Update royalty rates for songwriters, composers and publishers

Growing up, few things influenced the people we would become more than music. Regardless of our age, music has made an indelible impact on our lives. What few think about, when dancing and singing along to “my prom song,” “our wedding song” or “my personal anthem,” is that these defining songs started with a man or woman, building these songs line by line, chord by chord. The end result is a song that becomes ingrained in our culture and lives.  

Musical genres have evolved over the years, developing into new and exciting sounds that keep us singing. By contrast, the rules in place to protect the writers who authored and composed these monumental songs were developed when push-button radio dials and 8-track tapes were considered cutting edge in the United States – some 50 years ago.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Copyright Office and Congress have each initiated hearings, proceedings or regional roundtable discussions to review the antiquated rules governing compensation for songwriters, composers and publishers. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet is discussing the topic at a hearing today. The Songwriter Equity Act of 2014 has also been introduced in both chambers of Congress.

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) supports these efforts and the swift adoption of new regulations that reflect today’s evolving multi-media and increasingly digital environment while continuing to encourage the growth of music and songwriting. 

Since our founding 75 years ago, BMI has represented the voices of hundreds of thousands American songwriters – helping, nurturing and honoring them so their music can be heard. We have supported and fostered the relationship between art and commerce, and assist aspiring songwriters through workshops, showcases and our website while offering diverse, award-winning content to our licensees.

It is BMI’s responsibility to ensure that our songwriters, composers and publishers are appropriately and fairly compensated whenever and wherever their works are played in public – not just in bars, restaurants, health clubs, and on radio, TV and cable networks, among other businesses, but across newer digital platforms such as Pandora, Spotify and Rhapsody.  

There are four changes to BMI’s consent decree that would benefit songwriters – and those who enjoy their music.

  • First, publishers should have flexibility to decide when they can choose to use BMI to license their works, and when they can license those works by themselves without BMI’s involvement.
  • Second, BMI should be allowed to license not just the performing right, but also any right that our business customers need to bring music to consumers. Online businesses often need multiple rights; BMI is well positioned to provide a “one-stop shop” – a single destination where businesses can secure every right they need.
  • Third, BMI’s rate court should be modernized to a model that is faster, less expensive and more market-responsive for all parties.
  • Finally, consent decrees should sunset when the basis for the decree no longer exists. As BMI’s relative strength in the marketplace is reduced by many new participants competing with BMI, we should be allowed to operate on behalf of our writers and publishers on the same terms as our competitors do. 

We believe songwriters will continue to entertain, inspire and define generations to come. We want to make it easy for everyone to embrace and appreciate our writers’ music. By modernizing our rules, and coupling brilliant innovation with inspiring creativity, we can make it happen.

O’Neill is chief executive officer for Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI).