SESAC Responds To NSAI, SONA Assertions

[Update, July 25]: SESAC has released the following statement in response to the calls to action 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.

[Original post, July 24]:

Two songwriter groups have spoken out against private equity firm Blackstone (which acquired music rights organization SESAC in 2017) following a last-minute proposal from Blackstone to alter the Music Modernization Act (MMA).

A portion of the MMA, as currently drafted, calls for the creation of a single Music Licensing Collective (MLC). The collective would oversee digital mechanical licenses, collect money from digital services, track the digital usage of writers’ works and pay writers.

Blackstone and SESAC (which also owns licensing firm The Harry Fox Agency) contends that the creation of such a collective could render firms that handle administration for music licenses unnecessary. So, they have proposed changes to the MMA.

The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and Songwriters of North America (SONA) have asked that Blackstone, SESAC and Harry Fox withdraw the proposal and support the MMA as currently drafted. NSAI and SONA contend that the Harry Fox Agency, SESAC, and Blackstone are “using their financial and political muscle for their own narrow corporate self interest.”

The MMA recently passed the House of Representatives with a unanimous favorable vote (415-0). The MMA represents years of negotiation among songwriters, publishers, streaming companies, record labels, performing rights organizations, and more.

Blackstone released the following statement:

“Blackstone strongly supports music modernization, and we are confident legislation will be signed into law this year as long as all parties continue working in the same cooperative spirit that has characterized the process so far.”

SESAC released the following statement:

“SESAC is committed to working towards a version of the Music Modernization Act that retains all of the benefits for writers, publishers and DSPs and which will move music licensing into the 21st Century while supporting a competitive market in music rights administration.”. “We expect that as the Senate continues to work through these issues with input from concerned and well-meaning stakeholders, an appropriate resolution will be reached and the MMA will be passed before the end of the year.”

BMI also released the following statement:

“The Music Modernization Act represents an historic opportunity to enact meaningful music licensing reform. The bill is the product of unprecedented collaboration among music stakeholders and passed unanimously through the House Judiciary Committee, the full House, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. BMI is disappointed that at this late stage, the MMA is being endangered by last minute asks. During the long process of drafting this bill, BMI, like many others, had to compromise on certain provisions in order to achieve a final result that benefits the industry as a whole. We hope that the parties currently in disagreement can work together to resolve their issues, allowing this important piece of legislation to move forward.”

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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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