Two major songwriter organizations are crying foul after the Harry Fox Agency and SESAC proposed changes to the Music Modernization Act that the trade groups believe could scuttle or at least severely weaken the sweeping legislation.
The Nashville Songwriters International Association and the Songwriters of North America are not pleased with changes to the Music Modernization Act proposed by Blackstone, the owners of SESAC and the Harry Fox Agency, that come after months of public support for the bill
"Blackstone, SESAC and Harry Fox have had months to review and suggest changes to this bill, to participate in the process with the rest of the industry in good faith," the Nashville Songwriters International Assn. and the Songwriters of North America charge in a statement. "Their repeated message has been, 'This bill is good for songwriters. We are fine with it.' Now at the last minute they are introducing what is essentially a poison pill. And while representatives of Blackstone claim they do not want to kill this landmark bill, what they are suggesting would do just that. If their proposal becomes part of the bill, NSAI and SONA would no longer be able to support the MMA which we've worked years to achieve."
If major songwriter groups oppose amended bill, others would likely follow; and that could mean the end of much needed legislation that would modernize how songwriters and music publishers are protected and compensated.
What Is Blackstone's End Game?
As it currently stands, the Music Modernization Act (MMA) creates a blanket licence and establishes the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) overseen by a Board that included both publishers and self-published songwriters to administer play data, pay royalties and create a public database of rights holders.
While Harry Fox and others could still compete in an open market, the shift means that at a substantial portion of their business is likely gone.
SESAC and Harry Fox claim other motives:
"SESAC is committed to working towards a version of the Music Modernization Act that retains all of the benefits for writers, publishers and DSPs and which will move music licensing into the 21st Century while supporting a competitive market in music rights administration. We expect that as the Senate continues to work through these issues with input from concerned and well-meaning stakeholders, an appropriate resolution will be reached and the MMA will be passed before the end of the year." Likewise, "Blackstone strongly supports music modernization, and we are confident legislation will be signed into law this year as long as all parties continue working in the same cooperative spirit that has characterized the process so far."
Thus far, there have been no statements from The National Music Publishers Association and other major players.