Our House of Representatives passed The Music Modernization Act this past week. This does some good things, while not taking on the biggest elephant in the room.
If you’ve been a reader of this space over the years, you may remember that songs recorded before 1972 were not given the protection, and royalty love, as songs post-’72. A number of lawsuits were filed and there were a number of complicated verdicts. Lawyers made some good bucks on it all.
Now, a song like “Nights In White Satin” by The Moody Blues, which came out in 1967, will earn the members of the band who played on the recording a royalty from services like Pandora and SiriusXM. In the past, those entities didn’t have to pay. They do now. SoundExchange, which collects funds from those sources, is happy.
That’s a good thing. Click HERE to read about three other positive moves by this bill, which now goes to the Senate for approval before your president signs it into law.
There is one major part of this legislation that’s not addressed. You know how we just said The Moody Blues will now get paid when SiriusXM’s ’60s On 6 station plays one of their tracks? If CBS-FM plays the same track, guess what? The band doesn’t get paid. Still.
This bill does not address this discrepancy. If I’m working for iHeart Media or Entercom (the two biggest radio companies in America), I am ecstatic. If I’m a recording artist, or an artist manager, or a label president, I am not so ecstatic.
Terrestrial radio (the free, over-the-air radio you get in your car or ask Alexa to play) has been exempt from these payments for decades. Why? Their argument is that they provide a service to artists – We play your music, millions hear it, you get famous and sell/stream music… We’re very good to you. Case closed.
Meanwhile, radio does pay the PROs (Performance Rights Organizations like ASCAP), so there’s a precedence for paying rights-holders. And SRCOs (sound recording copyright owners), like the labels, and recording artists can go right back to radio and claim that, without the music, radio is just talk. Without music, radio can’t charge $350 for a 30-second commercial on Z-100. Without music, radio is not a billion-dollar industry.
Radio keeps winning the argument, most likely because they are better at lobbying politicians to NOT include this in Music Modernization Acts. “Don’t charge us this – it’s a TAX!” they say. “Besides, jobs will go away. You TAX us, we’ll have to let people go. That’s on you, Mr./Mrs. Politician. Oh, and here’s a few bucks for your next re-election campaign.”
You gotta be smart. You gotta be rich. You gotta be extremely persuasive to change anything in Washington D.C. Maybe one of you will get this through in the Music Modernization Act II.
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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music & Entertainment Industries and Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too). Your favorite professor is also co-author (with Dr. Steve Marcone) of Managing Your Band – 6th Edition. Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.