In a time of extreme political polarization, one measure that both sides of the aisle support wholeheartedly is this year’s Music Modernization Act. While the music industry has transformed drastically and constantly in the last twenty years, music licensing and publishing laws have failed to keep up, leaving even the most successful songwriters with far less revenue than one would expect.
The Music Modernization Act, discussed thoroughly in a previous blog post, offers several sweeping common-sense changes to improve royalty rates and adapt to the new ways in which music is consumed, such as satellite radio and online streaming services. In April, the Act passed unanimously through the House of Representatives, an impressive feat given today’s partisan political climate.
Its progress, however, was threatened in July by a proposal from SESAC, one of the country’s top Performance Rights Organizations, or PROs. Among the MMA’s proposals is a plan to collect revenue directly from streaming services, while SESAC advocated for an amendment which would allow it to continue to do so itself, likely reducing accountability and transparency. Songwriters decried SESAC’s actions, leading some to leave the organization for other PROs.
Historically, union leaders often clash with those they are appointed to represent. Accordingly, prominent songwriter Ross Golan took to Twitter to encourage his peers to take action: “Songwriters: you wanna act like a union? Boycott and resign from SESAC.” The subsequent backlash against SESAC’s actions led to a compromise in August between SESAC and songwriter advocacy groups, and the Music Modernization Act is expected to continue its passage.