The Senate passed the Music Modernization Act on Wednesday, making a few minor changes to the House version of the bill, meaning the House will have to give the final approval to the bill before it goes to President Trump to be signed.
It's a big victory for musicians across the country, bringing it one step closer to being law. The Senate was the biggest hurdle, as one senator could have derailed the plan.
Songwriters say the more than 100-year-old copyright laws that allow them to collect royalties are outdated, and make it too difficult to make money in this streaming era.
The new act would give them tools to collect more royalties and have control over payment of those royalties.
"It's the most important piece of legislation in a generation - to help make sure that songwriters are A: paid when their songs are played and B: paid a fair market value," said Sen. Lamar Alexander.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) released a statement on Senate's passing the bill:
“Our state is blessed with a vibrant music industry composed of talented songwriters, skilled musicians, and countless small and large businesses,” said Corker. “However, while the industry has transformed with advances in technology and new platforms providing access to music, we have yet to modernize the way music creators are compensated for their work. This legislation will help improve the music marketplace so that it works not only for consumers but also the people who bring to life the music we enjoy each day. I appreciate the work of Senators Alexander and Hatch on this issue over the years and have been proud to work with them on this effort. I am hopeful the House will act swiftly and send our legislation to the president’s desk to be signed into law.”
Bart Herbison with Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) said that Alexander used a smart tactic to ensure support of the Music Modernization Act in the Senate.
“Senator Alexander said, 'Bart, don’t tell anybody, but I’m going to make a motion Tuesday to name this the Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernization Act.' He is the senior United States Senator, he’s retiring, he’s been there 40 years, and he’s a songwriter. Senator Hatch and Senator Alexander have both written songs. And he said, 'Let somebody try to stop the bill then.' And it passed unanimously.”
Herbison had been working for more than a decade on the Music Modernization act, and there were plenty of bumps along the way, but the passing of this bill will help songwriters for decades to come.
“We have to implement this and we have to plan to utilize it," Herbison explained, adding that it may take a few years for most of the benefits to take effect. "It will take a while, but it’s a tool that will last forever, and it brings us things that we’ve been trying to get for over 100 years.”
Steve Bogard, president of NSAI and a songwriter himself, added that it will eventually make the career of songwriting viable once again.
“It’s very much a long game, but what it means is: Hope," Bogard said. "It means that if a young songwriter comes and he’s choosing between, as I did, between law school and just giving it all up and being a songwriter, that you can say: Yes, it is possible to have a sustainable career over the long haul as a songwriter.”
The House is expected to consider the changes to the bill as early as next week, after which it will be sent to the President for a signature.