Adam Levine’s Songland, the newest music competition show on TV, has already created quite a stir in the public space, albeit for the wrong reasons. A show developed specifically for songwriters, Songland spurred a social media firestorm after concerns were raised about its terms and conditions for applicants as set out by NBC/Universal.
The public uproar arose over a contract clause that asked songwriters to give up ownership of their songs even if they did not get past the auditioning stage of the competition. Aspiring contestants are asked to submit original music in the initial application phase by filling out an online registration form and submitting a video link to their unpublished song.
Songland was announced in 2015, with the first season kicking off in 2016 to be aired by NBC. Produced by Levine of Maroon 5 fame, along with Dave Stewart and Audrey Morrissey of “The Voice,” the show promises to be different from other talent competitions in that it will feature songwriters performing their original songs. It breaks away from the norm where contestants often cover already-published, popular songs in a bid to wow viewers and gain a foothold in the crowded music industry. Although highly anticipated, the show was plunged into controversy following the launch of its website where prospective contestants were asked to register, and agree to sign over the rights to their music to NBC/Universal.
With growing concerns over the troubling clause from the songwriting community, New York Intellectual Property lawyer, Wallace Collins, who is also said to be a songwriter, added fuel to the fire when he used his LinkedIn blog to caution applicants about the possible implications of agreeing to the terms laid down by NBC/Universal. Then, Collins, whose client list includes “The Voice” and “American Idol” contestants, described the Songland contract as “one of the most onerous such television contest submission agreements I have encountered,” in a post appearing on the New York Daily News website.
In light of the growing noise from Collins and other music industry voices, including songwriters who had been faced with the clause, NBC has since issued an amended contract.
The updated submission form now asks entrants to agree to a new clause, which reads, “As part of my application to participate in the Program, I may or will be required to submit an original, unpublished song and other musical material (collectively, the "Music"), for which I hold and shall continue to hold all copyrights and ownership therein."
In addition, the amended clause notes that songwriters, who are selected to participate in the Songland show on air, may be asked to “enter into further agreements or sign other documents.”
Despite the changes, a number of questions are still being asked by Collins and other players in the music industry about the initial contract. Those questions include whether the terms that auditioning songwriters were being asked to agree to had been a boardroom oversight, or whether NBC and the Adam Levine-led team were actually trying to pull a fast one on unsuspecting participants.
Still, the concerns have been seemingly appeased, at least for the moment, with Collins agreeing in a Billboard interview that the new agreement seemed fairer to songwriters who applied but were not selected for the show.