Hit Songwriters Hit Back at SESAC: ‘Shame on You!’

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“This is the strongest I’ve ever seen the songwriting community” — Ross Golan, hit songwriter, podcaster of ‘And The Writer Is…’

The Music Modernization Act recently passed the House by a 415-0 vote.  It looked as if it was on its way to an easy victory in the Senate to FINALLY update archaic laws that were written over 100 years ago that govern how artists and songwriters get paid today. The bill is far from perfect, but it’s a solid step in the right direction.  It’s the first piece of legislation that has been agreed upon by all the major DSPs (Spotify, Amazon, Google, Apple) publishers, labels, artists and songwriters.

Only one major problem. An amendment was slipped in, last minute, by the Performing Rights Organization SESAC that threatens to derail the entire bill.  SESAC, which supposedly represents songwriters and publishers is owned by Blackstone, a financial investment firm.  Blackstone also owns Harry Fox Agency (HFA).

+What is the Music Modernization Act and Why Should It Pass

Currently, HFA handles mechanical royalty accounting and payments for many DSPs and publishers.

The Music Modernization Act would essentially make HFA obsolete. So, Blackstone is puppeting SESAC to propose an amendment that would NOT help the songwriters and publishers they claim to represent, but rather HFA who their overlords control.

Ross Golan, songwriter of many hit songs recorded by artists such as Maroon 5, Selena Gomez, Keith Urban, Meghan Trainor, Justin Bieber and Andy Grammer, and host of the wildly popular podcast And the Writer Is… rallied the troops.

Ross has been tweeting and instagramming non-stop the past few days to get SESAC to withdraw their amendment.  And his songwriting friends have stepped up.  En masse.

There has been a barrage of tweets and Instagram posts from some of the biggest stars in music, with the graphic: “I Am a Songwriter. I Support the Music Modernization Act AS IS. Don’t be complacent. Take Action. Tell @SESAC and @Blackstone to withdraw their amendment to the MMA.”

Everyone from Steven Tyler to Maren Morris have voiced their support for the Music Modernization Act AS IS and have had some choice words for SESAC

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HEY MUSIC INDUSTRY ARMY! Swipe through for the graphic that suits you and post with the caption: I am a ________ and I support the #musicmodernizationact as is! @sesac and @blackstone, withdraw your amendment! Send to your writers, managers, publishers, artists, lawyers, friends and family. The bigger the better but every post matters. OUR movement is working!!! Does @sesac and @blackstone think we can’t organize? Do they think we can’t fight as one? Do they think we’re lazy? Hell no! We’re bosses! We’re entrepreneurs! We’re businesses! We’re not letting private equity destroy our future! Let’s GOOOO!!!

SESAC has attempted to save face by posting a full statement on their website and Instagram.

+ SESAC Doubles Down on its MMA Protest: Here’s Their Statement

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But songwriters saw through their BS and mobilized. They went to town on SESAC’s Instagram post.

Maren Morris commented: “Enough. You guys attempting to undercut your own writers’ intelligence by posting these responses is ridiculous. Do the decent thing at least or risk becoming obsolete.”

Little Big Town commented: “Do the right thing @sesac this is shameful.”

Parachute wrote: “Sounds likes it’s time you sit down with @blackstone and explain to them how screwed you’ll be as a company if this amendment stands.”

Rachel Platten stopped by the SESAC page this afternoon with: “I came here to be unbiased and try to see it from your side. But I am also not convinced… songwriters are very intelligent, are you forgetting who you represent? We can easily see through these responses and we understand your real reasons. Please withdraw your amendment to the MMA.”

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Others were more forceful in their rebuke.

Steven Tyler tweeted: “HEY SESAC – GET OFF OUR BOAT! WE ARE ALL SEASICK!!! #sesackillstheMMA”

Jason Isable tweeted: “Hey @sesac the interests of your parent company are destroying any goodwill you have with songwriters. Quit being part of the problem.”

