Walking on the treadmill earlier today, I kept skimming through my iPod to pick out whatever suited my workout fancy of the moment. At one point I idly wondered whether the song I was listening to had been written by the group singing it – and that’s when I realized for the first time that iTunes doesn’t identify songwriters.
Vinyl has always listed songwriters, on both LPs and 45s. I even dug out some of my old 78s – and found songwriters credited on the labels of those brittle, old records, as well.
When The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, everyone already knew that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote most of group’s songs. But there on the cardboard circle in the center of my vinyl copy are their names (Lennon-McCartney) listed beneath the title of every single song except “Within You Without You,” which George Harrison wrote . . . and which I know because his name is beneath the title.
The exclusion of songwriter identification on iTunes’ “labels” may be a remnant of digital music’s Napster origins, which were all about file sharing . . . getting songs for free. Maybe piracy is easier if you pretend that music sort of spontaneously generates itself, and just “is.” Then you don’t have to feel guilty about robbing the songwriter of royalties. The beauty of iTunes, though, is that it’s so easy and inexpensive now for people to do the right thing and pay for music.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Apple could also figure out a way for songwriters not only to be acknowledged but also once again to be visibly linked with the music they created?