.

For the first time in music industry history, over 25,000 songwriters and composers from nearly fifty countries throughout Europe, North America, South America, and Africa have joined together to form a new, wholly independent advocacy Network for music creators. Its immediate goal will be the championing of a set of Fair Trade Music Principles designed to ensure transparency, fair compensation, and autonomy for music creators in an increasingly complex and non-transparent music business landscape.

The new group, characterized by its founders as a “Network of independent alliances,” will serve not only to support advocacy for music creator rights throughout the world, but as a source for the gathering, analysis and distribution of international legal and business information crucial to songwriters and composers. The founding members of the Network include the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA), Music Creators North America (MCNA), the International Council of Creators of Music (CIAM), the Pan African Composers and Songwriters Alliance (PACSA) and the Alliance of Latin American Creators of Music (ALCAM).

As its first united action, the new Network has announced the international launching of its Fair Trade Music initiative. According to the group, “more than any other sector of the music community, the songwriter and composer community has been hit the hardest by the catastrophic losses that have financially decimated the music industry since the beginning of the 21st Century. Our Network recognizes the drastic need for music creators to independently analyze the reasons for these devastating setbacks, devise solutions that benefit creators as the bedrock of the music industry, and advocate for the implementation of those solutions with our own voices. The initial result of this process has been the formulation of the Fair Trade Music Principles, which provide a framework for ensuring that music creators can survive and flourish in the future, to the benefit of individual songwriters and composers, consumers, and culture in general. It is those principles that we have come together to champion.”

The Fair Trade Music Principles are as follows:

1. FAIR COMPENSATION -- Music business models must be built on principles of fair and sustainable compensation for music creators.

2. TRANSPARENCY--International standards must be developed and adopted that ensure efficient and transparent management of rights and revenues derived from the use of our works. These standards must apply to all entities that license such rights, and which collect and/or distribute such revenues.

3. RECAPTURE OF OUR RIGHTS--Music Creators must have the ability to recapture the rights to their works in a time frame no greater than 35 years, as is currently available to songwriters, composers and artists in the United States. The effect of recapture of rights must apply globally.

4. INDEPENDENT MUSIC CREATOR ORGANIZATIONS--Music Creators must have their own independent entities that advocate for, educate and provide knowledgeable support for members of their community, including aspiring songwriters, composers and artists. Music Creators speak for themselves, not through those with interests in conflict with them.

5. FREEDOM OF SPEECH--Music Creators must be free to speak, write and communicate without fear of censorship, retaliation or repression in a manner consistent with basic human rights and constitutional principles.

While the Fair Trade Music Principles are general in scope, the Network has already begun to engage in specific activities designed to address current and developing problems for music creators. These include advocacy in favor of the system of “exclusive assignment” of performing rights in musical works to performing rights organizations outside of the United States, opposition to non-transparent, direct performing rights licensing agreements currently being undertaken in the United States, and support for more robust and creative approaches to addressing the continuing, drastic problem of music theft.

Speaking on behalf of the Network, spokespersons and music creators Alfons Karabuda of ECSA, Rick Carnes of the Songwriters Guild of America and MCNA, Eddie Schwartz of the Songwriters Association of Canada and MCNA, and Lorenzo Ferrero of CIAM, all noted the historical significance of the Network’s formation. “Only a unified global music creator community can meet the challenges of survival in a fully internationalized music industry. It took many decades to accomplish the enormous task of organizing such a diverse geographic Network, but now having done so, we have embarked on a new course designed to ensure that the voice of the music creator is heard on every issue, loud and clear, throughout the world. We think for ourselves. We act for ourselves. And we speak for ourselves. We have many partners and allies, but ultimately, we take responsibility for our own futures. That is the new narrative, and it will be pursued in our own voice.”


Songwriters Guild of America
Rick Carnes
(615) 500-5573
Lorenzo Ferrero
+39 339 803 94 20
Alfons Karabuda
Eddie Schwartz:
(615) 294-6372

I thought I would include some information about the founding members, most of whom took part in the World Creators Summit, June 4-5, 2013 in Washington, DC. 

The Songwriters Guild of America is comprised of three entities:

The SGA, as a whole, is keenly aware that American music has been the backbone of entertainment exports to the rest of the world, a major foundation of America's gross national product and, more importantly, a cultural touch stone of our emotions, memories and lives. The SGA seeks to protect this valuable commodity, this art, by ensuring that those who seek to make music, and songwriting, their career are able to do so at a wage that allows them to care for themselves and their families.

Finally, the SGA Foundation engages in outreach to communities and populations in need of education about songwriting, music and the role these arts play in the enrichment of our lives and the advancement of our spiritual and intellectual growth. Outreach efforts include the education of students, teachers and others in the art of songwriting and basic music skills. Further educational effors seek to help developing songwriters improve their creative skills and develop the business skills needed to survive in the music business, today.


The European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) aims and agenda (in part):

“Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”

Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately this is far from being the reality. 

ECSA’s principal aim is therefore to defend and promote music authors’ rights at national, European and international levels by any lawful means. In detail this means:

  • joining the efforts of European music authors organizations and/or federations in order to ensure that the voice of music creators is duly taken into account both at the European and international level;
  • protecting and defending music creators’ rights both at the European and international level;
  • reinforcing the perception of the cultural and economic value of music in Europe and the world;
  • inspiring European and international politicians and regulators to encourage the creation of new music of all kind;
  • actively supporting the principle and development of copyright (“droit d’auteur”) and defending the collective management of authors’ rights;substantially contributing to the work of the European Union and UNESCO on the “Statut de l’Artiste” and the “Déclaration sur la diversité culturelle”; and
  • creating fair commercial conditions for all the music authors and composers and encouraging the adoption of “codes of conduct” in order to ensure the social and economic development of music creation in Europe.


Music Creators North America (MCNA) seems to be a number of existing organizations under one new banner.  To quote the Songwriters Association of Canada (S.A.C.) President Eddie Schwartz in his blog: "In Canada, the S.A.C. joined with the Screen Composers Guild and SPACQ, our counterpart in Quebec to form Music Creators Canada.  Music Creators North America was formed following a meeting with the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI)."  The Songwriters Guild of America explains, "The newly formed Music Creators North America (MCNA) organization, anchored by its founding members SGA and SGAF, was represented at the CISAC CIAM Congress..."


The International Council of Creators of Music (CIAM):

  • CIAM is the forum for all creators of music and lyrics regardless of genre. It deals with matters that are specifically related to the interests and status of creators of music and to their collective management organisations.
  • CIAM emphasises cooperation, networking and exchange of information, best practices, experience, ideas and practical advice in order to defend music creators and improve their professional environment.


The Pan-African Composers and Songwriters' Alliance website is still a work-in-progress.


I am sure there will be more to learn about this new initiative, which was announced on June 3, 2013.  As the World Creators Summit recap explained: Co-chair of Music Creators North America, Eddie Schwartz, introduced the Fair Trade Music Initiative, a product of a worldwide association of music organizations and groups.  Schwartz remarked that these groups wanted to shift the focus away from infringement.  "The piracy narrative painted everybody the same way" whether they were Kim Dotcom or a kid downloading an album.

I will keep everyone posted as more information becomes available.


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