In what seemed to be yet another blow to the historic Music Modernization Act, satellite radio giant SiriusXM last week voiced objections to one of the bill’s key provisions, the CLASSICS Act, which closes the loophole on recordings dating from before 1972. Currently, satellite radio stations are not required to pay mechanical royalties on these recordings, threatening the livelihood of countless “legacy” acts whose most successful material came from that time period. In an unconvincing letter published yesterday, SiriusXM sought to clarify its position, and denied any ill intent towards the MMA and the songwriters who stand to benefit from it. Over 100 of the world’s most successful musicians, including Paul McCartney and Katy Perry, as well as members of Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, have responded in kind with a threat to boycott SiriusXM over its actions. SiriusXM’s opposition notwithstanding, the Music Modernization Act has enjoyed bipartisan support from 415 Representatives and 76 Senators, as well as near-unanimous support among both the independent and corporate music communities. When SESAC proposed several changes to the MMA over the summer, it was met with similar criticism and forced to back down.
Now, after over a year of struggles between different factions of the industry, the United States Senate has unanimously passed the Music Modernization Act. The united front of musicians and songwriters has defeated greedy and selfish efforts by corporate entities to amend important aspects of the most significant piece of music legislation in over a century. For a bill to pass unopposed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate during one of the most politically polarized and gridlocked times in American history is nothing short of miraculous.
That said, the MMA has yet to be approved by the House and, finally, signed by President Trump. President Trump has shown himself to be an enemy of the arts, from the music industry to Hollywood: he broke longtime tradition last year by skipping the Kennedy Center Honors, and had trouble finding any bands to play at his inauguration. His campaign’s usage of songs by outspoken liberal artists such as Neil Young were routinely met with cease-and-desist letters. And he has been known to defy the will of the people (and even his own party). We hope that just this once, the President will do the right thing, and improve conditions for songwriters across America.