Music Modernization Act

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Jason Davis

President of One One 7 Entertainment

            Digital distribution came with benefits and complications for the Music Industry. The revenues within the Music Industry are strong, but where are the profits going? The ever growing and changing streaming market has caused music associations to band together and lobby for The Music Modernization Act. With the act as the largest and most aggressive effort to modernize music copyright laws, all eyes and ears within the industry are on the American Congressional Leaders who are needed to pass the bill.

            Since digital distribution began, there have been many industry professionals questioning if artists and songwriters are receiving fair payment for their compositions and professional efforts. The diversity within the industry itself and how statistics are compiled make it very difficult to capture the exact percentages, thus allowing opposing sides to continue to disagree on how profits should be distributed from the modern platforms and record labels. Regardless of which “side” someone is on concerning the Music Modernization Act, everyone is aware that the music industry has drastically changed causing some laws to be antiquated.  According to BMI News, the bill would assist American songwriters, composers and publishers by updating two significant parts of the U.S. Copyright Law.[4] On the mechanical licensing side, the bill allows creators to be paid faster and more fairly across all platforms that use music, including digital streaming services.[4] BMI also stated that on the performing rights side, the legislation would also change the current rate court system to allow for a random assignment of judges, and in addition would permit the rate court judges to consider all relevant market evidence when determining compensation for the performance of a musical work.[4]

          Many major music associations have banded together in support of the bill. According to an American Society of Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) press release on August 2, 2018 their Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Matthews, was quoted as saying: 

“After working so hard for so long to update our music licensing laws, we must keep working together to keep the Music Modernization Act moving forward. All parties have had to give and take in order to achieve this consensus legislation that has so far seen widespread, bipartisan support and would help update music licensing laws to improve the future for music creators. We hope the Senate will pass it without delay.”[2]

Other associations such as: the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) President & CEO David Israelite, American Society of Composers, (BMI) President & CEO Mike O’Neill, Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) President Steve Bogard and Songwriters of North America (SONA) Executive Directors Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley are all in agreement as well and were quoted in the BMI News as collectively stating:

“We strongly support the introduction of the Music Modernization Act which represents months of collaboration and compromise between the songwriting and tech industries. This legislation enables digital music companies to find the owners of the music they use and reforms the rate setting process for performing rights, ensuring that songwriters and music publishers are paid faster and more fairly than ever before.” .[1]

               The Act unanimously passed the House in April 2018; however it still needs to be passed by the Senate. As with any bill set before Congress, it is complex and comes with political opposition. Getting SEASAC and Harry Fox to support the bill was definitely a win in moving The Music Modernization Act forward; nonetheless, there are more hurdles to pass. SiriusXM and Music Choice in an effort to protect their interests have added more lobbyists to fight portions of the bill they disagree with.[5]. In particular, SiriusXM is concerned with the bill's CLASSICS Act provision which would require digital and satellite radio to pay royalties for playing pre-1972 master recordings, while still excluding terrestrial radio from that requirement. [4]

            In a market that has been continuing to revolutionize for the last couple of decades, it was inevitable that the current music industry business models would be reviewed. The Music Modernization Act is a step into the future of an ever evolving industry with continual changes in digital opportunities. Like any business scenario, there are multifaceted situations within the industry that have driven the development of the Music Modernization Act. As the senate begins to review the bill, the music industry will be watching for and reporting on any action taken.

Works Cited

1.     “BMI Supports Introduction of the Music Modernization Act of 2017.”, BMI, 21 Dec. 2017,


2.     Halgas Nevins, Cathy. “ASCAP Statement on Development with Music Modernization Act.”, ASCAP, 2 Aug. 2018,


3.     Hu, Cherie. “Music Biz Slams Citi Report on Industry & Artist Revenue as 'Inconsistent,' 'Inaccurate': Analysis.” Billboard, Billboard, 10 Aug. 2018,


4.     Newman, Melinda. “With Clock Ticking, Can the Music Modernization Act Pass Congress?” Billboard, Billboard, 10 Aug. 2018,


5.     Wang, Amy X. “The Music Modernization Act Is One Step Closer to Fixing Music Copyright.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 1 July 2018,