Breaking: Music Modernization Act Passes United States Senate

The Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernization Act (MMA), legislation designed to improve streaming royalty rates for American songwriters, cleared one of the final hurdles today with adoption by the United States Senate.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander called for a suspension of Senate rules today resulting in an immediate vote on the legislation he called the “most important piece of legislation in a generation to ensure American songwriters are paid for their work.”

It now awaits only a final vote by the U.S. House of Representatives within the next few days where it is expected to pass and be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature. The new Music Licensing Collective would begin operation on January 1, 2021 if the bills becomes law this year.

The bill:
• Changes the standard by which songwriter streaming rates are established replacing an outdated 1909 law that governs songwriter mechanical or sales royalties, changes consent decree regulations from 1941 that govern songwriter performance royalties.
• Creates a new Music Licensing Collective governed by songwriters and music publishers to oversee and administer digital mechanical licensing and payments, resolve disputes and administer unclaimed royalties.
• Eliminates the disastrous Notice of Intent (NOI) program administered by the U.S. Copyright Office that allows digital streaming companies to put the licensing burden back on songwriters.
• Guarantees streaming royalty payments to artists whose recordings were done before 1972 who now are not required to be paid due to a loophole in the Copyright Act.
• Pays streaming royalties directly to musicians and background singers who perform on recordings instead of going through other parties first.
• Requires the random selection of judges when performing rights societies ASCAP or BMI go to a rate court proceeding. Presently those judges are appointed for life.


“Hallelujah! The MMA gives us tools to achieve higher streaming royalty rates and important control over the payment of those royalties. Myself and NSAI have worked for nearly fifteen years on elements of this legislation. Passage of the MMA offers hope to the next generation of songwriters, especially those who are not performing artists, that writing songs will be a viable career choice.” – Steve Bogard, NSAI President and songwriter

“This was the last major obstacle. Because of their rules, the U.S. Senate is where many bills stall or die. Thanks to the leadership of Senators Orrin Hatch (UT), Lamar Alexander (TN), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Christopher Coons (DE) the Senate approved the legislation today by unanimous consent. It is not too bold to say this is the most important songwriter legislation ever adopted by Congress. When we negotiate our digital rates or go to trial-type proceedings, we expect rates that are much fairer based on what the market should pay.” Bart Herbison, NSAI Executive Director

“As legendary band the Grateful Dead once said in an iconic pre-1972 song, ‘what a long strange trip it’s been.’ It’s been an epic odyssey, and we’re thrilled to almost be at our destination. For the modern U.S. Senate to unanimously pass a 185-page bill is a herculean feat, only achievable because of the grit, determination and mobilization of thousands of music creators across the nation. The result is a bill that moves us toward a modern music licensing landscape better founded on fair market rates and fair pay for all. At long last, a brighter tomorrow for both past and future generations of music creators is nearly upon us. We are indebted to the leadership of Senators Hatch, Grassley, Feinstein, Alexander, Coons, Kennedy and Whitehouse for helping get us there.” -Mitch Glazier, President, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)

“Today is a momentous day for songwriters, artists, composers, producers, engineers and the entire industry that revolves around them. The Senate vote marks a true step forward towards fairness for the people at the heart of music who have long been undervalued due to outdated laws. This was a long and complex process but ultimately the music industry has come out stronger and more united than ever. We commend Senators Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, Chuck Grassley and Senate Leadership for swiftly moving this bill to the floor. Now we anxiously await the House’s final approval of the MMA and seeing it signed into law.” -David Israelite, NMPA President and CEO

“The Senate’s passage of the Music Modernization Act is the most exciting development I’ve seen in my career. Songwriters have suffered long enough and this bill will allow them to be paid fairly by the streaming companies that rely on their work. We got to this point because of the advocacy of hundreds of music creators who rallied behind the MMA and who will drive the future of the music industry. I look forward to seeing the MMA become law and watching the songwriters, composers, artists and producers who will greatly benefit.” -Irwin Robinson NMPA Board Chairman

