The long suffering Jamey Johnson fan waiting for new music from the once-prolific and award-winning songwriter finally may have a positive sign that new, original material could be on the way.
Announced Tuesday (2-28), Jamey Johnson has signed a new deal with music rights organization SESAC. Though these rights organization deals happen all the time on Music Row, with artists moving back and forth from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC for various reasons, this one feels significant if for no other reason than the rhetoric that accompanies it.
“There is an old set of laws on the books where the courts decide how much songwriters get paid. It isn’t fair the courts are adhering to these archaic laws that were written before streaming music was even conceptualized. SESAC isn’t bound by those restrictions, so it made perfect sense to join the organization and eventually move my catalog there,” Johnson said as part of the deal.
“The energy at SESAC is something I haven’t experienced in my professional career, and it’s great,” Johnson continued. “I need to be surrounded by people who are motivating me to write. One of those motivators is knowing that I have someone looking after the money generated from my writing, and that I am actually going to get the royalties that I feel like I have earned.”
Johnson, who hasn’t released an album of original material for going on seven years now, has been vocal about being saddled with a bad publishing deal that kept him from earning significant money from his songs, and that he’s been struggling to write any new material. Johnson has seen a few significant cuts with other artists over the last few years, including a recent co-write with George Strait aptly-named “Kicked Outta Country.” But his live shows regularly feature a significant amount of covers from the lack of new material.
In November of 2014, Johnson launched his own record label called Big Gassed Records, and afterwards there was a flurry of activity, including releasing a Christmas record, a couple of singles, and a record from Chris Hennessee. But since then there has not been much news, especially on the front of any new music from Johnson.
The problem Jamey Johnson is facing with the lack of financial incentive to write songs is a problem plaguing the entire songwriting world in the era of streaming. Moving to SESAC may help in that regard, but if that was the magic bullet for songwriters, we would see more flocking to SESAC. Unlike BMI and ASCAP, SESAC members must be invited into the organization by others members, so it’s not a simple move, especially if a songwriter has an existing contract with another company. But the issues facing songwriters are much more complex than what rights organization they use.
Ultimately songwriters and creators, like Johnson, have to keep writing and creating. Waiting around for a solution for songwriters via governmental action that may never come could arguably be more financially detrimental than releasing new music under the current rules. It’s been 7 years since any significant output from Johnson, and this time has spanned a period in his life when many songwriters and performers are their most prolific.
Hopefully the SESAC deal will be the grease to get Jamey Johnson’s songwriting gears turning once again, and result in more new music from himself, and from others in the form of songwriting credits.