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What Do Songwriters Really Need to Know About the Music Modernization Act (MMA)?

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

There’s a bill working its way through Congress called the Music Modernization Act in the United States that is intended to help make it easier and fairer to do music related business online.

Congress judge

Whether that will be the outcome or not, that’s the stated intention of the bill's supporters including Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, Representative Marsha Blackburn and Jim Cooper of Tennessee and others.

So what do songwriter entrepreneurs need to know about the Music Modernization Act, and what should we keep an eye on?

We need to keep an eye on the bill as it goes through the Senate process to ensure that the original intention of the bill, to help songwriters and publishers to be paid fairly in the digital marketplace, is preserved.

What could be even better than agreeing on paying a living wage for songwriter royalties online?

Perhaps doing away with compulsory licensing and consent decrees all together would be the better outcome for songwriters and music publishers.

Are we ready for that?

Perhaps not, but when you consider the fact that these conventions don’t exist in other places around the world, the strong case that we don’t need them in the United States could be made.

We here at Songpreneurs HQ are not politicians, and therefore do not understand the ins and outs of political debate.

What we do know is that the difference between a physical unit of sale and a digital unit of consumption for the non-performing songwriter is the equivalent of dividing your monthly paycheck by 91.

The potential income for a songwriter/publisher for a million units sold is $91,000. That same amount of consumption on streaming is around $1,000.

Is this a sustainable system? The answer is – no – not for the non-performing songwriter.

Why is this important?

Songpreneurs founder’s dad Kim Williams was a non-performing songwriter who took his family from living on social security and disability checks after his industrial burn accident in 1974, to 20 years later being one of the top 1% of earners in the United States economy by using his ability to write songs professionally even though according to government standards, he was physically disabled.

If Kim Williams began writing songs today, he would not be able to support his family by writing songs.

And thus the world might never know modern classics including “Three Wooden Crosses,” “Papa Loved Mama” and “Ain’t Goin’ Down ‘Till the Sun Comes Up.”

Garth Brooks Kim Williams Larry Williams

Early pic of (l to r) Kim Williams, Garth Brooks, Larry Williams

Is this what we want to happen to our up and coming songwriters? Is the price of genius to be paid through subsidy and the selling of t-shirts?

Or might we be able to account for the living wage required of the modern creative laborer, and do better by them?

Regardless of the current legislation, a few things to consider are:

  1. Buying physical music product (CDs, vinyl, digital downloads) is STILL the only sure way to support songwriters, music publishers, producers, engineers, recording artists, musicians and their teams.

  2. Only accessing music via online or offline streaming is non sustainable for the non-performing songwriter, and thus erodes the local economies of musicians, songwriters and creative laborers, allowing them to be taken advantage of by large moneyed interests

  1. Fighting is a waste of time.Spending time working on mastery, and creating viable, lucrative businesses independently, with a focus on being of service to one’s fellowman is the only recourse for creative artists at this time in the digital economy.

  1. Most viable Internet businesses rely on advertising for their profits, but creative businesses employ their mastery skill sets, build their audiences, and develop relationships with those fans for optimal sustainability.

  1. Songwriting is important and is a cultural contribution to society.We can’t give in to frustration, fear or futility at this time. One person can make a difference, and that person can be you.


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