Margo Price tweeted: Something must be done to save the #MusicModernizationAct and protect the rights of songwriters. The greed of the @harryfoxagency & @blackstone will be the demise of the American Songwriter. Shame on you @sesac for not supporting your own.”

I spoke with Ross today as he was boarding a plane to NYC.

I pressed him on some of SESAC’s points about allowing “competition” in the collection process and how I was concerned that the Mechanical Licensing Collective (the proposed organization that will take over accounting, collection and payouts for all mechanical royalties from Harry Fox Agency and Music Reports) is going to be setup by a government organization which, if history proves, could be quite flawed.

SoundExchange, the sound recording performing rights organization setup by the government to collect royalties from non-interactive streams from services like SiriusXM radio, has been far from perfect and the accounting and reporting has been slow at best and criminally incompetent at worst.

+SoundExchange is Screwing Me Out of Money and There’s Nothing I Can Do About It

Ross was unclear about the exact implementation at this stage of the process and directed me to Dina LaPolt, the attorney who has been overseeing the bill, but he did declare:

“We start somewhere and we educate people and we move forward. This is hopefully the first step of many. But this is a massive step…What I am excited about is the idea that songwriters can gain a little bit of strength back.”

What is clear, is that, for the first time in history, songwriters are speaking with one collective voice: Pass the Music Modernization Act. As. Is.


Currently there are 43 Senators who have co-signed the bill (we need 51). If your Senator is listed below, this means they have not yet co-signed it. If you are one of their constituents and would like to ask them to support the bi-partisan bill “as is,” contact them TODAY:


John Barrasso: @SenJohnBarrasso

Richard Burr: @senatorburr

Susan Collins: @SenatorCollins

Tom Cotton: Twitter: @TomCottonAR  – Instagram: @tomcottonar

Mike Enzi: @senatorenzi

Deb Fischer: @senatorfischer

John Hoeven: @SenJohnHoeven

Ron Johnson: Twitter: @SenRonJohnson  – Instagram: @ronjohnsonwi

John McCain: @senjohnmccain

Jerry Moran: Twitter @JerryMoran

Jim Risch: Twitter: SenatorRisch

Mike Rounds: Twitter: @SenatorRounds

Richard Shelby: Twitter: @SenShelby  – Instagram: @shelbyforsenate

Daniel Sullivan: Twitter: @SenDanSullivan – Instagram: @sen_dansulliva


Tammy Baldwin – @senatorbaldwin

Maria Cantwell – Twitter: @SenatorCantwell – Instagram: @senatormariacantwell

Ben Cardin – @senatorcardin

Tom Carper – @senatorcarper

Bob Casey – Twitter: @Bob_Casey – Instagram: @senbobcasey

Joe Donnelly – Twitter: @SenDonnelly – Instagram: @donnellyforindiana

Tammy Duckworth – @senduckworth

Kristen Gillibrand – Twitter: @SenGillibrand – Instagram: @kirstengillibrand

Angus King (Ind but caucuses with D’s) – Twitter: @SenAngusKing – Instagram: @anguskingmaine

Ed Markey – Twitter: @SenMarkey – Instagram: @edmarkey

Robert Menendez – Twitter: @SenatorMenendez

Jeff Merkley – @senjeffmerkley

Chris Murphy – @chrismurphyct

Gary Peters – Twitter: @SenGaryPeters – Instagram: @peters4michigan

Jack Reed – Twitter: @SenJackReed

Bernie Sanders – Twitter: @SenSanders – Instagram: @berniesanders

Chuck Schumer – Twitter: @SenSchumer – Instagram: @chuckschumer

Jeanne Shaheen – Twitter: @SenatorShaheen – Instagram: @jeanneshaheen

Tina Smith – Twitter: @SenTinaSmith – Instagram: @tinasmithmn

Debbie Stabenow – Twitter: @SenStabenow – Instagram: N/A

Jon Tester – @senatorjontester

Tom Udall – @senatortomudall

Mark Warner – Twitter: @MarkWarner – Instagram: @senatorwarner

Elizabeth Warren – @senwarren

Ron Wyden – @ronwyden

9 Responses

  1. Tenn Tux

    That you would even publish the words “criminally incompetent” with regards to SX says more about DMN than it does SX.

