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Trump Signs Sweeping New Music Licensing Legislation

The White House ceremony was attended by Kid Rock, Beach Boys' Mike Love and other musicians.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed the Music Modernization Act on Thursday at a White House ceremony.

Kid Rock was among those attending the signing at the Roosevelt Room. Others in the industry had their invites canceled after the ceremony was scaled back because of changes in Trump’s schedule to monitor the devastation of Hurricane Michael in Florida and the continued threat of the storm in Georgia.

The bipartisan act addresses music licensing and royalty legislation, among other issues related to music rights.

“Certain entertainers have been taken advantage of, but no longer, because of Trump, can you believe it?” Trump said at the ceremony, drawing laughs.

Also present were the Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff Baxter, MercyMe, The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, Craig Morgan, John Rich, and Sam Moore. Kanye West was expected to be there, but his name was not called out by Trump at the ceremony. He was scheduled to have lunch at the White House on Thursday afternoon.

No women could be seen in pictures released of the ceremony, even though female advocates like Songwriters of North America’s Kay Hanley, Michelle Lewis and attorney advisor Dina LaPolt played major roles in moving the legislation forward.

After Trump signed the legislation, some of the artists gathered were given time to speak. Love thanked Trump for trying to “help Whitney,” a reference to Whitney Houston. Rock, whose real name is Bob Ritchie, said the president doesn’t always get the credit he deserves.

The legislation includes a number of components, including payments to songwriters and artists for pre-1972 recordings, as well as increased compensation for works played on streaming services.

“The Music Modernization Act is now the law of the land, and thousands of songwriters and artists are better for it. The result is a music market better founded on fair competition and fair pay,” said Mitch Glazier, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America.

“The enactment of this law demonstrates what music creators and digital services can do when we work together collaboratively to advance a mutually beneficial agenda. It’s a great day for music. We hope fans across the country will join with us in celebration and PLAY IT LOUD,” he added.

Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, who was at the ceremony, said, “with the president’s signature today, the Music Modernization Act is officially the law of the land. As we celebrate the harmony and unity that got us here, we applaud the efforts of the thousands of performers, songwriters, and studio professionals who rallied for historic change to ensure all music creators are compensated fairly when their work is used by digital and satellite music services. We thank the members of Congress who championed this issue throughout the past several years to bring music law into the 21st century.”

The legislation passed Congress unanimously last month, as digital streaming services reached agreements and did not actively oppose it.

“This is truly a historic moment for the music industry,” said BMI President and CEO Mike O’Neill. Added ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews: “The power of music is a great unifier.” Other stakeholders and supporters released statements following the ceremony, including the NMPA (National Music Publishers Association) and the AIMP (Association of Independent Music Publishers), among others.

There was no small amount of urgency for the music industry in moving the bill forward, with midterm elections just weeks away.

The legislation actually is a collection of three different bills long sought by the music industry: The provision for pre-1972 recordings, which extends copyright protection to those works; and a streamlined licensing and royalty regime that will lead to increased compensation for artists when their works are played on digital platforms. The legislation also includes a mechanism for producers and engineers to receive payments directly from SoundExchange.

Speaking to Variety following the ceremony, Portnow described the experience as a “very proud day for the Academy and the music industry.” He said that Trump “certainly recognizes the length of time we have spent on the issue, the importance of fairness to our community.” Portnow also noted the presence of a number of attendees from different parties, given the bipartisanship of the bill. He said that it “reflected the importance of the music industry.”

Trump’s lunch with West was scheduled to also include White House senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, as well as football great Jim Brown. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said “the discussion will be centered on President Trump’s historic work to benefit all Americans such as urban revitalization, the creation of Opportunity Zones, new workforce training programs, record highs in African-American employment, the creation of manufacturing jobs, ideas from his meeting with African-American pastors, potential future clemencies, and addressing the massive violent crime surge in Chicago.”

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