Music Society

Music Modernization Act: A Brief Synopsis


On September 18, 2018, Congress unanimously passed the Music Modernization Act of 2018, S.2334. The bill received immense support from musicians, their affiliated labels, and from government agencies representing the platforms themselves.

In essence, the Act guarantees that musicians will be rightfully paid for their royalties, without much flexibility for labels to adjust their payments and therefore, receive whatever portion of the revenue they please. In the age of streaming, this issue has been under heated debate and concentrated attention for nearly a decade now.

Labels that represent the artists under the platforms of Spotify, SoundCloud, Pandora, and Apple Music have been placed under responsibility to ensure that their artists are consciously aware and satisfied with the payments they’ve been receiving.

From an article entitled Senate passes Music Modernization Act from The Verge, it concisely states the accommodation. The Act serves to allow musicians to gain access to rights for their music when earning royalties, so there’s no sense of business-to-artist discrimination.

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Although the media may cover the benefactors of the implemented regulation, every good breeds some loss. For every pro, a con is also manifested. This type of Act can be compared to the likes of other regulations of the pervasive workforce.

This is comparable to the likes of the Employee Rights Act of 2017 or the Employment Rights Act of 1996 in the UK. Is it ethical to pay workers higher wages while in turn risk the chance of smaller business unable to afford those requirements, to eventually shut down and lose all potential for the employer and the employees?

This asserts the rights of musicians to receive more freedom for their royalties. Once an artist is signed into a label, they now contain more demanding power, objectively demanding subjective “fair pay,” based on the royalties their art has earned.

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Considering the bill has received untempered support not only from fellow musicians but from many labels themselves, it seems that this integration is wholly just, and is unwilling to waver anytime soon.

This is an essential time period for musicians to get smart and start to focus on what they should be respectively paid. If a major artist receives millions of streams for their newest single, that artist will be expecting a paycheck almost to the same degree of his or her respective label. If a rising musician starts to see his or her numbers elevate in popularity, this will mask an achievable and ethical win for the musician and the representative label.

If only that were true for all labels. I once had a conversation on my way home with an Uber driver who was a struggling label owner trying to make ends meet. He was tirelessly working on his business on the side of supporting his household income and wife driving for a taxi service. The label had a mere handful of artists, by which half of them felt that they weren’t receiving a “fair-pay.”

If asked, how many labels could you name on the top of your head? Perhaps the first ones that came to mind were the top music labels such as G.O.O.D. Music, Interscope, and Def Jam. As these labels were affected by the bill, all affiliates of these labels were proponents of the bill as well.

What about the rest of the labels? The up-and-comers of the music market? The majority of  labels are struggling to even be present in the vast canary of the internet. If not enough listeners purchase, stream, or download their music, they don’t receive the revenue they wish for. If not enough revenue flows in, how can the affiliated artists get their “fair share?”

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Regardless if the Act could be a benefactor or disadvantage for the future of music, it will be interesting to see how this will adjust to the ongoing evolution of the industry. All circumstances aside, the immense amount of support from artists and managers alike really show that artists could be there for one another.

Through a circumstance comes activism, and through activism comes unity. Musicians and consumers alike have come a long way to stop now.

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