Fair Trade Music

Published 03/20/2014

By Eddie Schwartz

What is Fair Trade Music?
The Fair Trade Music initiative is the joint effort of key music creator organizations, representing more than 25,000 songwriters and composers around the world.

What’s the goal of Fair Trade Music?
Fair Trade Music – much like Fair Trade Coffee – is built on the belief that given an option, consumers will choose to purchase their music from sources where they know music creators are fairly compensated. In order to begin this process, we developed “The Fair Trade Music Principles.” They can be seen here.

What’s the problem?
A good example of what music creators are dealing with can be seen in a typical publishing statement that details a young songwriter’s earnings from Spotify.

This statement shows that a particular song was streamed 162,525 times. Total royalties reported for those streams are $11.46. Since this songwriter receives 50% of those royalties (as does the publisher, a common arrangement), those 162,525 streams represent $5.73 to the songwriter, or $00.000035 per stream. (For many songs, 2 or 3 songwriters might further divide this amount.) So one million streams would pay the songwriter $35.00. One hundred million streams would pay $3,500. One billion streams would pay $35,000.

At the height of the music industry little more than a decade ago, sales in the US of 500,000 records were considered a  rare enough achievement to warrant  a “Gold” record. The much rarer achievement of 1 million sales was awarded with a “Platinum” disc, . which would generate approximately $40,000 for the songwriter(s). To achieve comparable compensation in the digital realm, the work in question would need to be more than 1,000 times more successful than “Platinum.”

What’s the current stage of implementation of Fair Trade Music?

Research is being conducted to define fair compensation for music creators in streaming services.  Then we will set criteria by which music services can be evaluated, and those that meet them will be approved to display a “Fair Trade Music” logo.  That way, consumers will know which services fairly compensate the creators behind the songs.

Who’s on board? 
• European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) – more than 40 member
organizations across Europe
• Music Creators North America (MCNA) –  five North American organizations
representing music creators
• International Council of Creators of Music (CIAM),
• Pan African Composers and Songwriters Alliance (PACSA)
• Alliance of Latin American Creators of Music (ALCAM)

What can songwriters do?

Support the above-mentioned organizations by becoming a member of the Songwriters Association of Canada.

About Eddie Schwartz

Eddie Schwartz is best known for writing such classic hit songs as "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," recorded by Pat Benetar, "Don't Shed A Tear" by Paul Carrack, and "The Doctor" by the Doobie Brothers, as well as some 200 songs recorded and performed by artists such as Joe Cocker, Carly Simon, Peter Frampton, Robert Palmer, Jeffrey Osborne, Donna Summer, Rita Coolidge, Rascal Flatts and Mountain, among others. Eddie has won numerous music industry awards, including multiple JUNO, BMI, and SOCAN awards, and SOCAN's prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. He's currently the President of the Songwriters Association of Canada and Co-Chair of Music Creators North America and the CIAM (CISAC’s international authors’ council) Executive Committee. He's previously served on the boards of SOCAN, CARAS and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In late 2012, Eddie was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. In recent years Eddie has been an important champion and leader for the Fair Trade Music initiative.


  1. Mark Christiano

    Why is SOCAN not part of this?

    1. Eddie Schwartz

      Many thanks for your comment, Mark. SOCAN has been very supportive of this initiative. They have generously posted this blog entry, and we are in discussions on a regular basis on how we can work together to move this forward.



      1. Eric Baptiste

        Thanks Mark. I can only add my voice to Eddie’s comment and SOCAN fully supports the Fair Trade Music initiative and is actively working on various aspects of it with CIAM and MCNA. We’re helping fund the survey Eddie mentions and we are providing data as well.
        SOCAN’s mission is to make sure that our 120,000 Canadian members and the millions of foreign songwriters, composers and publishers we represent in Canada receive the just rewards from their talent and hard work. We are proud to license music created by professionals that have to be reasonably paid as professionals because the rights in their music has real value.
        The Fair Trade Music initiative has great transformative potential here in Canada and around the world. For this reason SOCAN is also helping spread the word in our international trade association, CISAC, in which we play a leadership role.

  2. Lorne MacMillan

    Hey Eddie,
    I can’t believe this is happening to songwriters and it gives me a sick feeling in my stomach when I think of the future repercussions it will have on composers and performers. It is nice to see you still care having been successful yourself which I believe is quite rare. Also, a personal thanks for the hard work you do behind the scenes fighting tooth and nail for us songwriters who are starving, we really appreciate it.. I don’t think most online plays are even reported properly in the first place and would like to see companies like Google, Bing , Yahoo etc.. taking more responsibility for the amount of piracy allowed online. I also have never been a fan of the idea of artists giving away free downloads. I personally believe that when bands , songwriters began giving downloads for free they were just conditioning the general public that music should be free. I have heard several people actually say ” I shouldn’t have to pay for music ” which makes me cringe. I think that until artists/bands stop thinking that it’s a great idea to give the music away and that is is good promotion then things will continue to decline in the future. The future is in the hands of all artists to oppose illegal downloading, this online royalty thievery and poor publishing agreements. Maybe it is time for some serious protesting . I will post whatever you need on my website and Facebook.
    Lorne Ryder

  3. Eddie Schwartz

    Your kind words and support mean a great deal, Lorne, many thanks. I believe the Fair Trade Music concept gives us a new way to discuss with consumers and streaming services the problems we music creators face. I have been fortunate in my career, and would like to see those who come after me have the same or better opportunities to make a living doing the work they love: making music.

    Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues, and ask them to pass it on as well.

    Many thanks


  4. Randy Shook

    I caught on to the itunes, spotify, bandcamp and equivalent many years ago. When a person downloads a song for 99 cents, they now have the ability to fileshare your song privately. I only submit my music to programs with stable moral standards and practices. So I dont feel like I’m getting ripped off or exploited.


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