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New U.S. Music Modernization Act beneficial for artists and producers

By Thomas Johnson, November 1 2018 —

Imagine this: You’re a young, enterprising musician. Your stage name is super cool — Yung Soggy Cheeseburger or something. Your tireless hours in a windowless studio manifest into the smash-hit of the summer. You’re an overnight success.

You put your mega-hit on Apple Music and it accrues a million plays within the first week. What are you going to do with that paycheque? Are you gonna buy a house? Two houses?

Probably not, since Apple Music streaming royalties are roughly $0.0074 per stream on average. Per one million plays, that’s not even $7,500. For the record, Spotify only pays roughly 60 per cent of that.

It gets worse. If you’re the producer or mixer of a song, you won’t see any reward. Nor will you if the song you wrote or performed was released before 1972. To put that in context, Paul McCartney hasn’t received a penny for the majority of the recordings that made him a legend from streaming.

But no longer.

The United States Senate recently passed the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA), which closes a loophole in the contracts musicians sign with streaming platforms. The act, which received presidential signature on Oct. 11, essentially establishes copyright protection to songwriters, and deservedly so. Originally introduced back in April, it’s an unprecedented leap in ownership rights of intellectual property — it forces billion-dollar enterprises like Spotify, Apple, Amazon and YouTube to give professional creatives more of their rightful due.

Since it was brought to the House of Representatives, the MMA swept through a bureaucratic landscape that is traditionally apathetic to the rights of artists, receiving nearly unanimous bipartisan support, as well as backing from a number of prominent recording artists across every corner of the political landscape, including Mike Love, Jason Mraz and Kid Rock. Even Kanye West joined Donald Trump for a luncheon the day of the signing. The fact that this act — an objectively great, long-overdue improvement to a struggling system — happened during the Trump presidency is proof that every dumpster fire has its silver lining, I suppose.

In the music market where streaming reigns supreme, musicians are usually swindled out of their hard-earned cash. While physical album purchases have begun rising again in recent years, the only viable income for artists, especially burgeoning artists without major-label backing, is ticket and merch sales on tours. But consumers can’t attend every tour, CDs are obsolete and splurging on vinyl is a quick way to find yourself in debt.

For better or worse, streaming is the predominant form of music consumption in today’s age. With the passing of the MMA, at least now you don’t have to feel guilty about it.

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