The Maryville Daily Times: Time to modernize the music industry into digital age

Posted on January 26, 2018

Two-party harmony, that’s what we’re talking about. It’s fine-tuned and about time. Finally, some sweet music is coming from that recording studio famous for vocal cacophony, the U.S. Capitol (the building on the Hill, not the record label).

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators introduced legislation they say will be the “most significant change in music licensing laws in decades.” It comes on the heels of the House version of the bill filed in December.

It’s called the Music Modernization Act. The intent is to ensure songwriters get the money they deserve for the entertainment they give us. The act would set up a new simplified licensing entity — SongExchange some are calling it — to make it easier for digital music companies to obtain a license and play songs.

It would ensure songwriters are paid the royalties they are owed. The bill would also change the law to help songwriters be paid a fair market value for their songs.

Four Republicans and four Democrats stepped onto the Capitol stage to get this hit performance underway. It should come as no surprise that two of the eight are Tennessee’s senators.

Maryville’s own master of the eighty-eight, Lamar “Tennessee Waltz” Alexander, and Bob Corker signed on for good reason.

Music is in the blood of Tennesseans from Bristol to Beale Street with a stop at the Grand Ole Opry along the way a must hear as residents and visitors alike traverse the state from the Great Smokies to the Mighty Mississippi.

Enough of the musical trash talk. The senators put it this way: The internet has transformed the music industry, and the Music Modernization Act updates outdated music licensing laws to make it easier for songwriters to be paid when their music is played online by a digital steaming service, or purchased online.

According to Standard and Poor’s, there were 86 million paying subscribers to digital streaming services, who streamed music 252 billion times in 2016. Revenues generated from online music generated half the music industry’s revenues in 2016.

As digital music streaming increases, the number of individual song downloads fell 24 percent between 2015 and 2016 and compact disc sales fell below 100 million units sold — which means less royalties paid to songwriters.

That’s the verse. Here’s the chorus. The Music Modernization Act:• Adopts a simple licensing system for digital music services, making it easier for companies to obtain a license to play a song and reducing the likelihood of litigation.

• Ensures songwriters will be paid the fair market value for their songs by:

• Directing the Copyright Royalty Board to set compensation according to the fair market value when songs are sold, such as through music downloads, replacing the current below-market standard.

• Removing a provision of law that narrows the scope of evidence the federal rate court may examine when asked to set songwriter compensation for when their song is played, such as in a restaurant or at a concert.

For Tennesseans, the state with a capital called Music City, here’s the hook.

If there’s a state in the nation that has the music of America more deeply imbedded in its soil and its people than Tennessee, we don’t know what it is or where it’s at.

Think otherwise? Bring it on, brother, and bring your guitar.

The Nashville Cats are our backups, and our backups have backups who “play clean as country water, play wild as mountain dew, been playin’ since they’s babies, get work before they’re 2.”

If you bring your fiddle, remember, even the devil can’t help you. And don’t you dare name your git-box Lucille.