A Royal(ty) Pain: Setting Streaming Pay Rates For Songwriters

Bart Herbison, Roger Cook and Senator Lamar Alexander. Photo courtesy of Bart Herbison Bart Herbison, Roger Cook and Senator Lamar Alexander. Photo courtesy of Bart Herbison In the not-too-distant past, countless talented songwriters earned comfortable livings without ever selling a record or performing a note in public. All they had to do was get those songs to someone else who might turn them into hits, thereby assuring a steady flow of “mailbox money.” It’s no secret that the digital era swatted away that status quo like it was a bothersome fly. And the rise of on-demand, subscription-based streaming services such as Apple and Spotify has put a deep dent in royalties paid to songwriters. The National Music Publishers Association and Nashville Songwriters Association International, two organizations involved in the Copyright Royalty Board’s rate-setting review process, are trying to fix that dent. But they’ve been facing resistance from a formidable force: Sony Music Entertainment. Unlike Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, which have stepped away from negotiations to set 2018-to-2022 rates for mechanical, or non-performance, royalties for on-demand song streams, Sony has stayed involved — and has been pushing for a rate the two advocacy groups claim is even less than the current one. NMPA and NSAI say Sony should not even be in these negotiations, that only streaming services and songwriters -- the parties affected -- belong at the table. The Sony umbrella includes Columbia, RCA, Epic, Arista Nashville and other labels representing some of the biggest artists of every genre, from Beyoncé, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and newer acts... Sign In to Keep Reading

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