Songwriters Shunned in New DOJ Ruling

In the ever-evolving world of digital music, revenues decline by the day. Streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music, boast massive swaths of artists catalogues; available at your fingertips via pc or smartphone. The premium subscription price to many of these services is ridiculously cheap. It seems like it’s a game rigged for the convenience of the music listener and, in many ways, it is. That convenience comes at a cost; a massive one for the person that put pen to paper and created the art that many of us enjoy.

department of justice ruling songwriters shunned decibel geek

Songwriters Shunned

The royalty rate due to songwriters through streaming programs is astonishingly low. The musical chairs that the companies and creators have to play has become a tangled mess that has been playing out in the courts. As Decibel Geek podcast discussed last year with hit songwriter Desmond Child (interview available HERE), it’s a sticky situation that looked to be headed for a bleak future for the role of the songwriter. This week’s Department of Justice ruling did nothing to change that.

The DOJ ruled it will not recommend any changes to the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI, but instead plans to enforce 100 percent music licensing. After two long years of discussions, they came back to the two music licensing powerhouses with a decision to do nothing to help the plight of the creator.

Instead, the DOJ told the groups that it interprets their consent decrees to require something called “100 percent licensing.”

Under such a model, the minority owner of a song’s composition copyright may license the song, even if the owner only has a 1 percent stake. Under the current common business practice, ASCAP and BMI negotiate a licensing deal based on their market shares and are only responsible for the songs under their purview. (source. The Tennessean – – original link HERE)

In a nutshell, this is going to affect songwriting, and in particular co-writing, in a major way. “This would create Armageddon in the professional songwriter community,” NSA Executive Director Bart Herbison said. “Since one performing rights society does not hold information on co-writers who are members of other societies, there is no effective way to make sure those co-writers are paid.”

Speculation on Nashille’s Music Row has many believing that the major publishing companies, (Sony, Universal, and Warner) may completely withdraw their rights to licensing to ASCAP and BMI. In essence, a chaotic music industry just got crazier.

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