Music publishing has always been one of the major income engines in the music industry. Long before recorded music, sheet music and songbooks brought big bucks in the form of royalty payments to songwriters and publishers. Sure, the recording and concert industries appear more glamorous, but publishing royalties paid the bills, and, in some cases, paid for second houses, boats, trains, planes and automobiles.

So it must have come as a shock to those first webmasters posting song lyrics during the days of Web 1.0 to learn that they were infringing on copyrights. After all, who doesn’t know the lyrics to “Stairway To Heaven,” “Freebird” or “A Hard Day’s Night?” Reciting those lyrics won’t cause anyone any problem. But writing them down and then distributing them? Well, that’s another story.

Which is why the deal between Gracenote and Clear Channel resulting in posting song lyrics on the latter’s radio station Web sites is so interesting. Sure, other sites have obtained licensing for publishing song lyrics on the Internet, but the Gracenote / Clear Channel deal gives music fans the opportunity to easily locate and read a song’s lyrics as soon as they hear the tune on the radio.

Gracenote does the heavy lifting, including handling all the finer points of lyric licensing, and then turns it over to Clear Channel for distribution. Covering streaming players, on-demand lists and exclusive programming, listeners can eyeball the lyrics while listening to their favorite radio station.

“We are pleased to be providing Clear Channel listeners with the largest database of high quality lyrics available in the industry,” said Gracenote’s senior VP of sales and marketing, Jim Hollingsworth. “Song lyrics remain immensely popular, and through this agreement we are able to give Clear Channel station listeners easy and direct access to the most comprehensive set of legal and licensed lyrics.”