Monday, September 24, 2018

RIAA's Mitch Glazier on the MMA: 'A telling signal of music's role in our culture'

The RIAA, which represents record labels in the US, was one of the organisations at the forefront of the industry's lobbying efforts to pass the Music Modernisation Act. Here, RIAA President Mitch Glazier talks to about the Senate vote, the agreement with SiriusXM and what the bill means for the music community.

RIAA's Mitch Glazier
 Q: What was your state of mind when the MMA got through the Senate with a unanimous vote?
Mitch Glazier:
At that point I was pretty relaxed and reflective (I can’t say the same for an hour before). It kind of felt like Congress was putting the cherry on top of a big milkshake – a perfect focal point to commemorate all of the cooperation and compromise inside that led up to some real common sense changes in the law. Listening to Senators Hatch and Alexander speak on the floor about music and its importance to our country was a proud and validating moment. A unanimous vote in the House and Senate for the value of music is a telling signal of music’s role in our culture, and a positive sign for future issues.

Q: What is the substance of the last minute agreement reached with SiriusXM?
SiriusXM agreed to give up its appeal and request for rehearing of the current rate it pays to artists and labels to play their music (15.5% of their gross revenues), which could have resulted in a reduction of pay, and instead will pay the current rate through 2027, at which point there will be a Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) proceeding under a market-based rate standard. By skipping a CRB in 2022, both sides will save on litigation costs. The compromise gives years of business certainty to SiriusXM, artists and music companies, while creating platform parity and fair competition, eventually moving towards a market-based rate standard for everyone.

Q: You quoted the Grateful Dead in your comments after the MMA passed. What Dead song would fit what's going to happen now? Could it be 'Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)'?
Ha! We were honored the band and Mickey Hart retweeted that quote. Such a cool moment – a good reminder of who and what this is all about. Now that the MMA is almost law, I think a fitting Dead song is one they did with Dylan, 'The Times They Are A Changing'. With a united music community, we have transitioned and public policy is no exception. Who knows what we can accomplish together next?

Major victory for US music industry as Senate passes the Music Modernisation Act

By Emmanuel Legrand
Sen. Lamar Alexander
It was the sound the music industry had been hoping to hear for so long: When on September 18 the speaker of the Senate called for the votes on the Music Modernisation Act, and asked if there were any nays, the answer came in the form of a resounding silence. And then history was made. What Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) described as “the most important piece of legislation in a generation” for songwriters, publishers, recordings artists, music producers and record labels had just passed the Senate hurdle with no less than 82 sponsors, and no opposition, out of a potential 100 Senators, just as it passed the House of Representatives 415-0.

This now sends the text back to the House for reconciliation as the initial draft has been amended by the Senate. Once confirmed by the House, it will eventually end up on the desk for the President of the United States to be signed into law. Rep. Doug Collins, who is one of the two lead co-sponsors of the act in the House tweeted that he was "hopeful that our chamber will send the Music Modernisation Act successfully out of Congress before the next recess."

At the suggestion of Sen. Alexander, the bill will now be known as the Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernisation Act (H.R. 1551), named after the Senator, himself a songwriter, who is retiring from public office after 40 years on the Hill. Sen. Alexander said the bill will ensure that "songwriters in our country are paid and are paid a fair market value for their work."

He added, "It was a very complicated exercise, and it was in doubt until about an hour-and-a-half ago in terms of whether we would be able to do this tonight." Indeed the final couple of days prior to the vote were preceded by dozens of hours of behind-the-doors discussions until the very last minute to broker a deal with opponents to the legislation, primarily with satellite radio service SiriusXM who had the potential to derail the process. The compromise with SiriusXM freezes the rates paid by the service until 2027 (for more on the deal, Billboard has published these detailed reports here and here).

