News & Events

Guest Commentary by Bart Herbison as follow up to The Future of PRO’s (SESAC, ASCAP and BMI)

Both ASCAP and BMI recently announced that they have reached new multi-year licensing deals with the streaming music service Pandora. According to a joint statement from ASCAP and BMI: “These deals create business benefits for Pandora, while modernizing compensation in the U.S. for ASCAP and BMI songwriters and publishers.”

While these deals represent progress (the rates that ASCAP and BMI agreed on and the term of these deals were not announced), this does not change the need for Congress to adopt THE SONGWRITER EQUITY ACT nor does it change the need for the U.S. Department of Justice to make significant changes in the 1941 Consent Decrees that govern ASCAP and BMI rate-setting and licensing procedures. The ASCAP/BMI joint statement references ‘improved rates’ but we strongly suspect that the rates are still not in line with what we believe songwriters should be receiving as a percentage of Pandora’s revenue for use of their songs if the rates were determined by a marketplace standard. Even if the rates were doubled, an individual songwriter still only receives hundreds of dollars for millions of listens on Pandora.

ASCAP and BMI and music publishers who similarly announced new deals with Pandora in recent days should be applauded and absolutely should have negotiated these deals. They all have a responsibility to achieve higher rates for the songwriters they represent.   However, we don’t want Congress or the Dept. of Justice to be misled into thinking incrementally higher rates are enough for songwriters in terms of fair compensation. Songwriters still need the changes we are seeking from the government to eventually achieve completely fair compensation. If Pandora uses these new agreements to diminish those arguments, Congress and DOJ should not be receptive to such a message.

Bart Herbison, Executive Director
Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI)

bart herbison

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