Is The Music Modernization Act Stifling Industry Innovation?
When the Music Modernization Act passed, many in the industry were concerned about what impact the legislation might have on the creative sector of the music business. Now, some fear that those fears are being validated.
Guest post by Chris Castle/Max Fergus of Music Tech Solutions
[The chickens are coming home to roost. As I warned before the Music Modernization Act was passed, Title I has big problems. Remember that Title I established the Mechanical Licensing Collective (publishers and songwriters) and the Digital Licensee Coordinator (digital music platforms). It was sold to songwriters on the basis that “the services pay for everything”. We will see how true that ends up being (as the copyright owners have to pay their costs to populate or correct the HFA database which is a massive undertaking). Nobody talked to any DMP startups when the legislation was drafted or when the “administrative assessment” was litigated before the Copyright Royalty Judges. But now startups are getting the bill and they’re not too happy, particularly 115 services that never had to pay for a license other than royalties. I addressed some of this in a 2018 post on MusicTech Solutions that was reposted on Newsmax Finance.]
From: Max Fergus
Date: Tue, Nov 10, 2020 at 11:06 AM
To: LUM Team
A Letter to the Music Industry,
Beware, the future of music is in jeopardy.
The Music Licensing Collective (“MLC”) recently announced that it will begin to regulate the largest major music streaming platforms in 2021. However, this agency, formed behind closed doors between the major labels and streaming services themselves, will only hurt those of us who are actively fighting the unjust practices of the platforms that are being regulated in the first place.
The Music Modernization Act is a “competition killer” set out to destroy the platforms that are trying to create a new tomorrow for independent musicians and stifling current and future innovation within the industry.
We were told when we started our company that the institutions within the music industry were always going to be against us. In fact, many people told us these institutions would do everything in their power to curb innovation to make sure the money stayed where it always has – in the pockets of the major labels and the major music streaming services.
Finally, after 10 years of archaic practices in the music streaming industry, which widened the financial gap between the one percent of the music industry stakeholders and the rest of the starving artists, the Music Modernization Act (“MMA”) was created. At its most basic level, the goal was to take the onus off of major streaming platforms to track and remit royalties generated from these major platforms into the pockets of the right artists/labels in a more timely fashion through a new government-subsidized organization known as the Mechanical Licensing Collective (“MLC”).
Sounds great, right? Wrong. This will set back the music industry for years to come.
Imagine starting a process to MODERNIZE MUSIC and how music is monetized for all artists, yet the only stakeholders the MLC brought in to discuss how the MMA and the MLC would operate are the major streaming platforms and major labels themselves. So, what did they do? They structured the MLC in a way that will save these major corporations millions of dollars while completely neglecting the reason why the law was written in the first place – to oversee the music streaming platforms that have consistently, purposefully and negligently not paid the creators – whose content drives their service – their fair share in a transparent and efficient way.
The MMA was designed to regulate and modernize the practices of “royalty-bearing” music streaming services like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple. Next year, the MLC will open its doors and, as part of its first year of operations, it requires the companies included within the MLC to help pay for “start-up fees.” Companies outside of the largest music streaming companies, such as smaller DSPs and smaller royalty-bearing music streaming platforms, must also share unproportionally in these expenses. Essentially, the MLC and the largest streaming platforms want smaller services to pay more than their fair share for the MLC to oversee and audit the largest players in the music streaming industry…even those services who operate to fix the same problems as the new entity itself.
It gets worse.
LÜM was created to serve a similar foundational mission to these entities – to help guide an industry that needs to better support its creators through innovation. Because of that, we made a choice to not be a part of the traditional recorded music industry. We pay NO royalties and instead have proven that there is a better future. Instead of royalties, LÜM created the first virtual gifting system in a music discovery platform that allows fans to help directly support their favorite independent artists. The result?
Artists on LÜM earn an average of ~6x more per stream than every single other music streaming platform in the U.S.
Just like so many other companies that are trying to advance the music industry, LÜM is now facing an uphill battle against an organization (MLC) that was developed in conjunction with the same stakeholders who put the music industry in this position in the first place. The fees LÜM and other innovative companies are facing, to help fund the MLC, are substantial. Every new innovative company will face them and will provide a financial hurdle that will leave the majority of current and future innovative music startups dead in the water. No new entrants and no new competition mean the industry will stay exactly where it has for the last 15 years – putting money in the pockets of the rich and neglecting those that are trying to change the industry for the better.
We cannot let this happen. Innovation must continue or we face a scary reality for the music industry and the majority of artists and innovators that have been neglected by it.
Max Fergus | Chief Executive Officer
Check out my favorite song on LÜM Here!