BREAKING: President Signs Music Modernization Act Into Law

President Trump signed the Hatch-Goodlatte Music Modernization Act into law on Thursday, Oct. 11. Among the artists in attendance were Big & Rich’s John Rich, as well as Kid Rock, CCM band MercyMe, Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan guitarist Jeff Baxter, The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, Craig Morgan, and Rock Hall of Famer Sam Moore.

Last month the Senate unanimously passed the MMA and then House of Representatives unanimously approved an updated version of the bill, sending it to the president’s desk.

According to Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) Exec. Director Bart Herbison, now that the MMA is officially law, NSAI and other songwriter organizations will begin selecting songwriter board and committee members for the new Music Licensing Collective (MLC), which will begin operation on Jan. 1, 2021.

Higher streaming royalties resulting from the marketplace rate standards included in the MMA will come over time when the next Copyright Royalty Board proceeding occurs in four years or when ASCAP or BMI have rate court proceedings under the terms of the MMA. Agreements reached with streaming companies or court proceedings could result in higher streaming rates.

The MMA changes the standard by which songwriter streaming rates are established replacing an outdated 1909 law that governs songwriter mechanical or sales royalties, and changes consent decree regulations from 1941 that govern songwriter performance royalties. The new law 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. The MMA also eliminates the Notice of Intent (NOI) program administered by the U.S. Copyright Office that shifted the digital mechanical licensing burden back to songwriters, and 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. The MMA also stipulates direct streaming royalty payments to record producers and engineers.

President Donald Trump signs the Hatch-Goodlatte Music Modernization Act into law on Oct. 11, 2018.

“Now the job of utilizing the tools found in the Music Modernization Act begins,” said Herbison. “NSAI and other songwriter organizations will immediately select songwriter board and committee members for the new Music Licensing Collective that commences operation on January 1, 2021. We have two years to build the first-ever songwriter, music publisher run mechanical licensing collective. This will be the first collection agency that pays songwriters 100 cents from every royalty dollar since the digital streaming companies will pay operational costs of the MLC.”

“The MMA is now law!” said Steve Bogard, writer of 10 No. 1 songs and President of NSAI. “We have worked on elements of this legislation for 15 years. With the passage of this law, every professional songwriter in America, including myself, who has suffered devastating economic losses in the era of digital music delivery, can now breathe a sigh of relief and be optimistic about the future of our profession. Along with the songs that bear my name, this is my proudest career accomplishment. 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.”

“With the president’s signature today, the MMA is officially the law of the land,” said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. “As we celebrate the harmony and unity that got us here, we applaud the efforts of the thousands of performers, songwriters, and studio professionals who rallied for historic change to ensure all music creators are compensated fairly when their work is used by digital and satellite music services. We thank the members of Congress who championed this issue throughout the past several years to bring music law into the 21st century.

“Today, President Trump signed the bi-partisan Hatch-Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (The MMA), which will finally bring music copyright laws into the digital age,” said John Josephson, Chairman and CEO, SESAC. “We applaud everyone’s hard work and tireless efforts on this legislation, especially the Senators who worked diligently to get the bill passed then adopted by the House. We’re grateful for our committed songwriting and publishing community whose focus and passion have strengthened our industry for generations to come.”

“The signing of the Music Modernization Act into law, by the President, is the culmination of a gargantuan struggle that was resolved by an unparalleled alliance between all music industry stakeholders and the relevant tech companies,” said Richard James Burgess, CEO of A2IM. “In this digital age, more music is enjoyed by more people than at any time in the history of humankind. The signing of this bill represents a significant step towards better lives for music creators and those that support them. A standing ovation is greatly deserved for all involved in this historic achievement.”

Pictured (L-R): Steve Bogard (President, NSAI), Darius Rucker, Bart Herbison (Executive Director, NSAI), Congressman Doug Collins (GA), Lee Thomas Miller (Former President, NSAI) at the Nashville Songwriter Awards

“The Music Business Association applauds and congratulates its members and valued partners across the industry on their extraordinary and unprecedented efforts to bring the groundbreaking Music Modernization Act to fruition,” said James Donio, President of the Music Business Association. “What an amazing achievement for creators and their commercial partners to have come together in solidarity, and joined with Congress, to make long overdue copyright reform a reality. This is the start of an exciting new era for the entire business of music. Bravo!”

NMPA President & CEO David Israelite said, “The Music Modernization Act is finally the law of the land. We are incredibly grateful for the Members of Congress who passed the MMA and the President for signing it. Songwriters have for too long labored without seeing fair rates and receiving all that they deserve, and for the first time in history, the music industry has partnered with the tech industry to fix these systemic problems. As we embark on supporting and helping build the critical structures within the MMA, we are humbled by the extraordinary progress propelled by compromise and the unprecedented political involvement of music creators. Today is about their future and this bill stands as a great statement on what can be done when we work together.”

“Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of our ASCAP music creator and publisher members, industry partners and champions in Congress, a more sustainable future for songwriters is finally within reach,” said ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews. “The MMA’s unanimous passage in the House and Senate proves that the power of music is a great unifier. ASCAP is gratified to have stood alongside creators, music publishers, and many more to make this dream a reality.”

John Rich and Craig Morgan in Washington, D.C. at the signing of the MMA.

“A young songwriter once wrote, ‘You give a little love and it all comes back to you; You’re gonna be remembered for the things that you say and do.’ Decades later, this could not be more true,” says ASCAP Chairman of the Board and President Paul Williams. “Songwriters across this country now and in the future will remember those who fought so hard for the Music Modernization Act—both in Congress and across the music industry. On behalf of the music community, we are so thankful for the love and will return the favor with music for generations to come.”

“This is truly a historic moment for the music industry, especially for the American songwriters and composers at its core, who will see significant and deserved benefit from this legislation,” says BMI President and CEO Mike O’Neill. “Passage of the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act was a hard-fought process that hinged on tremendous collaboration and unprecedented support among diverse stakeholders who ultimately united to safeguard the future of music. We are gratified by this extraordinary outcome that recognizes the essential contributions of creators and streamlines the use of their music across businesses. While BMI will keep advocating to protect the livelihood of music creators in the digital age, we thank Congress and the President for taking this important step in implementing the most meaningful music licensing reform in decades.”

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, have issued a joint statement, saying, “Today marks a historic step forward for independent music publishers, songwriters, and the entire music industry, as President Trump has signed the MMA into law. This marks the first significant federal legislation since 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to address the needs of rights-holders in today’s online age. We can look forward to a variety of long-overdue reforms that will make it easier to negotiate for and collect fair royalty rates while also establishing once and for all that digital services must pay for the use of pre-1972 recordings. In addition, it ensures independent publishers and songwriters a seat at the table for the new mechanical licensing collective. The AIMP is committed to ensuring that the independent publishing community and songwriters are represented fairly in the implementation and enforcement of the MMA, and we look forward to working with our partners across the music and technology industries as we move ahead in this new era. We offer our sincere gratitude to David Israelite and his team at NMPA, to the NSAI and SONA, to Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Doug Collins, and to all parties from all sides who fought to provide a balanced outcome for all involved.”

MercyMe with manager Scott Brickell & Vice President Mike Pence as the Music Modernization Act is signed on Oct. 11, 2018.

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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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