Double Ivor Novello nominee: streaming shortchanges writers

James Napier, behind the hits Rather Be and Stay With Me, says music industry must do more to ensure songwriters get financial recognition they deserve

The songwriter behind two of last year’s biggest hits, Rather Be by Clean Bandit and Sam Smith’s Stay With Me, has criticised streaming services for not fairly compensating songwriters.

James Napier, who was speaking after both tracks were nominated for an Ivor Novello songwriting award, said the music industry needed to make sure that writers got the financial recognition they deserved.

“I don’t think singers are getting compensated enough from streaming,” he said. “I feel like streaming is the future – it’s great for consuming and Spotify is such a great device for listening – but I think the balance of how people are paid isn’t quite right yet so we need to work on that.”

Napier, who is working with Smith and Disclosure on their second albums, added: “I think it is important that songwriters are compensated as much as they can be, especially because most of the public don’t consider songwriters as much.

“They just see the artist and think ‘oh they’re so rich, they’re on tour and living in mansions’. But the songwriters actually aren’t. They are putting all the work in and doing the most important bit really, so they have to be looked after.”

Napier picked up the most nominations, three, at this year’s Ivor Novello awards, which recognise excellence in songwriting and composing. Rather Be, which Napier composed with James Patterson of Clean Bandit, was nominated for best contemporary song, while both Rather Be and Stay With Me, which Napier co-wrote with Smith, were nominated for the most-performed work award.

Napier, who first began writing songs at 14 and cites Carole King and Burt Bacharach as his influences, said it was a tremendous honour to have two of his songs nominated, adding that they “couldn’t be more far apart really”.

He said: “Rather Be was about my wife and meeting her and having that feeling that wherever you are in the world, as long as I’m with you, that’s where I want to be. Whereas Stay With Me was completely different, a little bit darker.”

Napier also addressed the controversy around Stay With Me, where the publishers were recently forced to give Tom Petty a percentage of the song’s royalties after acknowledging there were similarities between the track and Petty’s song, I Won’t Back Down. Under the rules, set by BASCA (the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors), Petty is not eligible to be included in the Ivor Novello nomination as he received less than 15% of the writing credit.

“Obviously we were unfamiliar with the song, but we had to hold our hands up and say there was a definite similarity in melody so we settled it amicably,” said Napier. “To be honest, I didn’t think it was unfair because if it was one of my songs and I heard the melodies had been repeated, or that did line up with another song, then I would want to be compensated by that, so I didn’t feel hard done by.”

He added: “I just didn’t want that to take away from the song itself, and the fact that the lyrics are so important and contemporary and refreshing. It’s a song about a one-night stand and wanting to stay with someone for just that one night, I just always loved that idea.”

Among others nominated for Ivor Novello awards, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, are FKA Twigs and alt-J, who picked up nominations for best contemporary song.

The best song musically and lyrically was dominated by male singer-songwriters, with Take Me to Church by Hozier and I Forget Where We Were by Ben Howard competing against relative unknown Andrew Davie, of folk band Bear’s Den. The group, who are on Mumford and Son’s record label Communion, performed the song, Above the Clouds of Pompeii.

Wild Beasts, Bombay Bicyle Club and Royal Blood all picked up nominations for best album.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony in London on 21 May.

Full List of Ivor Novello nominees

Best song musically and lyrically

Above the Clouds Of Pompeii
Written by Andrew Davie
Performed by Bear’s Den
I Forget Where We Were
Written and performed by Ben Howard
Take Me to Church
Written by Andrew Hozier-Byrne
Performed by Hozier

Best contemporary song

Every Other Freckle
Written by Thomas Green, Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton
Performed by alt-J
Rather Be
Written by James Napier and Jack Patterson
Performed by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne
Two Weeks
Written by Tahliah Debrett Barnett and Emile Haynie
Performed by FKA twigs

Most performed work

Written by George Ezra Barnett and Joel Pott
Performed by George Ezra
Rather Be
Written by James Napier and Jack Patterson
Performed by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne
Stay With Me
Written by James Napier, William Phillips and Sam Smith
Performed by Sam Smith

Album award

Present Tense
Written by Thomas Fleming, Ben Little, Christopher Talbot and Hayden Thorpe
Performed by Wild Beasts
Royal Blood
Written by Michael Kerr and Ben Thatcher
Performed by Royal Blood
So Long, See You Tomorrow
Written by Jack Steadman
Performed by Bombay Bicycle Club

Best original film score

Composed by David Holmes
Mr Turner
Composed by Gary Yershon
The Boxtrolls
Composed by Dario Marianelli

Best television soundtrack

The Honourable Woman
Composed by Natalie Holt and Martin Phipps
The Mill - Series 2
Composed by Samuel Sim
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Beyond the Pale
Composed by Edmund Butt


Hannah Ellis-Petersen

The GuardianTramp

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