12 Simple Steps to Digital Promotion
Music Industry Professionals Drop in on Bloomington, Indiana’s Lotus Festival

Translating the Soul of the People: Veteran Music Industry Thinker and Entrepreneur Robert Singerman and the International Push for Lyric Translation

DubMC talked to Robert Singerman, who has dedicated his career to breaking new ground in the music industry, through his work with new wave, new jazz, and other pioneering artists, and now by working toward new ways to enjoy the lyrical side of global music. 

Why have you been championing the idea of lyric translation in the music industry?

Songs are one expression of the soul of people. For us to be able to understand all songs, if and when we want, across language, is a gift for all people for eternity. For the music and related industries, it means communication, across mediums and cultures, more sales, listens, comprehension, singing and hearing, with understanding. In the era of globalization, and emerging markets, with 4 billion plus mobile phones that carry music, social, business and other networks, exchange is still the reason music was created. Songwriters, singers, troubadours, work songs, anthems, poems, commercial pop songs, spiritual and religious songs, dance songs, humorous songs, political and social commentary with lyrics and stories, from the banal to the profound, deserve to be able to be understood, well, in real time. This is a step in evolution that the internet, and information exchanged in new ways, at high speeds, facilitates. 


What is the problem you are trying to solve?

That we all don't understand every language, so are missing a large part of the beauty and the meaning of many songs and, therefore, a wonderful part of life. Solving lots of other smaller problems is the key to solving the overall issue and we are well on our way with many of these.  

What are the primary places where you can see lyric translation playing a role?

Everywhere; in rap music, singer-songwriter, pop, folk, world music; in emerging markets, established markets, in mobile technology, streaming and download platforms, apps, YouTube, new technologies, touring, fan appreciation, schools...globalization can not exist without localization. 

What are the technologies and systems emerging to handle this? When did they emerge? What kind of traction are they getting? What are the latest innovations?

The first issue, before technology, is the rights issue, and the company I consult, LyricFind, is aggregating lyric translation rights from publishers and writers worldwide. Many lyric translation sites exist, with significant traffic, and none, to my knowledge, are yet properly licensed. Some exist under the protection of the DMCA, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but even these, once the rights are cleared, will need to license (and pay owners for) authorized lyric translations.

All of the technologies that reproduce and broadcast or perform music can exhibit lyrics and lyric translations. This includes radio (online and terrestrial), TV, Internet, mobile companies and handset manufacturers, apps, as well as touring artists. Most of the biggest audio and video music streaming companies are planning to offer licensed lyric translations and apps, too, as they are global companies. It's still a bit early for implementation, with all rights, but you will see more and more lyric translations, if you look, in the coming months, from the biggest technology companies.

Crowd-sourced lyric translation, copy-left meets copyright, where edited and curated lyric translations (as a contribution, rights free) get better and better over time, is the goal. A good model is Wikipedia, and the original songwriters and publishers will own the rights to their songs and to better and better translations in many languages.  These will be exhibited widely and the mission will have been accomplished, songs on demand, with lyric translations on demand. 

Why should people in each of these world music roles care about this:


Unless you are an instrumental group, your music can then be understood worldwide, and I would encourage every songwriter to start to make translations in key languages, and add them to your key sites. Check Emicida on Vimeo, "The Glorious Return of Him Who Has Never Been Here," to read and listen to at least a few songs, sung in Portuguese, to understand the power and value, not only of his incredible lyrics, but also of the reason for subtitling songs. There's a website, called dotsub.com, where people will translate your lyrics to other languages, rights free, and then you can use them on other video sites, or just use graphics or photos and post lyric and lyric translation (captions), if your lyrics are strong. You should care if you want to grow your audience in other language cultures. As a fan, for inspiration to your own music, you can also begin to better understand the songs from other cultures. 


More markets, more and better communication (like a better engineer, producer, sound system, singer), more sales and success. Every manager who cares about building his client's career has to be eventually thinking globally and long term, even short term, this will help, unless the artist's lyrics are awful, but why, then, would you be managing them? 

Record Labels:

The long-term future for labels is the 3 billion+ new potential consumers of music (on mobile phones), most of whom have little to no understanding of English, in the emerging territories. Even in Western territories, or first world territories, like Japan, where lyric translation, as well as translation of all relevant data, bios, credits, promotion, has been the norm, which is the main reason for Japan being such an important music market over the past 50 years, lyric translation can be a huge boon to sales, especially from "traditional, or smaller" language, bases. There are technologies, like a French company, Text-Up, that have excellent tools to show lyric translations in a beautiful and practical format on CDs, but also digitally. All labels producing or promoting videos, should also have them show lyric translations, if lyrics are good. Check Suzanne Vega's first European release, with lyric translations in Italian, Spanish, French and German, making a big difference in her career and to the fans, or Avril Lavigne, singing one chorus of one song in Mandarin and becoming a Chinese superstar almost immediately. Many other examples exist. 


Any world music venue, like video music shows across the globe, or Opera houses, with surtitles, could implement showing lyrics or lyric translations fairly simply, on any video projections, or on slides, or with l.e.d.'s. We did this very simply, in NYC recently, at S.O.B's, for two stellar Brazilian singer/writers, Pedro Sa Moraes and Thiago Amud and Jon Pareles quoted the lyric translations and wrote about the lyrics in his review, as they were quite brilliant lines and writers.

