Today, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee held a hearing led by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) (@SenMikeLee) on the consent decrees that govern the music licensing operations of BMI and ASCAP. Titled “How Much for a Song?: The Antitrust Decrees That Govern the Market for Music,” the hearing included testimony from Lee Thomas Miller, BMI songwriter and President of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), who presented a powerful firsthand account of his journey as a music creator and his ardent support for consent decree reform to protect the livelihood of the American songwriter.
Other witnesses included Mike Dowdle, Vice President of Business Affairs and General Counsel for Bonneville International; Jodie Griffin, Senior Staff Attorney for Public Knowledge; Chris Harrison, Vice President of Business Affairs for Pandora Media, Inc.; Beth Matthews, ASCAP CEO; and Matt Pincus, Founder and CEO of SONGS Music Publishing.
Also in attendance on Capitol Hill today were BMI President and CEO Mike O’Neill and BMI Senior Vice President of Global Policy Ann Sweeney.
Commenting on the hearing, O’Neill said:
“We thank BMI songwriter Lee Thomas Miller for his important testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee, highlighting the critical need for consent decree reform. As Lee illustrated, songwriters rely on their royalty payments as their primary source of income, yet outdated restrictions in our current consent decree place severe limitations on their ability to receive fair compensation in today’s digital marketplace. On behalf of Lee and the more than 650,000 songwriters, composers and publishers that BMI represents, we look forward to our ongoing dialogue with the U.S. Department of Justice to bring music licensing into the 21st century. We remain optimistic for a positive outcome.”
This Senate hearing is the latest in a series of positive developments surrounding copyright and regulatory reform: the U.S. Department of Justice continues its comprehensive review of the PRO consent decrees; the U.S. Copyright Office has indicated support for music licensing reform through the findings of its recent study, “Copyright and the Music Marketplace”; and last week, Congress reintroduced the Songwriter Equity Act, which, if passed, would allow BMI’s rate court to consider sound recording rates as benchmarks for musical works and would establish a free market standard for mechanical royalties.