Hatch, Alexander, Corker in Nashville to Tell Songwriters, “We're Working to Give You the Fair Pay You’ve Earned”

Posted on March 12, 2018

Nashville Songwriters Association International presents Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) with the Stephen Foster Award, which is given in recognition of generous support for – and dedication to – songwriters and the music industry.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 12, 2018 – United States Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today spoke with a group of Nashville songwriters about legislation they introduced earlier this year to help ensure songwriters are paid fair market value for their songs. The legislation -- the Music Modernization Act -- would set up a new simplified licensing entity to make it easier for digital music companies to obtain a license and play songs, and ensure songwriters are paid the royalties they are owed. 

At today's event in Tennessee, the songwriters, who are a part of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, talked about how the bill would be beneficial for the thousands of songwriters in Tennessee -- and those across the country. The songwriters called the legislation the “most significant change in music licensing laws in decades” to ensure they are paid fair value for their songs. 

The songwriters also presented Senator Hatch with the Stephen Foster Award, which is given in recognition of generous support for – and dedication to – songwriters, the music industry and the Nashville Songwriters Association International. Orrin Hatch is a songwriter himself -- he has written more than a hundred songs and has a platinum record and a gold record.

The Music Modernization Act has strong bipartisan support. Hatch, Alexander and Corker -- along with U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) – have cosponsored the legislation, which was introduced on January 24.

“Senators Hatch and Alexander have introduced bi-partisan legislation called the ‘Music Modernization Act,’ that will help achieve higher streaming royalties for songwriters,” said NSAI President and professional songwriter Steve Bogard, thanking both Senators for their leadership. “Both of these distinguished lawmakers and Senator Bob Corker certainly understand the desperate struggles of the American songwriting profession in the digital era.  Songwriters are highly encouraged that real change in Copyright laws dating from 1909 may finally be possible.”

Hatch said: “I was thrilled to visit Nashville today to speak directly with the talented songwriters who have been shortchanged by an unfair system for far too long. The Music Modernization Act is going to make a real difference for the entire creative community, by ensuring songwriters get paid when their songs are performed, and making sure they’re paid a fair market rate. I was deeply honored to receive the Stephen Foster Award, and will continue to work to ensure our laws reflect the tremendous contribution of songwriters.” 

Alexander said: “Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City. As we've heard today, thousands of them work as waiters, bus drivers or teachers as they build their songwriting career. Their paychecks ought to be based on the fair market value of their songs – so that when they write a hit heard around the world, they can see it in their billfolds. Our songwriters legislation addresses two of the greatest challenges facing songwriters: One is that the arrival of the Internet has meant that many songwriters aren’t paid royalties when their songs are played, and two, when they are paid, they aren’t paid a fair market value for their songs. It was encouraging to hear from Nashville songwriters today about how our bill would help their careers, and I'm hopeful we will pass the legislation soon."

Corker said: “It was great to be in Nashville today to hear from songwriters and discuss how we can ensure that these talented individuals and those coming after them can thrive. Our state is blessed with a vibrant music industry composed of talented songwriters, skilled musicians, and countless small and large businesses. 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.”

The senators said 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.

U.S. Representatives Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jefferies (D-N.Y.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives on December 21, 2017.

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:

o   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.

o   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.  

The legislation is supported by the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), the Digital Media Association (DiMA), the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and the Songwriters of North America (SONA). Additional supporters include the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Recording Academy and the American Federation of Musicians.