SESAC Aims To Clarify MMA Position Following Criticism From Songwriter Community

In an effort to clarify The Blackstone Group and SESAC’s proposed changes to the Music Modernization Act (MMA), SESAC released the following statement:

“Our position on the MMA is that preserving competition will help songwriters,” SESAC said in a statement. “The only change in the compromise SESAC has offered is that that Private Certified Administrators must compete to be hired to process and distribute the royalties based on the database maintained by the Collective. It is our belief that this change ensures healthy free market competition, which will drive better and more accurate royalty distributions to songwriters. Additionally, the proposed amendment will not impact any other aspects of the law, the governance of the Collective, or payments to songwriters in any way.”

SESAC continued, “It is because of our dedication, loyalty, and commitment to our songwriters that we stand by this compromise and continue to wholeheartedly support the goals of the Music Modernization Act.”

The statement follows assertions made by the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and Songwriters of North America (SONA) earlier this week, criticizing private equity firm The Blackstone Group. The Blackstone Group acquired SESAC last year, and the acquisition included the Harry Fox Agency, which SESAC purchased in 2015.

The Blackstone Group took issue with a portion of the MMA that calls for a single Music Licensing Collective (MLC) to oversee blanket digital mechanical licenses, collect money from digital services, track the digital usage of songwriters’ works and pay writers. The creation of an MLC would threaten the business activities of mechanical royalty agencies such as HFA.

SESAC and The Blackstone Group instead propose that Harry Fox Agency, as well as other administrative companies, continue their work in administration and royalty payments, while the Collective would create and oversee a song and recording database.

Numerous songwriters have spoken out against The Blackstone Group (and SESAC by association), following the company’s proposed 11th-hour changes to the MMA legislation. Earlier this year, the MMA was unanimously approved in the House of Representatives and has gained widespread support from varying sectors of the music and digital communities after years of hammering out details. The Music Modernization Act is now being considered by the Senate.

Numerous members of the songwriting and publishing communities have taken issue with Blackstone’s proposed changes, with some even calling for writers to leave the performing rights organization.

Among those denouncing Blackstone Group’s proposed changes to the MMA have been many in Nashville’s songwriting and publishing communities.

“Every writer SESAC should threaten to leave if the MMA is haled because of their own PRO’s selfishness,” Brothers Osborne said via twitter. “They’re literally putting their interests over THEIR OWN D**M WRITERS!”

Ryan Hurd noted, “I’m in the window right now to choose which PRO I’ll work with for the next 3 years…I can tell you right now who isn’t getting a second meeting if this goes the way it looks like it might @SESAC…”

“This legislation is the last shot songwriter’s [sic] have at a future,” Lee Thomas Miller said via Twitter. “Ask them why they are killing the American songwriter? Without this bill Songwriter’s [sic] will continue to be crushed in the digital age. Blast this message to the moon.”

Others, including Shane McAnally, Lori McKenna, Hailey Whitters, and Abe Stoklasa retweeted Miller’s comments. Additional songwriters speaking out include Josh Kear and Jim Collins,

SESAC previously issued the following statement in response the call from NSAI and SONA:

SESAC is America’s 2nd oldest PRO. We have a long history of advocating on behalf of songwriters and providing a premium value for their work unavailable at other PROs in the U.S. since the 1940s. SESAC is a driver of competition that benefits ALL songwriters.  SESAC wholeheartedly supports the goals of the Music Modernization Act and wants those goals made law – just like you do. We are concerned that a lack of competition might damage not only our business, but songwriters too. We’ve suggested a simple amendment to improve competition so we can continue to ensure that ALL songwriter and publisher royalties continue to grow. Any assertion to the contrary is simply dishonest.

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Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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