A modified version of the controversial Music Modernization Act is now getting fast-tracked in the Senate, with a new bill circulated Friday evening.
Some shrewd maneuvering is happening on Capitol Hill, with a fast-tracked vote for the Music Modernization Act potentially happening this week. An updated version of the Music Modernization Act was circulated on Friday (September 13th) at roughly 6 pm ET, according to sources to Digital Music News.
The offices of all 100 Senators received the updated bill, as well as a quick one-sheet describing the measure. We’ve included both below.
Our sources have told DMN that a quick vote could happen as quickly as Monday (September 17th), without the typical debate on the Senate floor. The quick review is being made possible by a procedural trick called ‘hotlining,’ which is used to draw a quick vote and bypass normal review processes.
All of which is leaving Sirius XM Satellite Radio with little time to react.
According to an early read of the modified measure, none of Sirius’ demands were factored into the update. Changes demanded by Blackstone Group and Senator Ron Wyden are incorporated, however, among other changes. The CLASSICS Act, which is part of the MMA mega-bill, now appears to enjoy a number of statutes friendly to preservationists as it relates to older recordings, a big focus for Wyden.
But that’s just a cursory review. This is a huge bill, with lots of potential updates and changes reflected in the latest reading. The changes will take hours to thoroughly vet — which might be exactly the point. In fact, by the time we’ve gone through all of the detailed changes, the ‘hotline’ vote may have already occurred!
If successful, the maneuver would shuttle the MMA back towards the House of Representatives, which would approve the modified measure. Then, it’s off to the White House for signature.
But there’s a catch: in order for a bill to successfully ‘hotline,’ all 100 Senators must vote yes on the measure. Among lawmakers, that’s called ‘unanimous consent’. But if there are any serious objections, the fast-track can be scuttled and sent back in line.
At last count, more than 73 senators supported the MMA, and backers of the bill are obviously confident of a unanimous vote.
Sounds like a calculated gamble, and one that could save this bill from dying in the Senate as the clock runs out. But given the midnight maneuver, it’s unclear if Sirius XM will step up their opposition to the measure.
One of the chief complaints from Sirius was the imbalance between royalty requirements for radio platforms.
Specifically, traditional broadcast radio stations will continue to receive an exemption on broadcast recordings, while Sirius will not. That continues to put Sirius at a major competitive disadvantage with traditional radio, with both platforms competing for dashboard listeners.
That suggests that terrestrial radio lobbyists are working Senators to push this latest MMA update, given that it further cements an ongoing imbalance between royalty costs.
Sirius has also demanded that all of its payments to labels be automatically split 50% with artists. That would mirror the way payments are handled via SoundExchange, though so far, there’s no assurance that Sirius’ other payments are making it back to the artists themselves.
Strangely, MMA backers like the National Music Publishers’ Association, Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and other organizations have been totally quiet on this ‘hotline’ attempt. That could suggest an attempt at a midnight workaround, with Sirius and other opponents unable to properly react.
The RIAA rarely responds to inquiries from Digital Music News. The organization’s head of media relations, Jonathan Lamy, recently offered some nasty words towards DMN in communications related to vinyl record specifications, while asking another organization to contact us to demand minor changes in a story. The RIAA has become increasingly active in Music Modernization Act issues, especially during Senate-side discussions.
Typically, hotlines are used for bills that receive little attention and controversy. The MMA, however, doesn’t quite fit that profile.
But the heavy Senator support could prove an antidote to that problem.
Interestingly, the MMA update is tucked into another bill related to nuclear power. Apparently that’s based on budget appropriations, specifically calculated tax burdens from the Congressional Budget Office.
Sneaky stuff — let see if it works!