Oral Arguments Heard Tomorrow in Copyright Royalty Board
Appeal of Songwriters Streaming Mechanical Rate Increase
March 9, 2020
NOTE: Every five years a “Copyright Royalty Board” considers mechanical royalty rates for American songwriters. NSAI participated in the last CRB “trial” resulting in the largest mechanical royalty rate increase in the digital era. Just as songwriters were seeing some cause for optimism, four of the five big streaming companies appealed the verdict. On March 10, 2020 CRB Judges will hear oral arguments in the appeal.
Amazon, Google, Pandora and Spotify are appealing the 44.5% mechanical royalty pay raise which was to take effect in January 2020. Only Apple Music did not participate in the appeal of the CRB rate decision. A decision is expected later this year.
STATEMENT by STEVE BOGARD, President, Nashville Songwriters Assn. International
“Why are some of the world’s largest corporations trying to kill the most significant and long overdue pay raise songwriters have ever received? The answer is simple: GREED.”
NSAI worked for more than 15 years to achieve fair payment for our work from streaming services, including our efforts to help pass the Music Modernization Act. During that time, in their wisdom, the CRB judges granted us a fairer rate at the 2016 CRB trial. Now, streaming services such as Amazon and Spotify want to stop the progress we’ve made. It has been very difficult over the past decade to watch so many of my colleagues, even some songwriter Hall of Fame members, who wrote many of our greatest American songs, end their careers and quit writing because they couldn’t make a living. On a personal level ---even though I am a songwriter who continues to have success—I’ve had to forego vacations and even sell our family home because of diminishing royalties. First Internet piracy devastated my income and then the ridiculously low rates songwriters are paid from streaming added insult to injury. The rate increase we saw in the last CRB decision was a long overdue ray of hope for the songwriting profession in the digital age. Then came the news of the appeal by the digital services--which build their own fortunes on the music we create. It was an affront of monumental proportions.
Spotify and others pretend they care about music and songwriters by staging award presentations and putting up billboards lauding songwriters as ‘Secret Geniuses.’ Ultimately, if they have their way, songwriters won’t only be a secret, they won’t exist at all, especially those of us who don’t also tour and perform as artists. Regardless of what they claim, any streaming company that doesn’t want to pay the creators of their product a fair, hard won, legal royalty is anything but our friend.
I testified during the original CRB proceeding and pointed out the inequity in songwriter/music publisher royalties. I hope the judges will keep in mind my testimony as well as that of fellow songwriters Lee Thomas Miller and Liz Rose when they make their decision on whether we keep this justified royalty increase.”
The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) is the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters trade association. Established in 1967, the membership of more than 5,000 active and professional members spans the United States and foreign countries. NSAI, with more than 100 chapters, is dedicated to protecting the rights of and serving aspiring and professional songwriters in all genres of music. NSAI has been responsible for many advocacy advances for songwriters including creating the first group copyright infringement insurance for songwriters, passing the landmark “Songwriter Capital Gains Tax Equity Act,” and owns The Bluebird Café.