Sony/ATV Songwriter Mozella: Consent Decrees, 100% Licensing Unfair In Streaming World
August 19, 2016 at 12:20 PM (PT)
MAUREEN McDonald, a SONY/ATV MUSIC PUBLISHING writer who has co-written songs for MILEY CYRUS ("Wrecking Ball"), ONE DIRECTION and RIHANNA, has penned an editorial blog criticizing the recent DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ruling to uphold the consent decrees issued to performing rights organizations ASAP and BMI (NET NEWS, 8/4).
The entire piece can be read here. Excerpts follow:
"The antiquated laws, or consent decrees, that have traditionally regulated songwriting royalties for radio play and other uses of music does not address streaming music. As a result, the royalties paid to the songwriters for streaming are miniscule compared to those paid for commercial radio.
"Songwriters like me depend on collective licensing through the two main performing rights organizations in the U.S.., ASAP and BMI, to negotiate with licensees, track our performances, collect and distribute our royalties to us. ASAP and BMI both operate as not-for-profits and pay out as royalties to us all the money they collect, deducting only operating expenses. They are governed by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE consent decrees to allow them to aggregate and license our rights without antitrust concerns. But those consent decrees were written in 1941 and are woefully out of date in the new music economy dominated by streaming, which was’t even invented the last time they were updated.
"Because of the outdated consent decrees songwriters make almost nothing when our work is streamed while the streaming companies build their businesses on our creative work, without paying us fairly. Those of us who write the music are held hostage by these antiquated consent decrees that make it impossible for us to be paid fairly in today’s world of streaming services that pay us almost nothing. All we asked for were reasonable updates to those consent decrees so we could negotiate fair rates. Under the consent decrees, streaming services like PANDORA and SPORTILY can use our music even before we agree to the rates, and if we cannot agree, they still get to use our music and a single Federal judge appointed for life sets the rate.
"Record labels (and the vocal artists signed to them) are allowed to set their own rates for streaming and they do. And guess what? They’re making money. At the moment, the master recording of a song owned by a record label is earning about 14 times as much as the songwriter of the same song. For example, I co-wrote and own about 23% of the MILEY CYRUS song 'Wrecking Ball.' PANDORA streamed 'Wrecking Ball' 260 million times according to the statement they sent to me. They paid me $3,000. My payment was similar from SPORTILY. The 'Wrecking Ball' video also has nearly a billion views on YOUTUBE and I’All will most likely make another $3,000 there.
"Soon, streaming will be the only format for music listening and at current streaming reimbursement rates, even hit songwriters will not be able to make a living. Currently, many talented but less commercially successful songwriters are giving up songwriting altogether. Eventually, AMERICA’s greatest export (pop music) will disappear.
"The DOJ also ruled in favor of something new called 100% licensing. This means the traditional, logical practice of ASAP and BMI licensing only the shares or fractions of songs written by the songwriters they represent will be ended. Most hit music is written in collaboration with a number of other writers. Songwriters work together and negotiate what percentage of the song each is entitled to. The collaborating songwriters may be represented by different Pros. Under the new 100% licensing, ASAP and BMI may be asked to license shares of songs by writers they do not represent, throwing the entire music licensing system into unnecessary chaos for no good reason. The uncertainty about how works will be licensed will have a chilling effect on the creative freedom of songwriters to write with the collaborators they choose. If a PRO is collecting for a writer they don’t represent at a rate they did’t approve, what rights do writers have regarding transparency, payment, etc.?
"So why did the DOJ decide on the side of huge technology companies and not hardworking, independent songwriters? The technology lobby is highly organized and powerful in the nation’s capital and unfortunately independent songwriters are not.
"Help protect the future of the soundtrack to our lives: music.
The DOJ was unfair to us and we need your voices. Please email your local congressman/woman and senators in support of appealing these DOJ rulings and also in support of the SONGWRITER EQUITY ACT, which amends the COPYRIGHT ACT and also voice your rejection of the 100% licensing ruling. It’s a small step, but everyone’s voice matters."