Last month, as many as 15 contemporary lyricists from the Hindi film industry joined hands to ask for what is rightfully theirs - credits from music streaming platforms and YouTube channels. They released a song, titled ‘Credit De Do Yaar’ to voice their opinion against the practice of leaving out the lyricist's name while crediting songs.
We got in touch with lyric writers Varun Grover and Swanand Kirkire to figure out what has been done about it.
Grover, who has penned lyrics for films like Masaan, Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & 2, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, was among the first ones to publicly demand credits on music streaming apps. He has been raising voice for the credits of lyric writers on various platforms for over three years.
He explains, “The issue is very simple here. In the earlier days when a song used to play on the radio or anywhere else, they would credit three sets of people for the song – the composer, lyric writer and the singer. However, when the consumption of music shifted to digital platforms like YouTube and music streaming apps, they decided to randomly and arbitrarily drop lyric writers’ names.”
Adding more to it, Kirkire, known for penning songs like Bawara Mann, Piyu Bole and Behti Hawaa Sa Tha Woh, says, “They (digital music platforms) don't recognise us (lyric writers) as artists. They follow the credit algorithms of the west, but in India, we are equal contributors in making the song. On an app, you can search a song by a singer or composer’s names but you cannot find a song by that of a lyricist. On the contrary, one actually searches for the song by its lyrics and not music.”
Culture of Ignorance
Grover finds this obliviousness a mix of laziness and a culture of ignorance towards the lyricists. He says, that at first when they are approached for a project they are respected and asked about their preferences. However, once a song is done, it is taken over by the directors and composers and they are not really associated with the creative team anymore.
Additionally, Kirkire claims that lyric writers are not only subjected to unfair treatment by the music streaming apps but they are occasionally forgotten during the front line introductions of a film. More than often when there’s a song or an album launch for a film, the actors are present, the directors are there and often the music composers too find their place on the stage. But the film’s lyric writers do not make it to the pedestal.
He says, “Lyric writers are at the bottom of the food chain. There are many instances when they have absolutely forgotten to call the lyricists on song launches. No actor or anybody at the event speaks about the lyric writers."
He adds, "If something concerns an actor, there is a talk about just and unjust practices but nobody speaks up when it comes to a lyric writer to get his or her dues.”
Seconding Kirkire, Grover says, “In the first phases you are respected in the creative circle. But once your job is done, the credits are missing, you are not called for the music launch and if sometimes you are invited to an award function you will be given the last seat. It is very insulting and hurting.”
Voicing out their suppression in the industry and calling out the music streaming platforms for proper acknowledgement, 15 lyric writers took the creative route to protest and create awareness by releasing a song on YouTube. “Varun (Grover) came up with this idea to make a song for all of us (lyricists),” said Kirkire adding, “We all agreed because this is the best we do and we do it for everybody else so why can't we do it for us? Hence, we made a song where we wanted to change the tone for a protester. We didn't want to be angry or cynical, we just wanted to ask for our credits.”
Titled 'Credit De Do Yaar', the song features Sameer Anjaan, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Neelesh Misra, Manoj Muntashir, Mayur Puri, Kumaar, Shellee, Anvita Dutt, Swanand Kirkire, Kausar Munir, Raj Shekhar, Abhiruchi Chand, Hussain Haidry, Puneet Sharma, and Varun Grover. The music composition, production, and the chorus are done by Chinmayi Tripathi & Joell Mukherjii while Swanand Kirkire sung it.
So what happened next? Did these lyric writers get their due credits? Unfortunately, they didn’t.
Grover tells us that while Credit De Do Yaar has millions of views and has been re-shared thousands of times on social media, they have received no response from digital music platforms.
“There is not a single response from anybody. It's complete radio silence. So either they are huddled together to figure out the solution or they really don't care at all. I hope the first one is the case.”
However, we stumbled upon this 2018 blog on Spotify, which claims “Songwriter credits are now readily available on Spotify’s desktop app.”
Reportedly, the new credits feature was based on music streaming app’s songwriter-focused initiative, which gives the contributions of songwriters and producers.
We also reached out to major music streaming apps, and this article will be updated when they respond.