Nothing Daft About Songwriter Equity

  • Rep. Doug Collins announces the Songwriter Equity Act on Capitol Hill with (l-r) Daryl P. Friedman, Paul Williams, and Michael O'Neill
    Photo: Office of Congressman Doug Collins

Kids these days. I was talking to one of these electronic dance music songwriters last week and he was telling me about the GRAMMY he won for the Daft Punk album. Oh, did I mention this cutting-edge hipster is 73 years old and named Paul Williams?

The master songwriter and president of ASCAP was in town for the introduction of the Songwriter Equity Act — songwriter legislation supported by The Recording Academy along with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and the National Music Publishers Association. It's always a pleasure to be in a room with Paul, but even more so as I was speaking at the Capitol Hill press conference announcing the bill with its sponsor, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), NMPA CEO David Israelite and BMI CEO Michael O'Neill.

The SEA would update the way songwriters are paid. It would allow all relevant evidence into the rate court that determines songwriter performance royalties. Also, it would change the rate standard for mechanical royalties to one that would equate with a fair market value.

I was especially gratified to be on board because while the proposed legislation does specifically address the needs of songwriters, it does not do so at the expense of other creators, such as the producers, engineers and performers The Recording Academy represents. The producers and engineers create the overall sound audiences love; the performers translate the emotion that moves listeners; and the songwriters create the very DNA of music — that very first act of creation on the blank page. All creators need to be paid at a fair market rate.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), a member of the Recording Arts and Sciences Congressional Caucus, noted that paying songwriters according to 100-year-old law is like "equating a tweet with a telegram." So, as Congress considers an overhaul of copyright, the Songwriters Equity Act should be part of it. If a legend like Paul Williams can adjust his career to write with Daft Punk, then surely Congress can update its laws. And when they do, all songwriters will "get lucky."

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