The Recording Academy Launches Social Campaign to Propel Music Modernization Act Forward, Turn Heat on Opposition

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U.S. Capitol Building in Washington DC on March 24, 2018.

The move comes after SiriusXM and Music Choice hired lobbyists to fight the monumental bill.

After a vociferous social media campaign by songwriters against SESAC and Harry Fox Agency owner Blackstone helped compel Blackstone to reach a compromise with songwriters organizations and ultimately remove its opposition to a portion of the Music Modernization Act, the Recording Academy is now leading a new online charge to battle two companies still fighting against the wide-ranging copyright legislation.    

On Monday (Aug. 6), the Recording Academy launched a social media campaign targeting SiriusXM and Music Choice, both of whom are against different portions of the bill. On July 30, Music Choice filed paperwork signifying the company had brought on a new lobbying group to oppose a change in the rate standard portion of the bill. The next day, SiriusXM filed similar paperwork after hiring a new lobbyist to help them continue to oppose the Classics component of the MMA, which calls for digital and satellite rate pay royalties for playing pre-1972 recordings, while terrestrial radio would be exempt.    

“What we’re seeing is the fourth quarter of the game and everything matters,” says Daryl Friedman, The Recording Academy’s chief industry, government and member relations office. “So the fact that [SiriusXM and Music Choice] are ramping up is an indication they’re concerned the momentum is growing for the passage of this bill and are going to do what they can to stop it.”     

Just as the Nashville Songwriters Association International and Songwriters of North America coalesced songwriters to pressure Blackstone online, the Recording Academy wants to keep the heat on as the MMA moves through the Senate. Monday's tweets were the opening salvo in making sure its membership is aware of the latest news and will hopefully retweet. The Recording Academy also tweeted the message to artists who have proven strong allies, such as Jason Isbell and Steven Tyler.

 

While The Recording Academy worked alongside like-minded organizations on what became the MMA proposal for several years, it has often allowed songwriting and publishing organizations to be the public voice of the campaign, but now is using the might of its members’ microphones to move ahead. “We need to make sure the voices of the creators are louder than the voices of these corporations and the lobbying firms they’ve hired,” Friedman says. 

While leading organizations such as SONA, NSAI and the National Music Publishers Assn all hope the bill has gone through both the Senate and back to the House, which it passed unanimously, by Oct. 12 when the House adjourns, Friedman says that the MMA could also be a major topic for The Recording Academy’s District Advocate Day, which takes place the week of Oct. 22 and includes Recording Academy members in all 50 states visiting legislators in person to voice concerns. “We’re on The Hill every day lobbying for the bill,” Friedman says, “but they’re nothing quite like people going in person to [a legislator’s] office in their home district or state and knocking on the door and saying, ‘I’m a constituent. I’m a voter and this is important to me.’” 

 Friedman says if the vote is still pending and this year’s plan is to invite members from other trade associations in favor of the bill to join in. “If legislators are moved by a Twitter mob, imagine how they’ll feel when they have an actual mob outside their door,” he says. 

Attorney Dina LaPolt, who advises SONA, welcomed the Recording Academy’s social outreach, stressing especially how important passage of the Classics component of the bill remains. “Just as vulnerable as songwriters are in America, our elder artists who are featured on recordings made prior to 1972 are just as defenseless,” she says. “It’s a travesty that these recordings are not protected under U.S. copyright law. This specific provision of the Music Modernization Act will correct the longstanding injustice that prevents thousands of older recording artists and musicians from being paid when their music is used on digital radio platforms.” 

Representatives from SiriusXM and MusicChoice did not respond to requests for comment. 

Ed Christman contributed to this report.