ASCAP President Paul Williams
Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage
What Songwriters Need To know About The DOJ's Review Of Consent Decrees
"The goal of the antitrust laws is to protect economic freedom and opportunity by promoting free and fair competition in the marketplace. The decades-old consent decrees now have the opposite effect." –from Comments of the Recording Academy on review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, Conversations In Advocacy #62
For more than 75 years (!),consent decrees have governed the process by which performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI license rights to publicly perform music. What does this mean, exactly? Despite seismic changes the music industry has undergone in seven-plus decades, musicians are compensated for public performance under the same constraints as they were when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. Does that make sense in an era dominated by large digital music services, and not record players?
That’s just what the Department Of Justice intends to figure out, announcing earlier this summer their Antitrust Division will review the consent decrees with ASCAP and BMI. In the spirit of urging the DOJ to update the policies to reflect the modern music and technology ecosystem, the Recording Academy has now officially filed comments expressing its views and concerns.
— GRAMMY Advocacy (@GRAMMYAdvocacy) June 7, 2019
The extensive comments question the utility of the consent decrees in the 21st century, which now benefit the world’s largest and most profitable companies at the expense of fair market pay of individual songwriters. Basically, the evolution of the music ecosystem over the last 75 years has diminished the effectiveness of these consent decrees to help songwriters earn what they deserve.
The Academy worked closely with key stakeholders, including ASCAP and BMI, in drafting the comments to reflect the needs of its songwriter members. While comments from other key stakeholders were filed, the DOJ has yet to publically release any comments.
In the meantime, the Recording Academy stands with the PROs and the music community in its optimism that the DOJ's Antitrust Division will recognize the need to bring the consent decrees into the 21st century and ensure musicians are properly compensated when their hard work is performed in public. Recently, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Makan Delrahim addressed exactly why the consent decrees require a fresh look.
"The ASCAP and BMI decrees have been in existence in some form for over seventy-five years and have effectively regulated how musicians are compensated for the public performance of their musical creations," said Delrahim. "There have been many changes in the music industry during this time, and the needs of music creators and music users have continued to evolve. It is important for the Division to reassess periodically whether these decrees continue to serve the American consumer and whether they should be changed to achieve greater efficiency and enhance competition in light of innovations in the industry."
This issue will be a top conversation point at the upcoming District Advocate day on Oct. 2. Led by the first-ever District Advocate Ambassador, two-time GRAMMY winner Jason Mraz, the event marks the largest grassroots movement for music advocacy of the year. Recording Academy members will be connected with their member of Congress in hundreds of districts across the country to discuss key issues affecting music makers, including encouraging the DOJ to ensure fair compensation for songwriters during its review of consent decrees. Registration for members and non-members is now open.
We're thrilled to announce that two-time GRAMMY-winner @jason_mraz is the first-ever #DistrictAdvocate Ambassador and will encourage and inspire other @RecordingAcad members and music supporters to join him in this nationwide rally, Oct. 2nd. Learn more: https://t.co/Rjzz4e9V7g pic.twitter.com/3XKY5sX44x
— GRAMMY Advocacy (@GRAMMYAdvocacy) August 13, 2019
By staying vigilant for causes like this that have very real bearing on how music makers are paid for their hard work and creation of intellectual property, the Recording Academy and its members lead the fight for creators' rights year-round in Washington and in local music communities across the nation. As the Antitrust Division reconsiders these long-outdated consent decrees, the Academy hopes its comments and the comments of those stakeholders affected by their decision are taken into the serious account they deserve. After all, a lot has changed in 75 years.
Be A District Advocate: Stand Up and Support Music Creators' Rights