This July, no one in Hollywood was surprised to see his office lobby littered with a prescient edition of The Hollywood Reporter, whose cover story read, “Welcome to Hollywood’s Age of Anxiety.”
In today’s fraught political environment, it’s hard to imagine a consensus on anything — let alone on an arts-related bill that ended up being signed into law by none other than consumer-of-all-joy Donald Trump. But that’s what happened with the federal Music Modernization Act.
When a customer walks into a bar, restaurant, hotel, brewery or winery, they’re focused on enjoying the experience, not the intricacies of music licensing. Instead, hundreds of thousands of public hospitality venues across the nation are responsible for purchasing a music license from performing rights organizations, like ASCAP and BMI, through a confusing, opaque and often cumbersome process. If music is being played in their business via CD, DJ, band, a streaming platform, karaoke, iPad, radio, television or otherwise, they must buy a license.
“What I say is we’re the originator of live music here in South Lyon,” Robinson said. “We pay the licenses. We are trying to set a standard here. No bad blood or ill will to anybody else, but you know what? We’re paying. I’m trying to do the right thing. We pay more in music (license fees) now than we pay in excise taxes for alcohol. So we pay about $2,000 a year to BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. That’s more than we pay in alcohol tax.”
There are a number of separate copyrights in music, but the history of ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and the broadcast industry involves only one, the “small” or “non-dramatic” public performance right.
Rarely does a century-old musical instrument drive policy in Washington, but that’s exactly what’s happening in the music community at this moment.
The bill reforms Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act to create a single licensing entity that administers the mechanical reproduction rights for all digital uses of musical compositions, such those used in interactive streaming models offered by Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, Google and others, according to a release from the National Music Publisher Association.
Music data, ownership records, and a horde of licenses remain wildly disorganized. Three weeks ago, Congress proposed a global, centralized music database to ensure that artists get paid on every streaming platform. And, every other platform — digital, physical, and analog — for that matter.
Two House Republicans introduced bills this week aimed at revamping the copyright system for music recordings.
Pandora CEO, Tim Westergren talks about how Pandora is gearing up to compete with Apple and Spotify in the competitive music streaming business. Tim describes how his company is taking more of a collaborative approach in Washington.