Songwriter Equity Act
Though Paul Allen’s recent Tennessee Voice piece made some valid points, it omitted some very important facts regarding the current plight of music creators in Nashville. Yes, a terrestrial payment for radio is airplay long overdue for artists and labels. But the differences between these folks, operating under the 1978 Sound Recording copyright and songwriters and publishers operating under the original 1909 copyright are huge and grossly unfair to songwriters. This disparity in the ability to do business in a free market threatens to eliminate the non-performing songwriter as a viable part of American music. A world without Leiber & Stoller, Jimmy Van Heusen and Dean Dillon, means a world without Elvis, Sinatra and Strait
Like most American businesses, with the exception of songwriters and music publishers, the Sound Recording Copyright owner operates under the principle of willing buyer, willing seller. In fact, Big Machine Records has already negotiated several deals with big radio groups to pay BMLG artists for terrestrial airplay. Labels are also able to create multiple income streams, taking a piece of management, touring, merchandise, and even publishing income in 360 deals. All the non-performing songwriter has are his royalties, which are crushed under the heavy thumb of outdated government regulation.
In the only growth sector of music revenue, streaming, digital and satellite radio, Sound Recording copyright owners often make 14 to 17 times what the folks who created the words and music make. It’s as if you paid the people who painted your new car 17 times what you paid for the body, the engine, the wheels and the seats!
The 1909 songwriter copyright owners are handcuffed in their performance and sales income by government constructs such as Copyright Royalty Boards and Rate Courts, where the true value of their compositions are kept artificially low.
The most important piece of pending legislation for the health of American Music is the Songwriter’s Equity Act, which instructs these CRB’s and Rate Courts to take into consideration what other stakeholder are paid, something they are currently prohibited by law from doing.
American songwriters have survived for over a hundred years on the pennies on the dollar trickling down from the many business models that have grown up around the words and music that spills from our hearts and souls. We’ve made it through piracy, file sharing, and illegal downloads. We cannot survive on the micro-pennies that the 1909 Copyright Law tosses our way in the age of Pandora and Spotify.