ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews Advocates For Consent Decree Reform

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews spoke on behalf of the performance-rights organization at the U.S. Department of Justice virtual workshop on Competition in Licensing Music Public Performance Rights that took place on July 28 and 29, 2020, organized by Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, US Department of Justice.

In a recent joint open letter, Matthews and BMI President & CEO Mike O’Neill responded to work by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine whether a possible modification or cessation is necessary for the consent decrees that have governed music licensing since 1941.

At the virtual workshop this week, Matthews upheld that modification needs to be made, stating: “One of the primary reasons the marketplace is no longer working for songwriters and composers is that both ASCAP and BMI operate under consent decrees that were entered into in 1941 when the marketplace was entirely different.”

She also pointed out the fact that many of today’s ASCAP licensees are powerful mega-technology and media companies, which themselves face very little regulations.

Matthews said, “Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix & Google, they are smart, savvy, all lawyered up and wildly under-regulated. I have yet to sit in a negotiation with one of these licensees and not feel as though songwriters’ hands were tied behind their backs due to these consent decrees. It’s crazy to think that songwriters are more regulated in 2020 than Facebook.

“Today, ASCAP and BMI are not allowed to compete on a level playing field with their unregulated counterparts like SESAC and GMR, and that has created market wide imbalances and confusion,” Matthews explained. “The consent decrees are wildly outdated and need to be harmonized and simplified. At a minimum, the ASCAP and BMI decrees should be modified to be the same. Today, ASCAP and BMI are not even on a level playing field with one another which distorts the marketplace. To prepare for a new world order of global distribution, live data exchanges, demand and supply side pricing and experimental licensing initiatives, we have to be able to compete and innovate in a global market. All we ask of the licensee community and the DOJ is that you help us modernize our outdated consent decrees.”

Mathews concluded her remarks, “All we ask of the Department of Justice and the licensee community is please don’t leave songwriters and composers back in 1941. Please work with us to modernize these decrees.”

Read Matthews’ full remarks here.

BMI’s O’Neill also attended the virtual workshop and also offered caution to the industry. See MusicRow‘s coverage here.


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LB Cantrell is Project Manager at MusicRow magazine. She heads up specific, large-scale projects for the company and assists in day-to-day tasks. LB also manages the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart and contributes editorial for both the print and online platforms. She joined MusicRow full time in January of 2019, after interning and working part time for the company for a year. She is from Blairsville, Georgia and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a Music Business degree in 2018.

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