Raye Calls for Better Songwriter Deals in Passionate BRIT Awards Acceptance Speech

It’s no surprise that British-Ghanaian R&B singer/songwriter Raye was the center of attention at last weekend’s BRIT Awards — she won a record six trophies at the British Grammy-equivalent ceremony, including Best Artist, Album of the Year and Song of the Year, and during her acceptance speeches made empowering statements like “I’m in control — I’m my own boss.”

Yet obscured in all the headlines was the strong business statement she made on behalf of fellow songwriters, calling for them to receive a share of the master recording income of the songs on which they’re credited. Multiple other participants receive such shares — “points on the master” — including artists, labels, producers and others, but not songwriters.

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“British music industry, please — I want to have a lovely, brief conversation about normalizing [business by] giving songwriters master royalty points,” she said, to cheers from Pinkpantheress and many others seen in the audience. “It means if the songs win big, the writers get to win too. Please allow that to happen — please.” (The speech was first highlighted by the 100 Percenters nonprofit; see the full speech below.)

The issue is a longstanding and forceful complaint from the songwriting community that has ramped up dramatically in recent months as streaming payment models are re-examined and updated amid the onset of AI. Songwriters’ income and livelihood has been deeply impacted — many say short-changed — by the streaming economy, in which approximately 75% of the revenue generated by streams goes to artists and labels and the remainder to songwriters and publishers. That percentage, when split between the multiple writers and publishers credited on most contemporary songs, usually amounts to very little.

A major obstacle to a solution is the question of whether songwriter points would be taken from the share of the artist, the label or another participant. Such arrangements are often negotiated independently, but only by songwriters with the leverage to demand them, or others generous enough to share them. (Raye alluded to the situation in her speech: “It can [come from] net costs, OK?,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be at your expense.”) The climate has forced many songwriters to find other sources of income, such as synchs, or out of the business.

London-born Raye’s decade-long battle to the top is a large part of her story. The 26-year-old singer struggled for years through an ill-suited record deal while supporting herself as a songwriter before finally splitting with the Polydor label and striking out on her own as an independent artist — and winning a record six BRIT Awards last Friday night, all related to her 2023 debut full-length album “My 21st Century Blues.”

In presenting Raye with the songwriter of the year award, BBC Radio host Clara Amfo recalled being the first DJ to play her music. “When we first met in 2014, I was delighted to play you on the radio for the first time,” she said. “Ten years — it just shows that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You have grafted, you have worked and you fully deserve this!”

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