Music industry hails passage of the Music Modernization Act
American politics may be polarized, but a new law signed by President Donald Trump on Thursday suggests that liberals and conservatives agree on the need for a better system to compensate musicians and songwriters in the digital era.
The Music Modernization Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is a response to the modern world of music streaming and satellite radio — platforms that did not exist when laws governing royalty payments to music creators and license holders were drafted decades ago.
The comprehensive music licensing bill corrects a number of pre-digital-era anachronisms. It creates a new independent entity that will license songs to companies that play music online, and then pay songwriters, including those who released hits decades ago before federal music copyrights took effect.
A broad coalition of musicians, music publishers, songwriters and broadcasters who pushed for the legislation hailed its passage as a historic achievement for an industry that has long shortchanged artists.
“As we celebrate the harmony and unity that got us here, we applaud the efforts of the thousands of performers, songwriters and studio professionals who rallied for historic change to ensure all music creators are compensated fairly when their work is used by digital and satellite music services,” Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said in a statement.
After receiving unanimous approval in the House and Senate, the measure was signed into law by the president during a ceremony at the White House that was also attended by rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West, rap-rocker Kid Rock and Beach Boys founding member Mike Love.
“Our music licensing laws are convoluted, out of date and don’t reward songwriters fairly for their work,” said Hatch, who also is a musician and songwriter. “They’ve also failed to keep up with recent, rapid changes in how Americans purchase and listen to music.”
As a consequence, argued proponents, songwriters haven’t been properly compensated for their intellectual property, either due to outdated definitions or data inefficiencies. The goal: “To make it easier for music creators to make a living,” as a statement from digital accounting company Sound Exchange put it.
The new law “is the culmination of a gargantuan struggle that was resolved by an unparalleled alliance between all music industry stakeholders and the relevant tech companies,” said Richard James Burgess, chief executive of A2IM, a coalition of independent record companies.
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as musician Kid Rock speaks during a signing ceremony of the Music Modernization Act in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday in Washington, D.C.