Thank you, Steven Tyler. We’re so glad you were able to come to an equitable resolution with the Trump campaign on the use of your song “Dream On.” Instead of allowing a public disagreement between you and Donald Trump to become yet another celebrity flame war, you elevated the conversation - above politics and fame - and focused your spotlight on an issue that matters not only to you, but to many thousands of working songwriters and composers around the country.
Thank you for including us, the Songwriters of North America (SONA), in this conversation.
We communicate better in lyrics and chords than in public statements, but we need to make sure that voices of all songwriters are heard and that we are inclusive. Songwriters are the most vulnerable group of creators in the industry because we work behind the scenes and not all of us are recording artists, producers, or touring musicians and royalties are our primary source of income. We are a very diverse community- we include many women, people of color, native Spanish speakers, people under 25, and members of the LGBT community. We ALL need to represent!
We, the songwriters are the behind-the-scenes craftspeople who write the songs and compose the scores which end up becoming the soundtracks to so many daily lives. And if we are to survive, we are going to need some changes in the laws and other government regulations that dictate how we are paid and how our songs are used.
Specifically, we need the Department of Justice to modify the consent decrees which govern ASCAP and BMI. We need these modifications to allow us to co-exist in this new marketplace. The consent decrees have not been updated since the iPod was developed! As we saw this week, political campaignsobtain public performance licenses from ASCAP and BMI which gives the campaign full use of all songs in ASCAP’s and BMI’s repertoire, even if the songwriters do not agree with the use of their music in connection with the campaign or that particular candidate. The consent decrees do not allow songwriters and publishers to negotiate in a free market or give them the ability to say “no.” In addition, the consent decrees require “rate courts” to set the rates for public performance licenses. These rate courts are slow, expensive, outdated, and ineffective.
Better rates for songwriters - as Steven Tyler stated, seventy five percent of songwriters’ income in the U.S. is regulated by the government through consent decrees, rate courts, and the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB). A current bill in Congress is the Songwriter Equity Act (SEA). If the SEA is passed it would allow rate courts to consider more relevant evidence in setting rates for use of songs and it would give the rate courts the ability to set rates closer to fair market value. The SEA also requires the CRB to consider the fair market value of mechanical licenses when rate setting.
Modernization of the U.S. Copyright Office. The Copyright Office, currently housed within the Library of Congress, does not have a policy making seat at the table like the Patent and Trademark Office and it needs to be its own independent agency with a secure IT system and a global data base. For more information on this go to http://hudson.org/research/11772-a-21st-century-copyright-office-the-conservative-case-for-reform
Thank you again for the attention that’s been brought our way! We hope that the momentum created by Steven Tyler’s efforts is carried forward to create meaningful changes on congressional and regulatory levels, which would allow us to continue to do what we do for a living - create music - well into the digital future. Songwriters need to mobilize!
If you’re a full-time working songwriter, here are some local and national songwriter based organizations you can join to get involved:
Songwriters of North America (SONA). www.wearesona.com
The Nashville Songwriters Alliance International (NSAI). http://www.nashvillesongwriters.com/about-nsai
The Council of Music Creators www.councilofmusiccreators.org.