Here at Songwriters of North America (SONA), we are all songwriters. What this means is that we are a community of individual small business owners who rely on income derived from the compositions we write and then license to a patchwork of outlets from radio stations to department stores who play our songs. You may be surprised to learn that the value of a songwriter’s work is regulated by the U.S. government and has been for over 75 years. As part of an antitrust settlement in 1941, the U.S. Department Of Justice enacted rules of engagement between songwriters and licensors called “consent decrees”, ostensibly to protect the fledging broadcast industry from price gouging by the dudes who licensed all the music, the performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI. The consent decrees made a lot of sense at the time seeing as the PROs were behaving in a way that was, shall we say, monopoly-ish, but they were certainly not meant as a forever remedy to a temporary market problem. Yet here we are. To this very day, Congress, through the consent decrees sets the rate at which I am compelled to license my songs, which is predictably below market rate because, duh, government. My use of the word “compelled” just then was not decorative. Under ASCAP’s consent decree, I cannot negotiate and I cannot say no. I am literally legally compelled to grant licenses to anyone who asks. One time, I discovered that conservative crybaby Glenn Beck was using a song on his radio show by my band Letters To Cleo and I was all, “Hell, no!” But hey, guess what, SURPRISE! Ain’t my call. Over the years, ASCAP and BMI songwriters have made a fragile peace with the consent decrees, somehow adapting quite well despite... Sign In to Keep Reading
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