In Support of the Music Modernization Act: Letter from Berklee President Roger H. Brown
Guest post by Roger H. Brown, President of Berklee
I recently sent the following letter to Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey in support of the Music Modernization Act. Berklee, and our Open Music Initiative, are advocating for a creative industry that fairly compensates its artists and empowers them to have successful, sustainable careers.
Dear Senators Warren and Markey,
I’m writing on behalf of Berklee to voice my support for the Music Modernization Act (H.R. 5447, S. 2334 and S. 2823), which unanimously passed the House as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is currently under debate in the Senate.
In close collaboration with MIT, Berklee is the founder and leader of the Open Music Initiative, a Massachusetts-based industry consortium designed to establish open-source protocols for the identification of rights holders in the digital music era. Through our work with Open Music, Berklee has been a thought leader in advocating for a new approach to creators’ rights. Our over 200 members represent an unprecedented cross-industry collaboration between creators, entrepreneurs, and also academic, music business, technology, and policy leaders to resolve longstanding media rights issues. As the world’s preeminent arts institution and founder of Open Music, Berklee advocates for a creative industry that fairly compensates its artists and empowers them to have successful, sustainable careers—the Music Modernization Act will help us move in this direction.
While any policy addressing intellectual property and payment streams in the music industry will be necessarily complex and perhaps imperfect, I feel that this is the most impactful policy the music industry has seen in decades. The Music Modernization Act will benefit artists by:
- Changing the process by which royalties are determined, leading to expected increases in royalty rates for publishers, composers, and songwriters.
- Creating a streamlined, digital process for obtaining licenses and eliminating complexity of finding the rights-holder data.
- Establishing a new blanket license for streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music to obtain the mechanical rights to play songs and to pay songwriters, composers, and publishers for their copyrighted work.
- Establishing the creation of a Mechanical License Collective (MLC), a new centralized licensing entity to be funded by the streaming services, that would issue these blanket licenses and would collect and distribute royalties to all songwriters, composers, and publishers.
- Through the centralized MLC, limiting the liability that streaming services currently face in streaming songs for which they do not have assurance that all licenses have been obtained, thus accelerating innovation.
The Music Modernization Act mandates a public database where rightsholder information for the recording, the composition and lyrics, or publishing for every song would be held, and through which royalties would be matched. We strongly advocate that this public database be built based on Open Music’s open source protocols, which would allow other applications to query and inform the data, thus resulting in increased matching between artists and their royalty payments. This open source approach is particularly important for small, independent, and emerging artists, who do not have an established market share of royalties to fall back on. It will also empower artists to see that their creative content is correctly registered and to track that their royalty payments are being correctly measured and paid.
As an artist-focused, neutral academic institution and as the leader of Open Music, Berklee can play a crucial role in increasing transparency in an industry historically plagued by opaque payments and rights transfers. I would be happy to discuss the bill and our work through Open Music further. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions.
Roger H. Brown