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The Music Modernization Act: An Industry Speaking With One Voice (Guest Column)

RIAA President Mitch Glazier reflects on the sometimes-bumpy road the industry has traveled to get here, and what lies ahead.

In the past few days, the Music Modernization Act — which will bring sweeping changes to outdated copyright laws — has passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously, and is now set to go to President Trump’s desk for signature. In this guest post, Recording Industry Association of America president Mitch Glazier reflects on the sometimes-bumpy road the industry has traveled to get here, and what lies ahead.

For the better part of my 25-year professional career, I have worked in public policy in Washington D.C. I have watched countless debates and arguments, bills enacted, alliances forged and opportunities missed.

Congress has now passed the Music Modernization Act, legislation that will make a real difference for a music marketplace deserving of fair pay, enforceable rights and efficiency. The bill — and the path of its enactment — is an enlightening roadmap. It affirms that some timeless principles endure, while simultaneously revealing that the march of time and changing business models present new opportunities.

The music business is not easy. It is complicated and competitive. We understand why that is the case — music matters, it spawns millions of jobs and billions of fans. Policymakers appreciate that all of us — songwriters, artists, record labels, music publishers, producers and others — play an integral role. But music creators are no longer the only advocates before Congress. Other interests vigorously make their case.

Now, more than ever, policymakers seek a unified front from our community. One major reason for the advancement of the Music Modernization Act is that we all diligently worked to realize a broader good, to recognize that our power lies not within one music constituency, but is only truly impactful when we join together to speak with one voice with and for each other. Sure, we fought on the sidelines, made up, fought again, and made up again. Those skirmishes are inevitable when you are pursuing a big, consequential change in our laws. But we always tried to keep our eyes on the larger prize.

We could do that, in part, because a foundation of trust was built. Every major artist organization joined with organizations representing record labels, publishers, songwriters, performing rights organizations and producers to discuss legislative language and changes. We approached senior executives at Pandora to discuss guaranteeing payment of pre-1972 recordings before any revised bill was introduced. We understood that they wanted to be supportive of the overall legislation but that the bill needed to functionally work for their business. A foundation of trust was solidified, which allowed all of us to persevere through the inevitable twist and turns of a major legislative campaign.

The public policy rationale for the bill’s reforms was demonstrable. The gaps or inequities in the laws we were seeking to change were obvious, glaring and indefensible. Despite the persuasive fact pattern, we understood that we as a business needed to demonstrate that were adapting, that we were listening to our artists and fans. I’m incredibly proud that music is now a digital business, deriving 80% of our revenues from hundreds of different licensed digital music services. We far outpace any creative industry in our transformation. It was sometimes painful and never easy, but we moved forward. No doubt, that work — music shouldering its responsibility — helped persuade policymakers that we were a credible community working to serve fans in the best possible way under the current broken licensing regime.

The most essential pillar of a successful legislative campaign for music is an engaged artist and songwriting community. I was reminded and amazed by the singular power and credibility of artists and songwriters. When they speak, people — fans and policymakers — listen. That is in part because they are masterful storytellers, both in prose and in recording. Music captivates and enriches us in ways unlike any other creative means. When the voices behind those songs and recordings speak out, as they did here in social media posts, op-eds, ads and calls to Members of Congress, they are a powerful force for change. We saw it firsthand with the advocacy behind the Music Modernization Act. To the thousands of artists and songwriters who spent countless time advocating for change, we are deeply grateful.

We also understand that no matter how credibly or passionately we make our case, nothing happens without the investment and commitment of those who actually write our laws. We all owe an enormous debt to Representatives Goodlatte, Nadler, Collins, Issa, and Jeffries, and to Senators Hatch, Alexander, Grassley, Graham, Feinstein, Coons, Kennedy and Whitehouse. They stood with us, took arrows on our behalf, and helped guide and broker necessary agreements.

I walk away from this experience both humbled and inspired. Big consequential things are hard and take time. I feel privileged to help represent music in Washington. We can do great things when we respect each other and speak with one voice. And the best is yet to come.

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