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Steven Tyler Co-Authors Op-Ed Asking Congress to Fix How Songwriters Are Paid 17 Feb 2018 05:52 PM EST

-by Laura Tucker, Staff Writer; Image: Steven Tyler (Image Source: Mick man34 at English Wikipedia)

We know Steven Tyler as the frontman for Aerosmith, but he's also a songwriter. He and David Israelite have co-authored an op-ed for Billboard where they ask Congress to fix how songwriters are paid with regards to streamed music.

Again, Tyler needs no introduction, but perhaps Israelite does. He's the president of the National Music Publishers Association and was formerly an aide to John Ashcroft, the former Attorney General, and was chairman of the intellectual property task force for the Department of Justice. In other words, he knows his stuff when it comes to music publishing laws.

The two write that "today's songwriters face an uphill battle" and suggest that "if we don't fix how music creators are paid by digital streaming services, we may never hear the great songs of tomorrow."

They go on to discuss the Music Modernization Act (MMA) and explain it is "legislation that has brought everyone to the table like never before and now presents a promising future for songwriters and the digital companies who rely on their work."

Because we now listen to much of our music through streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, "songwriters often aren't seeing the benefits from their work being used to create and promote multi-billion-dollar technology companies. Often, money generated from their songs being streamed doesn't even make it back to them."

But "the bipartisan MMA will fix this by increasing how much songwriters are paid and by creating a system to ensure songwriters receive what they are owed in full from digital music companies."

Tyler and Israelite state that a big problem in the way songwriters are paid is a "lack of information." The digital music companies try to find out who owns each song and then pay them, but many times it doesn't play out, leading to songwriters losing money and many lawsuits being filed.

"The MMA establishes a new central database — run by music publishers and songwriters — which will house all ownership information and, in return for proper payment, allow a service to use any song they'd like," explains the op-ed.

"Better yet, the digital services will pay for this entity in its entirety, so it won't cost songwriters anything — but it will be overseen by creators and copyright owners. This streamlining of payments will make sure songwriters aren't losing money, and if any company continues to infringe or not pay properly, they can be sued by copyright owners just as they can be today."

These two would also like songwriters to be paid fair rates. It's been dictated by law for over 100 years, "not by what's negotiated in the real world or the free market." The MMA would take care of this by having judges look at what songwriters would make if it were in a free market, thereby improving songwriters' earnings for their work.

Additionally, ASCAP and BMI would be allowed to ask for higher rates for the songwriters and publishers.

Twenty music industry organizations have endorsed the MMA, and it's now waiting to be considered by the House Judiciary Committee, run by Chairman Bob Goodlatte. They've met with him and feel he "understands the need for change."

Tyler and Israelite close the op-ed stating, "Songwriters are the unsung heroes of the music industry; what improves their ability to create will improve the entire ecosystem. We need to make the chorus for the MMA so loud that songwriters can no longer be ignored."

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