The Lebanon Democrat: Alexander announces Music Modernization Act

Posted on January 26, 2018

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander introduced legislation Wednesday intended to help songwriters get paid fair market value when their songs are heard online or performed.

According to Alexander, R-Tenn., it’s the first major bill in decades that has the support of music creators, record labels, publishers and digital music companies.

“We have thousands of songwriters in the Nashville area,” said Alexander. “They’re teachers, they’re waiters, they’re Uber drivers; they’re building their career, and they’ve had two problems in getting paid. The first is the internet, because over the last several years, we now see that more than one half of the revenues in the music industry come from playing songs online. The second is, when the songwriters are paid, they’re not paid fair royalty.”

The legislation introduced, sponsored by eight senators – four Democrats and four Republicans – has the goal to make it easier for the digital music companies to license songs, which would make it easier for songwriters to get paid a fair market value.

“I’m optimistic that, with the kind of bipartisan support we have, including Sen. [Orrin] Hatch, who’s the senior Republican in the Senate, Sen. [Dick] Durbin, a big fan of Nashville who’s the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, that we’ll be able to pass the law by summertime,” said Alexander.

The bill directs the Copyright Royalty Board, a three judge panel in the Library of Congress that sets royalty rates, to set compensation according to a fair market value when songs are played or sold online. According to Alexander, this new rate standard would take the place of the current below-market rate that does not take into account the fair market value of a songwriter’s song.

The bill also allows the two performance rights organizations that represent songwriters, ASCAP and BMI, to present additional market value royalty rates as evidence to their federal rate courts.

The senators – Hatch, R-Utah; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Alexander; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; and Doug Jones, D-Ala., said the legislation would be the “most significant change in music licensing laws in decades.”

“Our state is blessed with a vibrant music industry composed of talented songwriters, skilled musicians and countless small and large businesses,” said Corker. “However, while the industry has transformed with advances in technology and new platforms providing access to music, we have yet to modernize the way music creators are compensated for their work. This legislation will help improve the music marketplace so that it works not only for consumers, but also the countless people who bring to life the music we enjoy each day.”