A new documentary titled The Last Songwriter highlights the importance of songwriting and the threats posed by music streaming services.
It spotlights a young writer struggling to make a living in the age of digital streaming. The documentary, directed by award-winning filmmaker Mark Barger Elliott, premieres at the Nashville Film Festival in April.
Songwriters earn mere pennies when their songs are played on the radio, according to the documentary’s trailer. But in the age of streaming, songwriters are struggling now more than ever to turn music into money. Songwriters earn less than a thousandth of a penny for each stream. Although they’re the backbone of the music industry, many songwriters are being forced to leave the profession since they can’t afford to make a living.
The Last Songwriter begs the question, “In the future, who will write the soundtrack of our lives – songs we dance to at our wedding, sing at sporting events, and play at a loved one’s funeral?”
The star-studded cast features some of Nashville’s most prominent singer-songwriters, like Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris, Jim Lauderdale and Jason Isbell. These artists have penned some of Music City’s most iconic tunes, but now they’re shining a light on Nashville’s struggling songwriters, whose careers are threatened by streaming.
Brooks is one of the most notable pioneers in the fight against streaming. He fought the digital age tooth and nail by launching his own music purchasing and streaming service, GhostTunes. The site allowed Brooks to sell digital downloads of his music while retaining more of the money. He also sold millions of songs from other artists. The online music platform aimed to give songwriters and artists a greater share of the songs’ royalties.
However, Brooks recently shut down GhostTunes, and the country star moved to selling his music on Amazon Music for the first time. But that doesn’t mean Brooks’ fight for songwriters’ rights is over just yet.
“We will always have songwriters, whether we have the music business or not,” Brooks warns in the film’s trailer. “We won’t have a music business if we don’t have songwriters.”
The documentary is set to debut at Nashville’s Regal Hollywood Stadium 27 & RPX theatre next month.