The National Championship game for college football – Which team is playing, again? The yearly rivalry game for a favorite college sports team – yawn. Super Bowl – let’s be honest, this media loving gal is watching it for the commercials. It’s true. I’m an anomaly when it comes to sports. Unlike most southern ladies, I do not have a favorite college team, I have never been tailgating and you are likely to find me in the kitchen “cheering” on my latest dish to be enjoyed by watchers of the game.
Now that’s not to say I don’t like competition; however, I am more interested in those competitions dealing with music and film. In particular, my “super bowl” is coming up this weekend with the GRAMMY® awards. The GRAMMY® Awards is an event I look forward to every year. It has always been the one event where you could see country music to rock to jazz to blues all on one night and all on one stage. It’s true what The Recording Academy states – it really is music’s biggest night.
I am proud to serve as an associate member of The Recording Academy for several years now and get to see firsthand the philanthropic and historical preservation work the Academy conducts, outside of honoring music with an awards show. One of the most frequent questions I receive from those that know my involvement is what is the difference between Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year. Aren’t they all the same? Obviously, the answer is no; however, the roots of why the awards are labeled the way they are nod to how the Copyright Act views music.
For every song you hear on the radio there are technically two (2) copyrights on the song. There is a musical work copyright, including any accompanying words and a sound recording copyright. The copyright statute does not define the term musical work; however, the easiest way to think about a musical copyright is the actual music and lyrics of a song. Said another way, a musical work copyright is the sheet music and is usually originally held by the musician or songwriter. A song heard on a radio also has another copyright called a sound recording copyright, which is separate to the musical work copyright. The sound recording copyright is taking the sheet music and recording the song. The sound recording is the way in which an artist by way of a producer makes a musical work copyright sound. The sound recording copyright is usually held by a record label by way of the producer.
Clear as mud? Let’s look at the example with the song I Will Always Love You. Who doesn’t remember when Whitney Houston’s version was the only thing heard on the radio for pretty much all of the early ‘90s? In case you have forgotten, click the link below.
Arista Records’ version of Whitney Houston singing I Will Always Love You has a sound recording copyright. However, Arista Records does not have a musical work copyright in the actual song I Will Always Love You. The musical work copyright is held by the original writer of the music and lyrics. In this case, Dolly Parton (provided the right has not been sold or licensed) would hold the musical work copyright. A quick search of the song reveals that it has been recorded numerous times from the likes of people like Vince Gill to Whitney Houston to Melissa Etheridge to Kenny Rogers and many more. For each of those individuals who recorded their version of the song I Will Always Love You, a sound recording copyright would come into existence. However, there will only always be just one musical work copyright. Said another way, while there can be infinitely many sound recording copyrights on a single song there is usually only one musical work copyright.
If we return to our distinction about Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year it now becomes clearer as to why The Recording Academy rightfully honors each of these categories, even though they are all parts of a greater whole. Song of the Year is the award that goes to the actual songwriter of the song that wins or more than likely the person who originally held the copyright in the musical work. Album of the Year is the award that goes to the album as a whole. The award honors front to back, every song on the record and is usually presented to the artist who performed, the producer and engineers that worked on the Album. The entire soundtrack to The Bodyguard featuring the song I Will Always Love You won the GRAMMY® for Album of the Year in 1994. Record of the Year is awarded for the one, single sound recording from an album. It is not a group of songs, but just one single track. Record of the Year is awarded to the producer or engineer, or the person who more than likely holds the copyright in the sound recording. The sound recording of Whitney Houston’s version of I Will Always Love You won the GRAMMY® for Record of the Year in the same year The Bodyguard soundtrack won Album of the Year.
Now while you’re watching the Red Carpet coverage and discussing what crazy outfit Lady Gaga or J-Lo is wearing, you can impress all of your friends during your GRAMMY® watching party. The GRAMMY® Awards will be broadcast live on CBS this Sunday, January 26. For a full list of all the nominees including Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year check out THIS link on the GRAMMY® website. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @RyanneDSaucier as I tweet during the show. Of course, take part in the comments section below and Stay Tuned In!
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