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Senate Introduces Music Modernization Act

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) today introduced the Music Modernization Act. The fact that the Senate bill, S.2823, is virtually identical to HR 5477 – the House MMA bill passed unanimously on April 25 – signals all systems go for smooth passage and an update to music laws that the industry has been laboring to update for the past decade.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee and has been scheduled for hearing Tuesday.

Having opposed the House version, background music company Music Choice as well as SiriusXM are those expected to oppose Senate passage, but they are among a small minority; the industry overwhelmingly supports the bill Hatch called “crucially important” earlier this year, stating, “our music licensing laws are convoluted, out-of-date, and don’t reward songwriters fairly for their work. They’ve also failed to keep up with recent, rapid changes in how Americans purchase and listen to music.”

The industry applauded this latest move to update the nation’s music laws. “That the Senate has wisely decided to import the version of the bill that passed the House 415-0 is a strong signal that this bill has achieved the necessary support and consensus in the Senate to have a similar path of passing with a very large margin,” Israelite told Variety, noting there has been no serious opposition among senators.

As in the House, the new Senate bill combines three separate pieces of legislation:

– The Music Modernization Act of 2018, S.2334, introduced by Hatch and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in January, which updates licensing and royalties as pertains to streaming.

– The CLASSICS Act (or Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act), introduced in February by Chris Coons (D-DE) and John Kennedy (R-LA) to ensure that songwriters and artists receive royalties on pre-1972 songs.

– The AMP Act  (or Allocation for Music Producers Act), introduced in March by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley(R-LA) and ranking committee member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA.) with the support of and Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

“This is exactly what we were hoping they would do,” Israelite said of the Senate move. “In this case everybody recognizes that this is a complicated bill and so late in Congress – this is an election year – Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Hatch were very smart to make the decision [to adopt the House bill].

The fact that the bill was introduced prior to the scheduled hearing is also seen as a fast-tracking move. The Senate bill is expected to go into markup and get the full Senate vote next month, and then on the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“The introduction of the comprehensive MMA in the Senate before the hearing is an important step to ensure all music creators are treated fairly in the law. Songwriters, performers and producers are grateful to Senator Hatch for his leadership,” Recording Academy chief industry, government and member relations officer Daryl Friedman told Variety.

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said, “After a unanimous vote to pass the MMA in the House, we are thrilled to see such ardent, bipartisan support for music creators in the Senate. This legislation is critical to ensuring songwriters have a pathway to fair compensation so they can sustain their livelihoods and create the next great songs. We applaud the leadership of fellow songwriter Senator Hatch, along with Senators Alexander and Whitehouse, for spearheading this effort in the Senate and to Chairman Grassley and all other co-sponsors for being champions of American songwriters. We look forward to the Senate’s vote and eventual passage of the MMA.”

Mike O’Neill, BMI. President & CEO, said: “BMI applauds the introduction today, by Senators Hatch and Grassley, of the Music Modernization Act. This legislation represents an unprecedented collaboration among music creators and users, and represents an historic opportunity to make meaningful music licensing reform which will benefit America’s creative communities.”

Hatch is a composer and member of ASCAP, with ditties like “The Answer’s Not in Washington” (“…We legislate, we demonstrate, but when all is said and done, the answer’s not in Washington”) and the love ballad “Everything and More,” recorded by country artist Billy Gilman on his 2005 album. Hatch, like his counterpart House MMA champion Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), has announced he will retire at the end of this session, making the Music Modernization Act initiative a swansong for both men.

“On behalf of the 150,000-plus music creators represented by SoundExchange, we are grateful to Senator Hatch for building this consensus legislative package that will benefit the entire music ecosystem,” SoundExchange president and CEO Michael Huppe said in a statement. “Taken together, the elements of this legislation will strengthen and protect the rights and interests of creators — the artists, songwriters and producers whose music enriches our lives – and it will improve engagement between the creative community and the digital services whose businesses rely on their work. We look forward to working with the sponsors and the entire community of stakeholders that built accord on this package to make it law.”

“We are songwriters and we strongly support the passage of the Music Modernization Act introduced yesterday by music creator champion Senator Orrin Hatch which will streamline the licensing of our songs and give us fairer royalty rates,” said Michelle Lewis, co-executive director of Songwriters of North America (SONA) advocates for thousands of songwriters, composers, artists, and producers nationally. “The MMA will put an end to the broken system through which songwriters have lost countless dollars and will finally update licensing laws to properly value their work.”

Added Kay Hanley, co-executive director of SONA: “We applaud our leaders in the U.S. Senate — Senators Hatch, Grassley, Whitehouse, and all of the 15 other original cosponsors who have spearheaded this vital effort, and we look forward to working with Senate lawmakers until the nation’s songwriters and music publishers achieve fair marketplace royalty rates in the digital era.”

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