Meet the lyricist’s new best friend: LyricMerch.
Established in late 2017 as a subsidiary of LyricFind, the Toronto-based global leader in online lyric licensing, LyricMerch offers a solution when someone’s looking for the right words to express themselves on a T-shirt, tote bag, coffee mug, or some other, more unique product.
“We’re opening up a new market here,” says Darryl Ballantyne, co-founder and CEO, touting the fact that both companies have agreements with more than 4,000 music publishers to reproduce lyrics from their respective catalogues, cumulatively totalling more than 1 million songs.
In an era where music publishing income is shrinking due to the continued prevalence of streaming services that have decimated physical and digital music sales, it’s a welcome opportunity for music publishers and songwriters to land some potentially lucrative compensation.
For example, the sale of a single $30 T-shirt with a lyrical snippet from a particular song can land a music publisher royalty of $4 to $5, with the songwriter’s share amounting to 50%, depending on the terms of their publishing agreement.
The secret to the success of LyricMerch is the growth and cost-effectiveness of on-demand printing. “We had the idea in the past, but that’s what changed everything,” Ballantyne explains, noting that the idea was revisited when chief revenue officer Will Mills came on-board with LyricFind three years ago.
“With a traditional merchandise license, it would be the publisher licensing the manufacturer to create 10,000, or 50,000, or 100,000 units of the same product,” says Ballantyne. “They’d have one or two designs that would be approved by the publisher, get a lump sum payment, and that was that – they could then produce ‘X’ numbers of product.
“It opened up an opportunity to have – instead of 10,000 on one design – one each of 10,000 different designs.” – Darryl Ballantyne of LyricMerch
“There wasn’t a way we would add value into that process. It already worked fine. The publishers were happy to license it themselves, and when you look at a scale of a couple of songs, you don’t need a large-scale rights management solution, or the accounting systems to be the same, so it worked very well.”
Ballantyne says on-demand printing gave clients more options. “As on-demand printing became a viable option, the combination of that, our lyric database, and licensing management system opened up an opportunity to have – instead of 10,000 on one design – one each of 10,000 different designs.
“That’s where the breadth of licensing, and the license management platform, and on-demand printing really created a benefit. It really opened up an opportunity for us to help generate and capture that revenue for songwriters.”
Although LyricMerch is basically handling only North America so far, until it establishes itself in Europe and Australia in 2020, Ballantyne says the sky’s the limit in terms of a global market value for LyricMerch. “We’re still in the early stages of this, and we’ve got a long way to go for it to really be generating as much revenue for songwriters as we would like,” he says, estimating the market to have “an eight- or nine-figure“ sales potential.
The only drawback – if you perceive it as one – is that LyricMerch doesn’t include images of the stars who’ve made the song famous. “Generally, we don’t have the name and likeness rights, or the rights to use the artist name,” says Ballantyne. “We stick to the lyrics, the song name, and the songwriter’s name and we basically keep the design generic.”
Best sellers include the Drake mega-hit “God’s Plan,” and lyrics by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, reprinted on one-off items such as guitars and sculptures.
Ballantyne says you can even get lyrics printed on your shower curtain. “It’s fun, entertaining, and ensures that everyone who loves singing in the shower gets the lyrics right,” he laughs.