The Music Modernization Act (MMA) is looking at a potential roadblock after it was approved unanimously by the US House of Representatives in June.
On July 17, private equity firm Blackstone, which purchased performance rights organization (PRO) SESAC earlier this year, has submitted a proposal citing that MMA advocates say would doom the legislation by “upsetting the fundamental structure of the bill to benefit its private company at the expense of the entire music industry.”
They are claiming the proposal is “motivated by greed and callous disregard for American songwriters.” However, sources familiar with the Harry Fox Agency (HFA), a rights management and collection entity that was bought by SESAC in 2015, say that Blackstone’s proposal would offer a compromise, which would keep all of the elements of the MMA intact while offsetting Senator Ted Cruz’s amendment to create competition for the blanket license.
“It’s not a proposal in good faith. They’ve had well over a year to discuss any changes they wanted to make in this bill. And many times they’ve said, ‘We support it; it’s good for songwriters.’ So to come forth with a proposal that radically alters the bill in this way is just disingenuous and frustrating,” said Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) executive director Bart Herbison.
He continues, “I would add that it’s a bad proposal. It adds layers of duplicate services and costs and is just a non-starter for all of the primary stakeholders who crafted this bill. I hope they will back off from it and that we can move on and pass legislation that’s great for songwriters,” said Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) executive director Bart Herbison.”
In a statement released by NSAI and Songwriters of North America (SONA), the organizations claim that Blackstone and SESAC plan to “disrupt the bill’s progress in the 11th hour” and the attempt to interfere with the MMA appears as a “stall tactic.”
NSAI and SONA have labeled the HFA’s involvement as “an act of greed and callous disregard for American songwriters and recording artists” that uses “their financial and political muscle for their own narrow corporate self-interest.”
MMA advocates claim that Blackstone’s proposal favors SESAC/HFA, and the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) could not be efficient and innovative. MMA say that the right thing to do, “would be for Blackstone, SESAC and Harry Fox to abandon any changes that would disintegrate support for the Music Modernization Act from an unprecedented collection of stakeholders and immediately call for its swift passage. Otherwise, SESAC, Harry Fox Agency and Blackstone will bear responsibility for stopping the most important songwriter legislation in decades.”
If the HFA persists, MMA supporters will pull their support and the bill will die. Read more here.