Music Modernization Act back on track following music industry dispute

John Josephson, CEO of SESAC

The Music Modernization Act, which promises to drag the legal framework of the US music business kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, is in good shape.

Last week, it was perhaps less so, after SESAC and its parent company Blackstone requested to make an amendment to the bill – and sparked worry amongst songwriters and publishers.

The for-profit PRO protested against one element of the MMA which stipulates that a single government-mandated entity – called the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) – would issue a blanket mechanical license and handle resultant collections from streaming services.

SESAC attempted to amend this element to ensure that private mechanical licensing orgs could take up some of the responsibility (and the commercial benefit).

It’s no fluke that SESAC is the owner of one of those private organizations, the Harry Fox Agency (HFA).

This, it’s fair to say, kicked up a lot of outcry amongst songwriters and publishers who felt that SESAC’s move might have destabilized the bill just as it’s set to be voted on by the US Senate.

SESAC argued that having a single, government-picked mechanical agency threatened to “create a national monopoly”, adding that “preserving competition will help songwriters”.

Anyway… that’s all water under the bridge now.

A raft of US music organizations, including SESAC, have just announced that a compromise has been reached.

“SESAC has been fighting for songwriters since 1931 and continues to do so with its enthusiastic support of the MMA.”

John Josephson, SESAC (pictured)

No-one’s offering too much detail on what exactly that compromise entails, but we’re told it has to do with administration responsibilities that sit outside of the single mechanical licensing entity.

Main thing is, SESAC’s amendment request is being withdrawn, and everyone seems pretty happy.

SESAC Chairman & CEO John Josephson: “SESAC has been fighting for songwriters since 1931 and continues to do so with its enthusiastic support of the MMA. 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.”

NMPA President & CEO David Israelite: “We are thrilled that we have mutually agreed on a path forward. We are stronger when our music family speaks with one voice and this agreement will allow us to come together to work towards the passage of the MMA. Songwriters need and deserve this bill. We thank the Senators involved for their leadership and guidance.”

Nashville Songwriters Association International said in a statement: “Reaching consensus within the music industry, on what may be the most important songwriter legislation in history, is a win for American songwriters and the broader music community. We are pleased to have put our differences behind us and support this bill in unanimous harmony. The Nashville Songwriters Association International has been a friend and fan of SESAC’s for decades and that is how our relationship will immediately resume.”

Songwriters of North America Executive Directors Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley: “We are pleased to have come together with our partners SESAC, the NMPA, SONA and NSAI to move forward as a unified music community to support the successful passage and implementation of the much-needed Music Modernization Act. SONA would personally like to thank our partners, the NSAI and songwriter Ross Golan for their efforts and support in mobilizing the songwriter and artist community nationwide.”Music Business Worldwide

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