The outgoing administration had been eyeing the deregulation of licensing, which could have spurred price hikes and lack of access to libraries.
Of the 158 million Americans who voted in the recent presidential election, likely zero did so with music licensing rules in mind. Nevertheless, the election has already proved consequential for the song industry. When Donald Trump leaves office today (Jan. 20), it’ll be a mild surprise that key restrictions on ASCAP and BMI — the two largest performance rights organizations — will survive his administration.
Those restrictions date to the early 1940s, when the Department of Justice settled an antitrust investigation into how a group of composers and publishers had gained enormous power by pooling rights. Since then, thanks to the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, anytime a TV or radio broadcaster, sports stadium, restaurant, etc. wants to play a song to the public, they can get immediate access to a repertory without negotiation. If there’s an objection to the fairness of the blanket license flat fee, that dispute goes to a federal judge in New York.
Thanks to this system, musical selections on loudspeakers abound without friction, because negotiating each and every song is unnecessary. Trump’s shocking ascension to power in 2016 swept in a bunch of political appointees intent on deregulation throughout the federal bureaucracy.