“For all the streaming companies that played ‘Baby I Love Your Way’ — some 56 million times — I got $3,000,” says an incredulous Peter Frampton about his hit single from the 1976 smash album Frampton Comes Alive! “That’s not going to even cover the mortgage payment… well maybe one mortgage payment.”
Frampton is on Washington D.C.’s Capitol Hill for his first lobbying trip sponsored by ASCAP with songwriters Rob Thomas, Eric Bazilian, Rob Hyman, Ledisi, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Paul Williams (who is also the PRO’s chairman and president) as part of the organization’s “Stand With Songwriters Advocacy Day” (April 26).
The ASCAP initiative is looking to redress what it feels is an inequitable and unjust royalty system for songwriters based on consent decrees created more than 75 years ago that have failed to keep up with technological changes such as streaming.
“The market place has changed rapidly,” says the 67-year-old guitar hero, “and the work of all American songwriters is completely undervalued. We’re most the regulated small business there is. 70 percent of what we earn as songwriters is regulated by the Federal Government. There isn’t any other artistic industry that’s regulated like that. The consent decrees are outdated, they began in 1941 and the last update was in 2001. These are the things we need changed and updated.”
For the past three years the PROs have been trying to reform the consent decrees and federal rate court system through the Department of Justice, but to no avail. At the recent ASCAP Expo in L.A., the PRO said it had changed its strategy, doubling (or perhaps tripling down) down on fomenting change through congress.
Yesterday Frampton and his ASCAP cohorts performed an awareness concert called “We Write the Songs” at the Library of Congress, sponsored by The ASCAP Foundation. Here, Frampton performed with Gordon Kennedy (“Baby I Love Your Way” & “Change the World”); Rob Thomas (of Matchbox Twenty) (“Smooth”); Eric Bazilian & Rob Hyman (of The Hooters) (“One of Us” & “Time After Time”); Ledisi (“Pieces of Me”); Raul Midón (“Keep on Hoping”); and ASCAP Foundation Award-winning young jazz composer, singer and musician Camille Thurman.
As part of its Capital Hill mission, ASCAP released an infographic (below) showing popular support for reforming songwriter’s compensation. The group’s study found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of American voters believe the free market should determine how much songwriters are paid instead of the federal government with results that cut across party lines. The study also found two-thirds say licensing regulations should reflect how people listen to music and that U.S. music licensing regulations should ensure songwriters have the ability to achieve fair compensation for the public performances of their work.
Frampton says he feels lucky because he remains an in-demand performer who regularly tours both acoustically with Kennedy and with a band (he has an upcoming summer tour with The Steve Miller Band), which gives him a steady revenue stream beyond songwriting royalties. Being on Capitol Hill and speaking with legislators, he says, isn’t about him.
“It’s not so much for me anymore,” Frampton says. “It’s for new songwriters who are coming along — otherwise who wants to be a songwriter?”
For now the former Humble Pie guitarist (who it should be noted also recorded on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and went to high school and was friends with David Bowie throughout his life) is ready to meet legislators. “Today we hit the halls of Congress, which I’ve never done before,” he says. “It’s time to get rid of these regulations.”