Music Modernization Act: SESAC and Songwriters Compromise – Variety

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The compromise paves the way for the legislation's passage.

Following tension over the Music Modernization Act, performance rights organization SESAC and songwriter groups have reached a compromise that will allow for the legislation’s passage.

On August 2, the performing rights organization in a joint press release with Nashville Songwriters Association International, the National Music Publishers Association, and Songwriters Of North America, stated: “At the encouragement of Senators closely involved in this legislation, all parties came together to agree on outstanding items related to the MMA including the reform of the Section 115 compulsory license and other important related matters. We share a collective responsibility to help ensure that the MMA benefits all stakeholders in the industry and look forward to the Senate’s consideration of the bill.”

Before SESAC’s July 17 proposal, it had been smooth sailing for the MMA, which in June was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee following its passage, also by unanimous vote, in the House of Representatives in May. The legislation aims to improve royalty payments to songwriters, artists and creatives in the digital era. Its next and final step before heading to President Trump for signature is a full Senate vote to consider the act.

At the heart of the issue for SESAC parent company Blackstone was the nearly 100-year-old Harry Fox Agency (HFA), the rights management and collection entity which was bought by SESAC in 2015 for a reported $20 million. The HFA has acted as a hub for administrating and distributing mechanical license fees on behalf of music publishers

The MMA in establishing its proposed Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), to be overseen by a Board of publishers which includes four self-published songwriters, agreed that the MLC will only collect and administer mechanical royalty income from the DSPs and not public performance royalties by PROs ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR.

Says Dina LaPolt, attorney advisor to SONA, in a statement to Variety: “I have been telling everyone for decades that it all starts with a song! See what happens when the creators mobilize with one voice? They made it happen.  Songwriters and music creators can change the world when they mobilize.”

The compromise paves the way to passage of sweeping reforms and aims to better earnings for untold numbers of working songwriters and rights holders.