It's Time for Washington to Stand with Songwriters

Roll Call, May 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

It's Time for Washington to Stand with Songwriters


In 1914, a small, but visionary group of America's leading songwriters and composers - among them, musical greats like Irving Berlin and John Philip Sousa - realized they could protect their rights as music creators more effectively through collective licensing, rather than going it alone. So they came together to form the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP for short.

Today, some 500,000 composers, music publishers and songwriters, like me, trust ASCAP to do the things most of us could not do on our own - negotiate licenses, monitor public performances, distribute royalties and advocate on our behalf. ASCAP is the instrument that helps us make a living.

As we celebrate ASCAP's 100th anniversary and look to the future, we recognize the rules and regulations that govern music licensing haven't kept pace with the innovation that is transforming how people listen to music. And we're committed to finding a solution.

That's why ASCAP members will be coming to Washington this week. I'll be joined by fellow award-winning songwriters Randy Newman, Carly Simon, Josh Kear, Valerie Simpson, Jimmy Webb, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Jon Batiste and Narada Michael Walden, among others, as we seek to help policymakers understand why we must modernize our music licensing system.

The root of the challenge lies in the fact that the two organizations that represent most of the nation's songwriters, ASCAP and BMI, are forced to operate within a regulatory structure governed by federal consent decrees created in 1941.

The last time these regulations were updated was in 2001, before the invention of the iPod.

Under this system, if ASCAP or BMI cannot agree with a licensee on the price of a license, then a federal "rate court" judge, rather than the free market, determines the amount we will be paid for our music from that licensee.

As a result of these outdated laws, record labels and recording artists routinely earn 12 to 14 times more than songwriters for the exact same stream of a song. And big music companies like Pandora rake in millions in revenue, while many music creators struggle to pay the bills.

In an effort to correct the imbalance within the current system, ASCAP has announced a new initiative, the "Music Advocacy Project" or MAP, for short. …

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