    SX is the best deal in the biz — 50/50, NO RECOUP, billions direct to creators, majors don’t dominate the board, not to mention lowest admin fee of all, less than 5%.

    All while enabling broadcasters and colleges — among many others fleeing AM/FM — to be paying, data reporting webcasters. Without SX, webcasts would be like podcasts — infringing and unlicensed, no music revenue attached.

  2. Paul Resnikoff

    I don’t get it, Ari.

    You have personally blasted SoundExchange for extreme incompetence (you even suggest ‘criminal incompetence’ here). Their CEO makes $1MM+ a year for running this. But SoundExchange is widely expected to be the recipient of a no bid contract to run the government-created MLC. Sounds like a great way to keep the ‘criminal incompetence’ going.

    There are many companies that can handle mechanical licensing. Why should the MLC, created by the NMPA and run by SoundExchange, get a monopoly?

    • Ari Herstand

      One word: transparency.

      Even though SoundExchange, at one point in time, wasn’t accounting or paying out properly, their database was searchable. So when I searched it I found all of the discrepancies. And eventually they all got fixed.

      HFA and Music Reports don’t have any transparency. I have no idea if what I’m being paid is accurate. And there really isn’t any audit rights. I actually received an NOI from HFA for a song I didn’t even write! But it had me listed as the writer and would probably have started sending me checks for the song had I not informed them of their error.

      HFA is wildly incompetent and has been for years. But it’s not completely their fault. The law is totally broken. Requiring DSPs send out NOIs for every song they have in their catalog is completely unworkable and unsustainable. Frankly, impossible.

      Written into this bill is the requirement for transparency. And it will get rid of the outdated NOI requirement. No longer will the DSPs get sued for not complying with an impossible requirement.

      Not to mention that this amendment SESAC /Blackstone/HFA has proposed wants to strip off an additional 16% from songwriter royalties.

      Is it perfect from the get go? No. But it’s a great step. And it’s offering transparency – which is a hell of a lot more than our current system does. And (nearly) everyone agrees! If it’s MMA or our current broken-ass system, I choose MMA.

      • Paul Resnikoff

        Ari, I’m really wondering: have you even read the amendment?

        Obviously there are different takes here. My perspective is that the government should step in to fix problems that the private market cannot. Instead, Blackstone feels that this is replacing the private market to benefit the top 1%, and pick winners and losers.

        • Ned T.

          It frightens me that you believe the government should ever step into the private market, It will fix itself.

          Got socialism? I guess so….

          • Oh we know

            The market will fix itself yeah we know. Just like it did LAST TIME

  3. Dallin

    Thank you for this article. I after reading Paul’s two pieces against the MMA I was losing faith that DMN might not be an unbiased news source and had been bought by the Blackstone propaganda machine. If the MMA doesn’t pass within this term that will be a true failure by all involved in the music industry. Don’t let SESAC, which has never represented the songwriters that make up the backbone of music since they are an invitation only club for hitmakers representing less than 10% of the industry, derail this bill. Thanks!

  4. Angelito

    I just hate dealing with SESAC on any level.

    Every single time I work on licensing with SESAC, I experience snarky jerkwads. I never tell writers to consider SESAC.

  5. Malcolm FleX

    “Ross was unclear about the exact implementation at this stage of the process and directed me to Dina LaPolt, the attorney who has been overseeing the bill, but he did declare”


    I’m so emotional and caught up in being the leader of a movement that I havent taken the time to actually ask myself if having ONE organization with no competition overseeing mechanicals is really a good thing, and since my only real skill is my ability to rally other uniformed people that this is a good idea and to attack the “boogie man” with me I’m going to now direct you to someone actually informed on the issue.