“The future of the music industry got brighter today. Creators of music moved one step closer to getting paid more fairly. And industry forces that fought to maintain an unfair and harmful status quo were rebuffed. Now, SoundExchange’s 170,000-member community has just one word for the House of Representatives: Encore. The Music Modernization Act proves what can happen when constructive industry leaders work together towards a greater good. The SoundExchange community joined a historic coalition of artists, labels, songwriters, music publishers, streaming services, performance rights organizations, producers, engineers and unions. The outcome of this collaboration is a law that sets a new framework to guide the future of the music industry. There are still issues regarding creator fairness that we need to address, but today we celebrate a new era of cooperation and progress across the industry.” -Michael Huppe, SoundExchange President and CEO

“Today’s unanimous passage of the Music Modernization Act in the Senate represents a Herculean industry-wide effort to promote and celebrate songwriters and ensure their right to a sustainable livelihood. We applaud Senators Hatch, Alexander, Grassley, Feinstein, Whitehouse, Coons and the entire Senate for recognizing the value music has in both society and our hearts.” – Elizabeth Matthews, ASCAP Chief Executive Officer

“American songwriters work tirelessly behind the scenes to create the music that fans all over the world enjoy. Today, we made history by joining together and working for Senate passage of the Music Modernization Act, bringing us one step closer to a music licensing framework that reflects how people listen to music today. We urge the House of Representatives to swiftly pass the Senate bill, so the President can sign it into law and music creators can begin to see the benefits of this critical reform.” – Paul Williams, songwriter, ASCAP Chairman of the Board and President

“It’s truly a significant day, and speaking on behalf of all SESAC affiliates, we’re thrilled the Music Modernization Act has passed the Senate unanimously. We applaud everyone’s hard work and especially the Senators who have worked so diligently to get the bill passed. We urge the House to adopt the Senate bill for the President to sign, so the MMA becomes reality. We’re excited about the future of the music industry and modernization that allows all music creators to finally be paid more fairly for their hard work and dedication.” – John Josephson, Chairman/CEO, SESAC

“The AIMP applauds today’s unanimous passage of the appropriately named Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernization Act (MMA) in the U.S. Senate, clearing the path for its much-needed reforms to become law once ratified in the House and signed by the President. With support from both sides of the political aisle, along with unprecedented cooperation between the music and technology industry, the MMA will be a massive step forward for the independent publishing community and the music industry in general, which has been hamstrung by antiquated copyright laws for far too long. Now, independent publishers and songwriters will enjoy a more modern and realistic rate standard, a central public database to ease royalty payments from digital services, the end of evidence limitations placed on rights-holders arguing for more accurate royalty rates, the ability for PROs to be heard by more than just the same two judges, and a clear and final determination that digital services must pay for the use of pre-1972 recordings. None of this would be possible without NMPA President & CEO David Israelite and his staff, who have been instrumental in crafting and passing the MMA, and the AIMP thanks them along with Sen. Lamar Alexander for his articulate explanation of why this legislation is so important, and every U.S. Senator who has recognized the rights of independent publishers and songwriters by passing this legislation.” – Joint statement from Michael Eames, President of the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP); Alisa Coleman, AIMP New York Executive Director; and John Ozier, AIMP Nashville Executive Director

“The passage of the Music Modernization Act by the Senate is a historic moment for the tens of thousands of music creators across the nation. Since first proposing the music industry unite around a common bill in 2014, our members have lobbied in Washington and all 50 states to achieve this vision. When creators raise their voices for fairness, they make great progress.” – Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy

“With this bill, we are one step closer to historic reform for our badly outdated music laws. The Music Modernization Act provides a solution, and it does so in a way that brings together competing sides of the music industry and both sides of the political spectrum. As a songwriter myself, I know firsthand how inefficient the current music marketplace is. The MMA will benefit all artists who make music such a rich, vibrant, and meaningful part of American life.” – Senator Orrin Hatch

“Not only have laws governing songwriter royalties not kept up with the arrival of the internet, they have not been modernized since the days of the player piano a century ago. As a result, it has become impossible for most songwriters to make a decent living. Our legislation will help make sure songwriters are paid when their songs are played, and that they are paid a fair market value for their work. Our success in Congress is the result of most parts of the music industry—songwriters, publishers, digital music companies and broadcasters—working together on what they agree on instead of fighting over what they disagree about. It is taken several years to do this but I believe the results will be well worth the effort.”   – Senator Lamar Alexander


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About the Author

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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