As an artist who has been fighting for nearly 30 years to bring equity to my peers, myself and our classic recordings created before February 1972, I must respond to the op-ed of Jim Meyer, President of SiriusXM Radio, that explained his company’s opposition to the The Music Modernization Act (MMA).
First and foremost, I want to thank Jim and his team, including Steve Leeds and Tracey J. Jordan, for turning “Soul Town” — their station devoted to pre-1972 soul/rhythm and blues — into “The Land of Aretha Franklin” commemorating her remarkable 60-year career of recording masterpieces and acknowledgement of her passing.
Sadly, however, I must point out that as great as this loving gesture of respect is, Aretha’s estate would not receive compensation for a substantial portion of those plays if it weren’t for lawsuits brought against Sirius and the resulting settlements.
Unfortunately, in 2012 Sirius took the position that it didn’t need to pay older artists for their pre-1972 recordings because those recordings are not covered by the master recording copyright law that began when that right was created in the 1976 Copyright Act; and because Sirius operates under a federal license and it argued state law didn’t cover digital services. But Sirius lost a state lawsuit to a class action lawsuit led by Flo & Eddie for their Turtles catalog on this issue and the satellite radio company decided to reach settlements, which is why Sirius is now paying older artists — but only until those settlement agreements end.
The settlement with the major labels only requires Sirius to make royalty payments until the end of 2022; the settlement with the Turtles Class Action require payments from Sirius until 2026.
It’s only those settlements that ensure that Aretha’s music, played on a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week cycle on one channel, receives compensation for a short period of time, including her consummate gospel album Amazing Grace or 24 other hits, including “Respect,” “Ain’t No Way,” “Chain Of Fools,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Natural Woman,” “See Saw,” “Rock Steady,” “Think,” “Rock A Bye Your Baby,” “I Ain’t Never Loved A Man,” “Do Right Woman,” “Baby I Love You,” “Baby Sweet Baby (Since You Been Gone),” “The House That Jack Built,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “The Weight,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Call Me,” “The Border Song,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Oh Me Oh My” and “Day Dreaming.”
That’s why the Music Modernization Act and its CLASSICS component are needed. It would become the law of the land and require payments from digital and satellite services for pre-1972 recordings for their term of copyright, not just for a few more years as things are now.
Given that, I’m trying to figure out, how can you respect artists like Aretha and not agree with a law that requires just compensation to them at the same time?
How can Jim respect artists, while Sirius earn billions and billions of dollars from playing all of our recordings that represent mine and my peers’ spirit and souls, while fighting passage of a bill to compensate them?
Now for that “look at the shiny object over there” diversion tactic!
I’ll be 83 soon, so I can attest that that trick is even older than I am.
When you want to kill something like the MMA, which is pretty popular legislation, you complain that it doesn’t solve some other problem and hope things get bogged down and killed.
Mr. Meyer says he opposes this vital package of reforms because it doesn’t address an additional problem — the other elephant in our musical room, which is the failure of AM/FM radio to agree to pay performance royalties, the issue the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has blocked in Congress at every turn using every excuse in the book — making the United States partners with North Korea and Iran, the two other equally “enlightened” countries who have never enacted a broadcast performance right.
Jim is absolutely right to point out that the terrestrial radio issue still needs to be resolved, but I must point out that this logic is not only troubling, it is actually discriminatory. The discrimination is against artist elders of all races. Sirius must, by law, continue to pay for the plays of the post-1972 recordings artists with or without the passage of performance rights legislation. Only us elders are the freebie targets yet again. I should think that most everyone finds that’s just unacceptable.
Two wrongs do not make a right.
That sort of statement and mentality brings to mind Billy Preston‘s hit song “Nothing From Nothing” (which “leaves nothing,” as he sings). Jim, I respectfully say, “Hell No!”
Doing nothing means nothing gets better and more artists, friends and peers of Aretha Franklin will pass away without ever receiving the compensation they so justly deserve. Most of Aretha’s peers were less successful than her financially and I know personally many could have used, and could use, those royalties.
I would gladly extend my hand and accept, on behalf of all recording artists of all years in the United States of America, an offer from SiriusXM to help us finally get a terrestrial radio broadcast performance right passed.
I’m under the impression that SiriusXM actually may oppose the MMA for a completely different reason that has to do with the bill’s elimination of something called a “carve out” that they’ve enjoyed for around 20 years. The “carve out” allows Sirius to pay below-market rates for its music plays, giving them a huge leg up over their competition and also shortchanging music creators like me and my peers. I’ve had it explained that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act provided an “carve out rate” — given in 1998 to the then three pre-existing subscription companies including Sirius — that none of the other thousands of digital services get nowadays.
SiriusXM revenues are more than $5 billion a year. I wonder how Jim can continue to justify such huge profits while standing on the backs of me and all of the pre-1972 recording artists?
The MMA must not be killed by SiriusXM or amended to serve a major shareholder of SiriusXM stock, as exposed by Showbiz411’s Roger Friedman, when he published this rather peculiar brand of kindness.
The bottom line for me is that there is no reason, no justification, for anyone to get Congress, more specifically the Senate, to delay these vital, widely-supported reforms that will finally be a giant step forward in support — literally — of legacy recording artists, while strengthening the systems that benefit fans, music creators and digital services, too.
Sam Moore was half of the legendary soul and R&B group Sam & Dave, whose hits include “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Comin'” and “You Don’t Know Like I Know,” among others.