ABBA's Bjorn Ulvaeus talks ‘Credits Due’, fair payment for artists and songwriting

Headliner has spoken to legendary ABBA songwriter Bjorn Ulvaeus about a new initiative called Credits Due, which was launched at the 2021 Ivors Awards and is aimed at ensuring artists are fully and accurately paid and credited for their work.

The Credits Due initiative will work to ensure that all songwriters and musicians are correctly identified within their work via the addition of song metadata to all recordings at the point of their creation. At present, it is estimated that up to half a billion pounds in royalties are either lost or misallocated.

Speaking to Headliner at the Ivors Awards ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House, Ulvaeus explained the reasons behind the launch of Credits Due.

“I wanted to get involved because it is so simple and so uncontroversial,” he said. “The music industry is a huge and complex industry. It’s like the very largest oil tanker; it is very hard to steer it in another direction. But this is one thing that can be done, and it is simple and doesn’t need to take that long. It is all about getting people in the industry to think ‘yes, we absolutely have to have those parts identified and we cannot release a record without them.”

On the subject of how the industry has reached its current state, with songwriters locked in an ongoing battle for fairer payment, Ulvaeus continued: “It is the legacy from the analogue time, where physical products had to be manufactured and distributed, and that cost a lot of money. So that tipped the balance of the money towards the record companies. Whereas the publishers, they produced the songs and, if you like, in money terms, it just didn’t cost them so much.

“But it is very different today. If you ask anyone today, which is more important, the song or the artist, they would be hard-pressed to say the artist is much more important than the song, or the song is much more important than the artist. You would say it is 50-50, because they are both equally important.”

Headliner recently spoke to Ivors Academy CEO Graham Davies about the vast amount of lost and misallocated royalties.

“The half a billion pounds a year number has been an opening gambit for a conversation,” he said. “It’s our estimate, and it’s probably around 20% of the total

“This isn’t pointing fingers and saying people are failing, it’s saying that the whole workflow in the industry has settled over time and needs to be updated, and the music creators are an important part of that. They’ve not been given enough education to make sure the song credits are sitting with the recording from the point it’s created.

“As for what we need to do, we will be coming forward with a new campaign to say, as an industry, can we get together and work out a new workflow which is about getting song credits on the recording at the point it is made?

“If that happens, no one really needs to do much more afterwards. It’s about making sure there is information on the recording identifying what it is. There is technology out there that can enable this to happen.”

Yesterday’s Ivors Awards returned to an in-person format for the first time since the pandemic, with the likes of Tears For Fears, Fraser T Smith, Dave, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora among the big winners on the day.

You can view the full list of winners here.

Earlier this month, ABBA announced an upcoming ‘avatar’ concert in London and their first studio album (named Voyage) in four decades.

"We took a break in the spring of 1982, and now we've decided it's time to end it," the band announced. "They say it's foolhardy to wait more than 40 years between albums, so we've recorded a follow-up to The Visitors."

ABBA's last album was released in 1981. Voyage will be released on November 5 and it will include 10 new songs, including I Still Have Faith in You and Don't Shut Me Down, recorded at Andersson's Riksmixningsverket studio in Stockholm.

In the announcement, ABBA says their inspiration to record again comes from having created "the strangest and most spectacular concert you could ever dream of."

Next May, the group will perform digitally as avatars with a 10-piece live band in a custom-built arena at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, employing likenesses created by a team from George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic.

"We're going to be able to sit back in an audience and watch our digital selves perform our songs on a stage in a custom-built arena in London next spring," the band said.

"We're truly sailing in uncharted waters. With the help of our younger selves, we travel into the future. It's not easy to explain, but then it hasn't been done before."

The band states that the concert combines “the old and new, the young and not-so-young. A concert that has brought all four of us together again”.