Music Industry

Jack White wins a songwriting credit as the result of an unfortunate sonic coincidence

Last May, I was in a London hotel room watching the finals of the Eurovision song contest. When Netta Barziai had her turn with a song named “Toy”–the eventual winner of Eurovision 2018–I thought, “Gee, that sounds a little familiar.”

Then in July, one of the writers of “Toy” got a letter from Universal, saying that the label was most concerned about the sonic similarities between “Toy” and this song.

Backroom discussions ensued without the need for a lawsuit. A deal was struck and now the official songwriting credits of “Toy” are Doron Medalie, Stave Beger and John Anthony White. Jack will now get a percentage of the royalties from “Toy.”

How much? No idea. That was all part of the deal. It’s secret.

It should be noted that no one was admitted any plagiarism. In fact, these sorts of deals are rather common in today’s day and age. After all, there are only 12 notes in the Western scale and only so many ways to put them together in a pleasing way that results in a hit song.

Most of these similar-sounding melodies are discovered independently and without any attempt or intent to copy anything. They’re simply unfortunate sonic coincidences.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38556 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

4 thoughts on “Jack White wins a songwriting credit as the result of an unfortunate sonic coincidence

  • Except that his name is now associated with that egregious song. I personally would have said “keep the money.”

  • I think the problem is that the part in question is played note-for-note by White in the variation of the main 7NA riff. I don’t think it would have been flagged otherwise.

  • I think this is a bit of a stretch. And that Toy song…wow. Just wow. Was it one of those joke songs that get submitted to Eurovision so that people get some sort of notoriety? Or is that for real?

  • I see this as a cautionary tale for people who unthinkingly push for stronger and stronger copyright protection. I am totally behind musicians and other artists having a right and ability to get paid. I’m astonished at how cheap my music streaming service is and would happily pay more if it meant more money going to the artists. But when writing music, it’s very easy to unintentionally copy bits of other songs. Artists’ groups that argue for things like a narrow interpretation of fair dealing/fair use rights could find that before long, it’s very hard to release any song without having to give credit and royalties to a more established (and better resourced) artist.


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