Booking Agents:

World music agents can discuss with managers and promoters, as well as with the artists and writers, who, like Suzanne, Avril, Emicida, Pedro and Thiago, and many other artists, from Pete Seeger, Aga Khan, U2, 50 Cent, I Muvrini, Celine Dion and Shakira, get the concept that the lyrics are important enough to have their audience understand them in cross-lingual markets and to find a solution. More understanding, bigger public, better shows! 


Mobile carriers and advertisers completely realize the necessity of localization. Various language oriented media, radio, print, tv, journalists can ask, like in Japan, for lyric and bio translations, to better understand what they are writing about, or promoting in their respective media outlets. Publicists, too, should recognize the value of providing copy; (including lyrics and lyric translation excerpts at least), for the intended media partners and journalists. 

Music Delivery Services:

This is the future, coming soon and music delivery services can choose to be the leading edge, first to market, or slow on the uptake. In every competitive video music tv market where they ever added subtitles for the lyrics, translations, the results were astounding, anecdotal evidence suggests averaging 400% rating increases. Lyrics are still in most countries the #1 search term and most of that is cross-lingual. Lyrics, even original language lyrics, also drive sales, and listens, as sites like Shazam and Soundhound prove. 

Physical Retailers:

If more people understand Emicida's or I Muvrini's songs, or Dobet Gnahore's songs, they will buy more CDs, albums, etc. 

We have to add the category of writers, publishers and, especially, fans, who should care the most about the opportunity that lyric translation gives.

Is there anything you would like to add about lyric translation?

If you have great lyrics and stories to tell in your music, or in your life's work, (if it is the music business), please realize the importance of the majority of the people in the world, who don't understand the language of our songs, or your songs, and please do something to sing to them, too, so they can get it. Even if it's programs, or lyric translation paper hand-out sheets, apps, or onstage, liner notes, and in your metadata, get your songs translated and distributed with translations, to speak and sing to us all, not just your own language tribe/s.

What other projects are you working on that impact the world music field?

I represent Brazilian music for North America and around the globe, in my travels and businesses, for the Trade Office of Brazil, through the Brasil Music Exchange program of the BMA, http://www.bma.org.br/site/

I'm working with LyricFind to license independently published music original lyrics and lyric translations in more than 25 international markets.

The .Music project is perhaps the most important change coming in the music world, for all music, since the internet, and I am working with one of two companies competing for the Music Community interest, against Google, Amazon, and four other portfolio companies (companies looking to own many new top level domains). This is worth probably billions of dollars to the music community annually, if we win the community rights through our ICANN application. If we don't win, probably Google or Amazon will win in a bidding scenario, as our competitor for the community is under evaluation now. It appears to many ICANN experts (and us) that they will fail the very strict community evaluation. If the music community loses the chance to control its web addresses and all else surrounding that (IP, naming, content, profit), it will be a devastating loss. 

Another important solution for the music industry is Heaven11, a client company who have developed a unique software that encompasses contract registration, all aspects of tracking and processing publishing, masters and all releases, including video. It can help any artist, label, publisher, digital platform, or rights society organize and administer, deliver, and collect, with an unlimited amount of copyright information, inexpensively and efficiently, integrated perfectly. 

Canadian Music Week is a top music conference and festival that for this coming May is looking, with my assistance, to grow its World Music focus significantly and it's certainly one of the premier opportunities for international music business in North America. 

I'm a partner in Sync Summit, which is the only multi-city conference (in LA 9/8,9), dedicated solely to music synchronization, which can surely be beneficial for world music artists, labels, publishers, managers, brands, etc. 

Musicians, or labels, who have albums they can license, please put them out on a new client's app, Bainil, rhymes with vinyl, just launched in Korea, available globally, check Bainil.com, it's free and you will earn income. It's a very cool, app, too! 

I do work with various other companies that can benefit most of your readers, in world and other music, in China, Brazil, Austria, France, India, Mexico, UK, US and Canada...so don't hesitate to get in contact.

About Robert Singerman:

Robert Singerman is a Global Music Business Consultant for LyricFind, Heaven11, Brasil Music Exchange, .MUSIC, Canadian Music Week, Sync Summit, CMJ, Marcato, 88tc88, Pleimo, Bainil, Hollywood Elite Composers, and a songwriting Camp in Austria, among others.

Robert has worked professionally in the music business for over forty years now as an entrepreneur, agent, partner, manager, label executive, consultant, producer, programmer and music supervisor. Originally known for discovering and developing talent, he has represented R.E.M., Gipsy Kings, James Brown, Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Professor Longhair, Suzanne Vega, Gun Club, X, Violent Femmes, 10,000 Maniacs, Fleshtones, noJazz, Smithereens, Sun Ra, Sonny Fortune, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Kraze and the pre-Beastie Boys, along with many others in genres ranging from punk, dance, metal, jazz, world, reggae and rap to rock. He’s been instrumental in creating many businesses and non-profit organizations.

Lately, he's known more as a visionary activist, representing best in class technology solutions to help solve challenging music industry problems.  His current mission, through LyricFind and other technology companies, is aggregating rights and creating options to give music subtitling solutions, so that music becomes truly global, through the exhibition of lyrics and legal lyric translations. With implementation across all platforms, fans will be able to understand each others’ songs across languages, in real time, accompanied by the music.

About rock paper scissors, inc.:

We are one of the most nimble, forward-thinking pr and publicity firms passionate about both world music, and the world of music technology. Find out more or drop us a line to talk to us about your next project here.