U.S. Department of Justice
50 5th Street NW, Suite 4000
Washington, DC 20001
We are writing to you today as a group of deeply concerned American songwriters. We come to you independently of any representation by record labels, music publishers, performance rights organizations, or streaming media services. We are simply middle class, small business owners—raising families, paying mortgages, saving for our children’s college educations—who are alarmed by shrinking incomes in the face of a music business that is generating higher profits than ever before. Collectively we have written some of the country’s, and the world’s, biggest hit songs, yet many of us are experiencing an increasing struggle to make a living and wonder how long we will be able to maintain our full-time songwriting careers.
We have come together to address legislation pending before Congress and decisions being made by the DOJ. It has come to our attention that the DOJ is presently reviewing the consent decrees regulating ASCAP and BMI, which directly affect license rates for performance rights licenses, a substantial portion (and for many songwriters, the primary source) of our income. How your office rules on this issue will have major ramifications for the value of our work and future livelihoods.
As music consumption moves from CD sales and terrestrial radio to digital downloads, satellite radio, and streaming media, abysmal new royalty rates, set by understaffed and seemingly biased rate courts, are already having a direct and harmful impact on our community. We are now looking at a new environment where our copyrights are continually and exponentially declining in value and our ability to write songs for a living is under serious threat.
Press reports have indicated that the DOJ might recommend allowing publishers to partially withdraw from the PROs; allowing the PROs to bundle mechanical rights with performance rights; and implementing interim rates for digital services during negotiations with PROs, with time limits incentivizing them to negotiate in good faith. We would be thrilled to see these changes, as well as big improvements in the rate court system, if not the rate courts’ elimination altogether in favor of arbitration. The rate courts are slow, expensive, outdated, ineffective, and do not help songwriters.
You absolutely must consider songwriters’ interests as you make decisions that will affect our future. There is no music business without the songs themselves, and if the industry continues down its current path, our country is at a high risk of losing this essential, irreplaceable resource.
We would very much like the opportunity to meet with you in Washington to discuss our concerns and suggestions on these issues, and we would love to hear what you have to say as well. Thank you for taking the time to consider our positions, and we look forward to beginning this dialogue with you.
Kay Hanley, Michelle Lewis, Shelly Peiken, Pam Sheyne, Jack Kugell, Eve Nelson, TJ Stafford, Andrew Rollins, Chris Horvath, Hélène Muddiman, Smidi, Claudia Brant, Erika Taylor, Greg Ogan, Chris Fudurich, Adam Dorn
Songwriters Of North America, Los Angeles Branch