'This is a historic moment': US biz celebrates as Music Modernization Act finally becomes law

Mike O'Neill

President Donald Trump has finally done something the music industry approves of: he’s officially signed the Music Modernization Act into US law.

The bill – which will reform mechanical licensing law by offering a blanket licence to digital services, administered by a new collection society that will be paid for by digital music companies. Currently, platforms have to individually license material for mechanical rights, which has created confusion and, occasionally, lawsuits.

Kid Rock and Mike Love were present to watch the signing of the bill, which made painfully slow progress through the US legislation system, before accelerating in recent months with approval in both the Senate and the House Of Representatives.

Now, however, it has finally made it onto the books – and the US music biz – despite  not always being wholly united on the issue – is celebrating. Other benefits of the bill should include higher mechanical royalty rates, plus payments for pre-1972 recordings played on digital and satellite radio.

“This is truly a historic moment for the music industry,” declared Mike O’Neill (pictured), president & CEO of rights management company BMI. “Especially for the American songwriters and composers at its core, who will see significant and deserved benefit from this legislation. 

It's the most meaningful music licensing reform in decades

Mike O’Neill, BMI

“Passage of the 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 recognises 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." 

Over at ASCAP, execs were also thrilled with the outcome.

“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 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.”

“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,’” said chairman of the board and president Paul Williams. “Decades later, this could not be more true. 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 favour with music for generations to come.”

Martin Bandier, outgoing chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV also hailed the decision.

“Now that the President has signed the MMA into law, we are confident that the music industry will reap the benefits of this historic piece of legislation for many years to come," he said. "For songwriters and music publishers in particular, the bill will go a long way to delivering them the fair compensation they deserve for the vital contribution they make to the thriving streaming services. With the passage of this bill, I’m pleased to say that the entire music industry agrees that everything starts with a song.”

“The Music Modernization Act is finally the law of the land,” said David Israelite, president & CEO of the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA). “We are incredibly grateful for the members of Congress who passed the MMA and the President for signing it. Songwriters have for too long laboured 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.”

"With today's signing of the Music Modernization Act, we mark a historic accomplishment,” said SoundExchange president Michael Huppe. “But more importantly, we mark what it means. For creators, it means getting paid more fairly. For those who recorded music before 1972, it means assurance you'll get paid for your work. For songwriters, publishers and producers it means making the digital economy work for you.

"SoundExchange's 170,000-member community was a driving force in getting the bill from the halls of Congress to the White House. When the music industry speaks with one voice, Congress listens. I urge you to stay active because there is much more work to be done before we can truly say all music creators are treated fairly."

And James Donio, president of the Music Business Association praised the "extraordinary and unprecedented efforts" of the biz to make the legislation happen.

"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," he said. "This is the start of an exciting new era for the entire business of music."

A statement from the Association Of Independent Music Publishers said: “Today marks a historic step forward for independent music publishers, songwriters, and the entire music industry. 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. We look forward to working with our partners across the music and technology industries as we move ahead in this new era.”

The move follows European rights-holders’ own big win over the EU’s Copyright Directive in September, which will see internet platforms become responsible for user-generated content on their sites.

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