Music Modernization Act Introduced In U.S. Senate After Passing House of Representatives

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Exterior of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The Music Modernization Act (MMA) was introduced in the United States Senate on Thursday (May 10) by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and a bipartisan group of supporters. 

The major music reform package, the same version of which unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month, has enjoyed broad support across the music industry, including digital services, music publishers, songwriters, artists and radio, as well as producers and engineers. It combines together a number of different bills affecting how digital streaming services license music from publishers and how songwriters get paid correctly.

"The introduction of the Music Modernization Act package in the Senate is a massive step forward for songwriters,” National Music Publishers’ Assn. president and CEO David Israelite said in a statement. "The MMA represents consensus around necessary updates to how creators are valued, and we look forward to seeing it become law.”

The bill not only helps songwriters and composers by letting market rates and other considerations become involved in the rate-setting process -- as well as rotating judges at Federal rate court -- but also helps producers by formalizing any royalty payments due to them via Sound Exchange. It would also require digital radio to pay master rights sound recording performance royalties for music made before 1972.

Most importantly, it creates a blanket mechanical license that should help songwriters and publishers get paid correctly for all their songs, while making licensing much easier for digital services, through the creation of a new agency to administer that process.

“After a unanimous vote to pass the MMA in the House, we are thrilled to see such ardent, bipartisan support for music creators in the Senate,” ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said in a statement. “This legislation is critical to ensuring songwriters have a pathway to fair compensation so they can sustain their livelihoods and create the next great songs... We look forward to the Senate’s vote and eventual passage of the MMA.”

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Kennedy (R-LA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bob Corker (R-TN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Doug Jones (D-AL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Bill Nelson (D-FL), David Perdue (R-GA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) are all part of the bipartisan group supporting the bill.

"Today's introduction is an important step toward enacting historic reform for our badly outdated music laws," Sen. Hatch said in a statement. "For far too long, our old-fashioned, disorganized way of collecting and distributing music royalties has resulted in songwriters and other content creators being paid far too little for their work. It's also exposed digital music companies to significant liability and created overall uncertainty in the music marketplace. As a songwriter myself, I know how important these issues are. That's why I'm so pleased we're taking this significant step today to bring fairness and certainty to our music laws."

The music industry also voiced its support for the legislation, applauding the senators pushing it forward.

"As the organization that represents music's creators, the Recording Academy is grateful for the introduction of this comprehensive package," stated Daryl P. Friedman, chief industry, government, & member relations officer, Recording Academy. "The Academy's songwriter, performer, producer and engineer members in every state will advocate for passage of the Music Modernization Act and they thank Senators Hatch, Grassley, Whitehouse, and all the original cosponsors for their support of music makers."

"The strong momentum behind these common sense music licensing reforms continues to build, and that’s very encouraging news to the entire music community," RIAA president Mitch Glazier said in a statement. "Today we are one step closer to realizing a more just music marketplace for artists, songwriters, and their label and publisher partners."

"The Music Modernization Act, Classics Act and AMP Act will together create the most comprehensive and important copyright reform package the United States Senate has considered in decades," added Nashville Songwriters Association International president Steve Bogard. "This group of bills, which will also be called collectively the Music Modernization Act, gives songwriters, artists and music producers essential tools to achieve fair marketplace royalty rates in the digital era. "

"Today’s introduction of the Music Modernization Act follows the House’s unanimous passage of similar legislation and demonstrates that we are one step closer to enacting once-in-a-generation legislation that will bring old laws into the digital age and treat music creators fairly,” musicFirst executive director Chris Israel said in a statement​.