The MMA, which covers various pieces of legislation in a 180-page document, will be "bringing us one step closer to a music licensing framework that reflects how people listen to music today," in the words of Paul Williams, Chairman of the Board and President of ASCAP. The MMA calls for a more modern, market-based rate standard determination, the creation of a new collective to license and administer mechanical rights under a blanket license, a central public database to ease royalty payments from digital services, a new method to set PROs's rates, and "a clear and final determination that digital services must pay for the use of pre-1972 recordings," according to AIMP.

Many industry executives, such as
David Israelite, President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), pointed out that the MMA would have not achieved such a result if all parts of the industry had not been working together to reach the final goal. "This was a long and complex process but ultimately the music industry has come out stronger and more united than ever," said Israelite.

RIAA President Mitch Glazier concurred: "With a united music community, we have transitioned and public policy is no exception. Who knows what we can accomplish together next?"

Industry reactions to the Senate vote on the MMA
The US music industry reacted positively to the unanimous passing of the Music Modernisation Act by the Senate. Here's a sample of the reactions.

> David Israelite, President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA): “The Senate vote marks a true step forward towards fairness for the people at the heart of music who have long been undervalued due to outdated laws.
Now we anxiously await the House’s final approval of the MMA and seeing it signed into law."
> Mitch Glazier, President of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA): “As legendary band the Grateful Dead once said in an iconic pre-1972 song, ‘what a long strange trip it’s been.’ It’s been an epic odyssey, and we’re thrilled to almost be at our destination."
> Chris Harrison, CEO of digital services trade body DiMA: “This milestone for the MMA demonstrates that with bipartisan leadership and a united music industry looking to the future, consumers, creators and copyright owners can all benefit."
> Michael Huppe, President and CEO of SoundExchange: "The future of the music industry got brighter today. Creators of music moved one step closer to getting paid more fairly. And industry forces that fought to maintain an unfair and harmful status quo were rebuffed."
> Elizabeth Matthews, CEO of ASCAP: "Today's unanimous passage of the Music Modernisation Act in the Senate represents a Herculean industry-wide effort to promote and celebrate songwriters and ensure their right to a sustainable livelihood."
> Paul Williams, Chairman of the Board and President of ASCAP: "We urge the House of Representatives to swiftly pass the Senate bill, so the President can sign it into law and music creators can begin to see the benefits of this critical reform."
> The Content Creators Coalition (c3) and MusicAnswers: “We are gratified that our two organisations, in collaboration and independent of other groups, were able to make meaningful contributions to the final legislation, including comprehensive and publicly available audits of the MMA’s new Mechanical Licensing Collective and ensuring that the Collective uses best practices to find the owners of unclaimed royalties."
> Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy: "The passage of the Music Modernisation Act by the Senate is a historic moment for the tens of thousands of music creators across the nation. When creators raise their voices for fairness, they make great progress."
> Martin Bandier, Chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing: "This is a significant victory for all rights holders and we are confident that once the bill goes back to the House it will pass and become law shortly. It will go a long way to ensuring that songwriters and music publishers will be fairly compensated for their contribution to the streaming revolution, which has transformed music into a growth industry once again."
> Chris Israel, Executive Director of musicFIRST: “Through the CLASSICS provision of this bill legacy artists will finally receive the fair compensation they so rightly deserve. Today is a historic day for music creators of all generations and these much-needed reforms will properly value the music that we all love and enjoy well into the future.”
> Michael Eames, President of the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP); Alisa Coleman, AIMP New York Executive Director; and John Ozier, AIMP Nashville Executive Director: “With support from both sides of the political aisle, along with unprecedented cooperation between the music and technology industry, the MMA will be a massive step forward for the independent publishing community and the music industry in general, which has been hamstrung by antiquated copyright laws for far too long.”
> Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid: "The 185 page bill updates the music licensing system and brings it into the digital age, ensuring that music creators across the industry will get paid more equitably for their hard work and creativity. Today’s actions by the Senate demonstrate unprecedented bipartisan support amongst a diversity of stakeholders and industries."