Business Matters: SOPA Delayed, Not Dead, After House Judiciary Committee Session Ends
Business Matters: SOPA Delayed, Not Dead, After House Judiciary Committee Session Ends

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced legislation Wednesday that would make it easier for U.S. independent music labels to access the global marketplace. The Making United States Independents Competitive (MUSIC) Act aims to help small labels by connecting them to new audiences and distributors at trade shows.

Independent labels find it increasingly difficult to sell their goods in the global marketplace, Nadler explained in his press release. "This bill would help promote U. S. exports in an extremely competitive industry whose talents cannot be outsourced," he said.

Specifically, the bill would authorize the U.S. Department of Commerce to help independent labels in sending their recording artists to international music trade shows. That assistance would include admission costs, support for travel, booth construction and "touring expenses" related to foreign music trade shows.

The bill defines an independent label as one with total revenues of less than $50 million, had less than a 1% share of the U.S. recorded music market and is not majority owned by a "corporation, partnership, or other association that has total revenues of more than $50,000,000" in the preceding fiscal year. Under that definition, a large independent such as Big Machine Label Group, the home of Taylor Swift, would not qualify for a share of the $1 million that would be appropriated for each fiscal year from 2013 to 2017.

"This program will support the export efforts of small to medium-sized businesses and their artists," American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) president Rich Bengloff said in a statement. "The MUSIC Act will not only strengthen exports for independent labels but will also have a positive effect across the entire U.S. economy by improving our balance of trade. We are thankful for Rep. Nadler's continued efforts to support independent music labels, their artists, and the entire creative community."

"This bill would provide much needed support for our members' efforts to promote their music overseas," Recording Academy chief advocacy and industry relations officer Daryl P. Friedman said in a statement. "We are grateful to Rep. Nadler, and we are happy to continue our partnership with A2IM to help increase opportunities for independent artists, as many of The Recording Academy's members are artists on independent labels or artists running indie labels of their own."

Although independents' pleas to limit record industry consolidation have not prevented recent mergers, A2IM has been successful gaining financial assistance for independent labels from government. In August, the organization secured a $284,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration to help its trade missions. Last year A2IM received about $200,000 from the Federal Small Business Administration and the States of New York and Tennessee.

On Sept. 16 A2IM label members and the Recording Academy visited Asia and met with buyers and potential suppliers in Honk Kong, Seoul and Shanghai, on a trade mission jointly funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and by New York State Empire Development and the State of Tennessee Economic & Community Development Program. Next month, independent labels will attend the annual Midem conference in France under Rep. Nadler-sponsored funding from the U.S. Commerce International Trade Administration (ITA) Market Development Cooperator Program.

Nadler is the Congressman behind the bill -- currently in draft form and expected to be introduced in 2013 -- that would put satellite radio and cable radio on the same "willing buyer, willing seller" standard currently used by the Copyright Royalty Board when setting statutory royalty rates for webcasters. The controversial Internet Radio Fairness Act, supported by Pandora, seeks, among other things, to compel the CRB to use a different standard -- the 801(b) standard -- for webcasters. Lower royalty rates are the likely result of the change in the standard.