Recording Academy, RIAA, NMPA, ASCAP and BMI Unite to Give Full-Throated Endorsement of Licensing Reforms

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC. 

A collection of music industry organizations covering most major elements of the business -- labels, publishing, performing rights organizations and more -- have officially endorsed a trio of key pieces of music legislation currently winding through Capitol Hill.

OK-ing the Music Modernization Act, the CLASSICS Act and the AMP Act are over 20 organizations, including The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), The Recording Academy, The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), SoundExchange and others.

The MMA looks to update Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act to change the way the Copyright Royalty Board determines rates from using a legal standard to one that reflects market value by trying to approximate a willing buyer/willing seller market rate. The bill would wrest the ASCAP and BMI rate courts away from the judges that have long presided over them. Instead, the bill would randomly assign each rate dispute lawsuit to any judge sitting in the Southern District of New York.

The CLASSICS Act (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act) would require digital radio services such as SiriusXM to pay royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings. As it stands, SiriusXM cites state laws in allowing them to pay less (and in some cases no) royalties to play songs recorded before 1972. The CLASSICS Act would close that loophole and require a uniform digital royalty rate for all music.

The AMP Act (Allocation for Music Producers Act) adds producers and engineers U.S. copyright law for the first time. The bill codifies into law the producer’s right to collect digital royalties and provides a consistent, permanent process for studio professionals to receive royalties for their contributions.

See statements from industry leaders below:

NMPA President & CEO David Israelite: "Today is truly a new day for songwriters and artists. We are all coming together to support each other’s efforts to modernize and bring fairness to how music creators are paid. Music has value – and that value is not reflected in the way songwriters and artists are treated under century-old laws that have not kept pace with technology.  Right now, there is unprecedented momentum behind efforts to fix outdated laws that prevent music creators from earning what they deserve, and I am thrilled to say that publishers, songwriters, composers, labels, artists and PROs stand together to fix them."

RIAA President Mitch Glazier: "2018 is the year for Congress to enact many long-studied proposals that will make our country’s music licensing system fairer for artists, songwriters and their label and publisher partners.  A unified music community is essential if we are to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.  We encourage the Judiciary Committees to begin advancing these common-sense provisions that modernize the music licensing system, and provide fair, market-based compensation to all music creators for their property and work."

Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow: "For years, our creator membership has sought a holistic approach to update music licensing.  Artists, songwriters, producers and engineers have each advocated for their fellow creators because we’re all in this together.  Today, our industry unites in the same manner to support a comprehensive slate of legislative issues that will improve the environment for music makers, music services, and music fans.  As we prepare to celebrate music at the GRAMMYs, we can celebrate this important milestone as well."

A2IM CEO Richard James Burgess: "The recorded music industry speaks with one voice in support of the Music Modernization Act and to further rationalize copyright law. This legislation brings us one step closer to our goal of creators and copyright owners being compensated fairly for all uses of their work. We applaud Mr. Collins and Mr. Jeffries for introducing this bill, Mr. Issa and Mr. Nadler for the CLASSICS Act, and Mr. Rooney and Mr. Crowley for the AMP Act. We urge Congress to move forward on these important reforms, to seek market rates for all music streaming, and to demand that American artists be paid for terrestrial radio performances."

Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) Executive Director Bart Herbison:"Songs are written and songs are sung.   Music industry trade groups who represent songwriters and artists coming together to fully support bills to benefit all music creators is monumental.  Congress will soon consider a variety of measures to significantly advance fair market compensation for creators.  Our show of unity should encourage them to pass the most significant copyright reforms in more than a generation."

Songwriters of North America (SONA) Executive Director Michelle Lewis: "These historic pieces of legislation constitute an exciting first step towards unifying songwriters, artists, producers, labels, and publishers with the digital platforms that deliver music to consumers. On behalf of our community of songwriters and composers, SONA is happy to support the shift towards fair compensation for all music creators."

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews: "Music is the essential ingredient in the success of companies that deliver music to listeners. The songwriters, composers and artists who make that music deserve to be treated fairly under our copyright laws.  The Music Modernization Act, the Classics Act and the AMP Act are all reasonable and sensible reforms that bring our nation’s outdated laws into the modern world. We stand together as a community to advocate for the music creators and artists who enrich our lives everyday with their incredible talent and hard work."

BMI President & CEO Michael O’Neill: "BMI supports strengthening Copyright protections for all American music creators.  We are proud to be a part of this unique coalition of music creators, music advocates, and music users, in support of this legislation which brings 21st-century protections to all."

SoundExchange President & CEO Michael Huppe: "SoundExchange is pleased to join other industry voices banding together on behalf of all music creators to advocate for meaningful change to the laws driving how music is valued.   All creators of music deserve to be fairly paid for the use of their work, regardless of the platform or their place in the creative process.   Working together, across the industry and across the aisle, on a shared agenda of legislative solutions is the best way forward to fix our system."

SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White:  "SAG-AFTRA represents the sound recording performers – including royalty artists and session vocalists, whose creative work brings American music to life.  An update to the music licensing landscape to reflect the new digital age of music consumption, and recognition of the immeasurable value of our cherished pre-1972 sound recording performers, are both long overdue.   We join with our industry colleagues in thanking representatives Nadler, Collins, Jeffries, Issa, Rooney and Crowley for their foresight and their leadership.  These legislative initiatives better serve the artists at the heart of the creative works that provide so much cultural and economic value to this country. We look forward to seeing this legislation move forward, and we look forward to continuing our fight for fair compensation for sound recording artists on all music platforms, including terrestrial radio."

AFM International President Ray Hair: "We stand with all music creators seeking fairness, and urge Congress to act in 2018 to remedy the full range of inequities that harm creators under current law. Musicians welcome the support of the entire music community in urging Congress to enact a terrestrial performance right.  It is time for Congress to end the loophole that deprives performers of fair pay for the use of their work on AM/FM radio."