On November 20, 2015, Future of Music Coalition filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division in their request for comments on the matter of “fractional licensing” of musical works for public performance. This inquiry is part of the DOJ’s examination of the ASCAP / BMI consent decrees, which could result in a change to the rules that govern how songs are licensed to all forms of radio.
Chief, Litigation III Section
U.S. Department of Justice
450 5th Street NW, Suite 4000
Washington, DC 20001
To David C. Kully, Chief, Litigation III Section:
Future of Music Coalition (FMC) appreciates the opportunity to submit the following comments regarding the Antitrust Consent Decrees for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). Our views on the issue of 100 percent licensing are informed by consultation with the vocational songwriters, performing songwriters and independent publishers who comprise our community. read more
In order for ASCAP and BMI to effectively compete with SESAC and to most efficiently service their members, their licensees and the general public, the Consent Decrees need modification. First, ASCAP and BMI must be permitted to allow the partial withdrawal of rights by its members, particularly its publisher members. The Consent Decrees have to date been construed to allow publisher members to either use ASCAP or BMI for ALL of their performance rights or for NONE. See Broadcast Music, Inc. V. Pandora Media, Inc. 13 CIV. 4037 (LLS), 2013 WL 6697788 (S.D.N.Y. Dec 19, 2013); see also ASCAP-BMI Consent DecreesFuture of Music Coalition (October 3, 2014).
WASHINGTON — After years of hanging their heads or sitting on the sidelines as disruptive digital forces chipped away at the music industry’s bottom line, working-class musicians and songwriters are starting to embrace the power of banding together and agitating for change, whether it’s engaging lawmakers to influence policy or joining coalitions that will fight for their interests. At the Future of Music Coaltion’s 15th annual Music Policy Summit here, the unofficial theme that emerged was a need to organize and rally to bring about real changes in the way musicians and songwriters are compensated in an evolving industry. read more
Is the idea that musicians should be allowed to participate fully in our country’s economy unrealistic? I hope not; though—barring the introduction of a completely new economy that treats musicians as valuable members of society—I believe it will require a sea change. We will need to demystify the music industry and the nitty gritty of what it means to be a professional musician. We need: read more
As a result of the consent decrees, performers are typically paid much more than songwriters. That’s because performers are paid on an entirely different system, one based on direct deals negotiated between labels and the streaming services. Here’s a chart breaking down royalty splits by tech blogger Michael DeGusta for the ‘90s song “Low” by the band Cracker; you can see how small the slice has become for songwriters (in green).
Casey Rae, a musician and the CEO of advocacy group The Future of Music Coalition, describes the info here as “quite solid.” read more
And just as there are more avenues for consumers to pay for creative work, there are more ways to be compensated for making that work. Think of that signature flourish of 2000s-era television artistry: the exquisitely curated (and usually obscure) song that signals the transition from final shot to the rolling credits. Having a track featured during the credits of ‘‘Girls’’ or ‘‘Breaking Bad’’ or ‘‘True Blood’’ can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to a songwriter. (Before that point, the idea of licensing a popular song for the credits of a television series was almost unheard-of.) Video-game budgets pay for actors, composers, writers and song licenses.
The idea of so-called compulsory licensing has been getting attention lately, because songwriters feel they’re being underpaid for their work. But having compulsory licensing makes the music business more efficient and serves a social good, according to Casey Rae of the Future of Music Coalition. “After all, what would the world be like if Patsy Cline had never recorded ‘Crazy’ by Willie Nelson,” he writes in a blog post.
There are a number of reasons for the inaccessibility of this information, one of which is the frequent sale of individual works and entire catalogs and the infrequent recordation of these sales. Further, in recent years there has been a proliferation, particularly in pop music, of songs with many writers, each of whom generally owns a share of the work, making it difficult for potential licensees without great knowledge of music licensing to determine whose permission they need for a certain use. The Future of Music Coalition illustrated this point using a hit song by Flo Rida that had 13 writers who were represented by a total of 17 publishers.
With the many headlines that have been seen over the past couple years regarding streaming services and artist revenue-related topics, even the casual music fan and average U.S. citizen may have begun to wonder what is going on behind-the-scenes of the music business as it relates to these topics. […]
Kristin Thomson, the Co-Director of the US-based non-profit Future of Music Coalition’s Artist Revenue Streams research project, has shared her perspective as representative of FMC which has covered the measure in depth: read more