SEA Change - Music publishers attempt to break the music industry

After record breaking year of royalty payments, ASCAP and BMI demand more… Just because!

Last year, ASCAP and BMI collected more than $2 BILLION, a record-setting amount of royalty payments for songwriters and composers. This is great news for anyone involved in the music industry and those of us who love many different types of music. It should cause us all to be happy knowing that those who write the words and music we love are receiving bigger pay checks as the overall amount of revenue within the music industry increases.

Or are they?

In the face of this unprecedented level of royalties, why are ASCAP and BMI pushing legislation designed to break the very system which has caused this surge in royalty payments?

The Songwriter’s Equity Act (SEA Act) is the creation of ASCAP and BMI with some help by their favored Members of Congress. But there are legitimate questions whether this legislation truly seeks an increase in royalties for composers and songwriters or whether it is simply to compensate for ASCAP and BMI’s own bloated and antiquated systems. Is the goal of this crony legislation to continue to support the bloated bureaucracy which the PROs have built on the backs of the artists they claim to represent?

Music is now accessed via a wider array devices then ever before. Songs are embedded in the background of video games accessed around the globe, playing in the background of every business patrons enter and streaming during practically every online ad. Many of the dedicated streaming music application have been forced into a commercially impractical contract similar to that of indentured servitude.

Each of these avenues for listeners to hear musics is new and constantly evolving. Each must pay royalties for the use of the copyrighted works or face the ready lawsuit with the threat of triple the royalties as damages. Each of these music distributors is minutely monitored by the PROs to insure the proper amount of payments due to the use of those copyrighted works.

But somehow that same transparency isn’t given by the PROs themselves. In a case of “the rich getting richer”, the PROs are regularly audited by the personal lawyers of Taylor Swift and the other rich and famous artists but the same scrutiny is not granted to those who truly depend on their royalty check to pay the rent.

Despite claims of an open system, the PROs have a long history of misleading, even deliberately confusing composers and song writers. Song writers and composers have a widely reported tactic of purposely registering separate copyrights for the same musical work with each of the publishing rights organizations in hope of maximizing their royalty payments and using the PROs themselves as an automatic “self-check” - comparing reports one of PRO against that of another.

Artists often complain that the new digital mobile economy is hurting them, that the ever-evolving music industry is leaving hem behind and they continue to receive less royalties than they should.

Rather than once again attempt to remake the entire royalty system to suit their latest whim, perhaps it would be better if they simply forced their own organization to modernize, to be completely open and transparent?

With the ever-growing power of computer networks, ASCAP and BMI should be able to easily provide a free application for the artists and songwriters allowing them to track their copyrighted works and the number of uses per month. Clarity and transparency would free the independent artist of their ongoing uncertainty and fear. Freedom would allow them to focus on creating the songs we all love and release their PROs from the burden of pursuing wasteful crony legislation in Washington, DC.


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