A few days ago my left eye started to sting in the middle of the night, it felt as though something was in my eye. I woke up, looked at my reddening eye and rinsed it with warm water. The rinsing soothed it, but I as I blinked I kept feeling the foreign object. The thought of going to the emergency room at 1am crossed my mind, but like a reasonable person,  I decided to start by consulting a well trusted medical expert:

Dr Google, told me to tape my eye shut and check on it in a few hours and I took the doctors orders. As I was struggling to fall asleep I opened my Spotify gospel playlist and heard a popular Hillsong tune being sang by a voice I was unfamiliar with. It got me thinking about the Hillsong Music model, that looks free but ultimately is not.

The Hillsong Hustle

Hillsong Church was founded in Australia with over 80 church affiliates world wide and at least 100 000 people attending services weekly. Apart from the charismatic messages, hipster fashion and concert like production, the musical arm of the church which has been ubiquitous in the Christian scene for over 20 years.

Hillsong allows all churches worldwide to play or sing their songs, with lyrics included for free, without paying the church any royalty. According to a report by Fader , all Hillsong songs have 2 copyrights, which is the “mechanical” royalty for the music and lyrics (sheet music) and a “performance” royalty for the music you hear. Every time a song is played on Spotify, or Apple music, the song writers get paid the mechanical royalty and the performance royalty is paid to the church. It may raise an eyebrow that the money for the performance royalty is paid to the church and not the musicians singing the songs, however there may be background arrangements that aren’t public.

Therefore it is in Hillsong’s interest to distribute their music freely to all churches because, people hear it while having a spiritual experience and will want to buy the music to recreate that environment at home- which in turn will increase their profitability. Hillsong artists and other Christian musicians will also visit a YouTube show called New Songs Cafe to debut their new music, inspiration behind it and breakdown the musical chords. Hillsong features predominantly on this channel as they produce new albums every year.

The Terror of Templates 

Every lawyer has been asked to share a template or precedent document by another colleague, a client or even a family member. If you refuse to share the document out of intellectual property concerns and the need for customisation of each document, the response is usually annoyance followed by “so you want to charge me for a template?! As if you are going to draft it from scratch!” or some variation of this response. The question of form versus substance is what drives either side. A person without a legal degree may just want a piece of paper with the title “Contract” or “Summons” at the top so that they can proceed with their transaction or action at the lowest price possible.

So should we give the people what they want?

Legal tech start ups like Legal Zoom in the USA and Lenoma Legal in Bloemfontein provide templates to legal documents at fixed, affordable cost, but if the client wants the document to be customised or reviewed then the client will have to pay for a consultation and further drafting.

Providing templates for free or at a fixed cost would be a way to replicate the Hillsong model, because the clients will come back to pay more for the additional, personalised services. I also think a number of law firms would find that their colleagues are the ones downloading the templates and not lay people or clients. Lawyers are usually loathe to share templates, but it may be time to rethink this attitude and do something counterintuitive like giving away templates for free.

We’re curious on your views on the topic and ask that you take the poll the below.

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