The president of the Songwriters Guild of America is in Washington, D.C., this week to push for changes to the Music Modernization Act, which has the support of most songwriting, publishing and digital music stakeholders.
The landmark legislation, introduced in December, would create a new digital mechanical licensing organization, which would be in charge of identifying a composition’s publisher and songwriters to make sure they are paid accurately.
Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music would attain a blanket license, while songwriters would presumably be accurately identified and paid for their work, while also being subject to a new, more favorable royalty rate-setting standard.
But SGA President Rick Carnes raised concerns about the legislation in an interview with The Tennessean this week. Carnes said the new licensing organization, which some in the music industry have dubbed SongExchange, should be, at a minimum, equally run by songwriters and publishers.
Under the current legislation, publishers would have eight of the 10 board seats and self-published songwriters would have two. Carnes said the proposed licensing cooperative should follow the same model as the existing nonprofit SoundExchange, which handles digital licensing for artists and record labels.
“The first thing we did when we got this bill was take it to our sister songwriting organizations across the world. And the first thing we heard was that it should be at least, at the very least, 50-50 on the board,” Carnes said.
Carnes also expressed concern with a component of the legislation to disperse unclaimed royalties after three years. The bill would put the onus on the new organization to identify publishers and songwriters whose songs are used by the streaming services.
If a songwriter cannot be identified and doesn’t step forward to claim royalties after three years, the funds would then be dispersed among existing publishers and songwriters based on their streaming activity.