For Songwriters

Learn more about some of the critical issues affecting songwriters and composers.

A FAIR PROCESS FOR PUBLIC PERFORMANCES

  • ASCAP and BMI, two of the performing rights organizations (PROs) relied upon by songwriters and composers to collect royalties for public performances, are restricted by consent decrees issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that date back to 1941. These outdated decrees have failed to keep pace with changes in technology and the music marketplace and constrain the PROs from securing fair compensation for their songwriters.

  • While the Music Modernization Act (MMA) does not affect the consent decrees, it does improve the rate court process for ASCAP and BMI in two significant ways so that they can secure fair market value for their songwriters. First, rate courts will be able to consider all relevant market evidence—including sound recording royalties—when setting royalty rates for public performances. Second, instead of a single rate court judge for each PRO, judges will be randomly assigned to each rate proceeding for ASCAP and BMI to ensure impartiality.

  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently reviewing the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees to determine if they are still relevant in the modern music marketplace. The Recording Academy has supported reform of the consent decrees in the past and submitted comments to DOJ to this effect, requesting that the DOJ modify the consent decrees to benefit the songwriter community. The Academy will continue to monitor the ongoing review of the consent decrees and advocate for a fairer system for songwriters and their ability to earn fair market compensation for their work.

MODERNIZING MECHANICAL LICENSING

  • For decades, outdated laws—dating back to 1909—have prevented songwriters from earning fair market value for their work.

  • The Music Modernization Act (MMA) establishes a new mechanical licensing collective, paid for by the digital services and administered by songwriters and publishers, that will result in more timely payments of mechanical royalties to songwriters for their works used by streaming services.

  • The MMA also amends Sec. 115 of the Copyright Act to provide a fair market rate standard for songwriters. Instead of the below market standard previously used, mechanical rates will now be set using the “willing buyer, willing seller” standard that better approximates the rates that would be established in the free market.

  • The MMA establishes a free and searchable database of musical works ownership to make copyright ownership more transparent and reduce the amount of unmatched works that have historically yielded no royalty payout to songwriters.

  • For any remaining unmatched works, songwriters will be entitled, for the first time, to at least 50% of the unclaimed royalties and have audit rights to ensure that royalties are being paid and paid accurately.