Songwriting organizations take to the Senate for better pay from streaming

songwriters streaming services court battle songwritercourtbattle
Eduardo Ramirez Sanchez/Shutterstock.com

As streaming music services have increasingly become the norm, many claim songwriters have gotten the short end of the royalty stick. Now, two of the bodies that represent songwriters are in a court battle to get songwriters the payment they deserve.

The top two American organizations responsible for collecting paying songwriters’ royalties, the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), went before a Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust panel claiming the current method for calculating songwriter royalties is unfair.

It’s worth noting that the music copyright of a song, and its corresponding royalty payment, is divided between two parties: the songwriters and the performers. While the songwriters and the performers are sometimes the same people (or group), they often aren’t. Many top 40 pop songs, for instance, are often written by professional songwriters and then passed off to a different (much more well-known) recording artist. ASCAP and BMI are responsible for collecting and paying songwriters’ royalties for music played in bars and restaurants, on TV, radio and streaming services.

It’s the last category that has become a sticking point, as multiple parties have complained the current payment system for streaming services is improperly compensating those responsible for writing the top hits of today.

To illustrate the disparity in the current system, Lee Thomas Miller, president of the Nashville Songwriters Assn. International, and a songwriter, gave a face to the issue, telling the Committee he’d received a sixth portion of just $7,000 for co-penning a No. 1 hit by Tim McGraw (via National Law Journal).

“The use of music has increased exponentially, but the payments have not followed,” said ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews to the Senate earlier this month (via Hip Hop DX).

In particular, the organizations are arguing to revise antitrust consent decrees, a system originally established in 1941 that hasn’t been revised since 2001 (for ASCAP) and 1994 (for BMI).

“New and innovative market players require experimentation and novel approaches to music licensing and yet the consent decrees restricts our ability to adapt because it is still stuck in 1941,” continued Williams.

Opposing the songwriters in this battle are the National Association of Broadcasters and streaming services, who are worried that paying songwriters more will effect their bottom line.

It’s an ongoing battle, and the ramifications are massive for both songwriters and streaming services, which are in an ongoing battle themselves to determine the best business model.

Apple announced earlier this month that the company’s new Beats-powered iTunes streaming service will launch in June; Spotify still claims it needs to add 10s of millions of paid users to bring royalty payments up to a more fair standard, while getting backlash from labels about its free service; and Pandora is involved in its own court battle with BMI over royalty rates, a first in its history according to Forbes.

It’s a volatile time in the streaming music business and the latest review of the system has the potential to shake things up even more. We’ll keep you updated.

Movies & TV

The Mandalorian snags Taika Waititi as the voice of a classic Star Wars villain

The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service, will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in several genres for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Gaming

Here’s all the news from the Google Stadia GDC presentation

Google announced its new game streaming service Stadia during GDC 2019. Here is all the news from the event, including news on YouTube streaming and quickly accessing your favorite new games.
Movies & TV

Netflix confirms it won’t be a part of Apple’s new video-streaming service

Netflix has confirmed that subscribers to Apple's new video streaming service won't have the option to view Netflix content on it. Apple is set to unveil its new TV service next week.
Home Theater

SoundCloud hopes to add listeners with 50 percent discount for students

SoundCloud launched a student discount for it's top-tier SoundCloud Go+ membership, dropping the price to just $5 a month. It's a good deal for students, but will it be enough to keep the music platform from going under?
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation.
Home Theater

iPhone owners can finally hear the highest-quality streaming music on Tidal

If you're an iPhone owner who is after the highest possible audio quality from your streaming library, you now have the best option out there: Tidal's Masters Quality Audio (MQA) is now available on iOS.
Home Theater

Get loud with the best outdoor speakers to rock your party in any weather

From rugged, solar-powered backwoods listening companions to floating pool party jam boxes, the best outdoor speakers partner with your lifestyle to let you listen to your favorite tunes wherever you go.
Music

Apple Music offers a few subscription options. We break them down here

Competition for music streaming apps is quickly dwindling with giants like Apple Music and Spotify dominating most of the market? But how much does Apple Music cost and what does a subscription to the music-streaming platform entail?
Home Theater

If you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, you now get Hulu for free

Spotify Premium subscribers have yet another reason to love the Swedish streaming service, with the company now offering ad-free Hulu accounts to all premium users at no additional cost.
Music

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Home Theater

Apple Music completes its Amazon migration, is now available on Fire TV

Amazon's popular Fire TV devices are now compatible with the most popular on-demand music streaming service in the United States, thanks to a new integration with Apple Music that has finally hit Fire TV devices.
Emerging Tech

This streaming music service pays artists in Bitcoin, plants trees if you listen

Feedbands is an environmentally friendly subscription streaming music service that pays its artists in Bitcoin, and plants trees in exchange for authenticated listens from customers.