The Music Modernization Act Faces Brand-New Threats from Sirius XM & Music Choice

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The Music Modernization Act (MMA) isn’t out of the woods yet. Now, there are fresh assaults from both Sirius XM Radio and Music Choice to derail the bill.

After a seemingly frictionless glide through the House of Representatives, the Music Modernization Act is struggling with continued turbulence in the Senate.

Just last week, backers of the bill mollified a protest by Blackstone Group, whose mechanical licensing group Harry Fox Agency would be all-but-destroyed by the MMA.  A resolution between the parties called for greater competition for the Mechanical Licensing Collective, which will be created by the MMA, as well as restrictions on the types of licenses the MLC can administer.

Unfortunately, the truce lasted for about three days.

Now, there’s a brand-new attack, and it could be equally problematic.  According to details just shared by the Recording Academy, both Sirius XM Radio and Music Choice are stepping up their efforts to derail the bill.  “Sirius XM and Music Choice recently hired new lobbying firms in an attempt to combat the Music Modernization Act,” a representative at the Academy emailed DMN this morning.

Moments later, the Academy was ringing the alarm with this tweet:

“ATTENTION CREATORS who visit @SiriusXM, they use profits from playing your music to hire new lobbyists to undermine the #MusicModernizationAct.  Let your voice be heard that we as a unified collective #SupportTheMMA”

Just two hours after that, the tweet-storm continued…

“@MusicChoice has hired yet another lobbyist in an effort to block the #MusicModernizationAct. We stand with creators and the rest of our broad industry coalition to #SupportTheMMA.”

Both Sirius and Music Choice are probably unhappy with requirements contained in the CLASSICS portion of the MMA.

The CLASSICS Act has now been packaged into the broader MMA ‘mega-bill,’ though it continues to draw criticism.  Earlier, Sirius XM’s CEO, Jim Meyer, criticized the bill for expanding the royalty requirements for satellite radio without also expanding the requirements for terrestrial radio.

The CLASSICS Act would expand federal protections of sound recordings beyond 1972, which is a cut-off date that currently cuts out a lot of oldies recordings.  But traditional radio stations don’t pay for the broadcast of any sound recordings in the U.S. — for any year, post- or pre-1972.  And this bill does nothing to change that, or the obvious imbalance between the formats.

“During the same period that SiriusXM paid $2.2 billion for its use of post-72 works, terrestrial radio paid them nothing,
Meyer protested earlier this year.  “If Congress truly wants to correct an unfairness in the Copyright Act, terrestrial radio should be subject to the CLASSICS Act just like satellite and internet radio.”

That raises a very prickly issue, with terrestrial radio staunchly opposed to paying any recording royalties.  Fair or not, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is viewed as a powerful protector of the royalty-free arrangement, with considerable muscle to stop any legislation requiring terrestrial stations to pay.

In fact, the powerful NAB lobby is probably the reason why a terrestrial radio royalty requirement has been left out of the MMA.  It’s just not a winnable issue politically.  And frankly, the MMA’s champions are mostly on the publishing side, with NMPA chief David Israelite emerging as a driving force.

This isn’t really Israelite’s fight — but it could bury his fragile alliance.

Separately, the CLASSICS Act is also drawing heavy attacks from the tech sector.

Just recently, Senator Ron Wyden introduced the ACCESS to Recordings Act, which directly challenges the expansive copyright extensions called for by CLASSICS.  ACCESS would normalize all recording copyrights under the same terms, with federal oversight applying equally to every song.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Recording Academy — which hosts the high-profile Grammys — is rallying the troops once again.  “With the SESAC resolution taking place last week, the threat of corporate opposition to bring down the MMA is still alive, but as we saw then, and as we will continue to see, the most powerful tool for the MMA is the music creators themselves,” the Academy emailed.

“We will likely continue to see their activism with this latest announcement regarding Sirius XM and Music Choice.”



2 Responses

  1. Tony Gottlieb

    Perhaps the only group larger than the NAB is the National Conference of State Legislators (NCLS ) and it’s stunning how many of those State pols are wannabe rockers, who just luv rubbing shoulders with their Pre72 childhood heroes after front row seats at the show.
    It’s time for Sirius XM & Music Choice to acknowledge that they don’t care how the music community cuts up the money that they’re paying, they simply don’t want to pay any additional. Consequently, they have the best compromise deal they’re going to get.
    Otherwise, this is going be a state by state copyright licensing “cluster f—-” the likes of which we’ve never seen and which will cost them much more than what they’re currently paying. #SupportTheMMA