This week, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., introduced the “Protect Working Musicians Act” which, he insists, “would allow artists and music creators to negotiate fairer rates and terms for the use of their music online.”
Deutch’s office offered some of the reasons and specifics of the proposal.
“Under current laws, small and independent musicians have little ability to bargain for market value rates for the use of their music by giant online streaming platforms. Instead, they must accept whatever terms are offered by platforms that have become essential pathways to reach fans and get heard. While standing alone, independent creators have little power: together, they could negotiate on a more level playing field and meaningfully negotiate fair licensing rates for their work,” Deutch’s office noted. “The Protect Working Musicians Act would empower small independent artists and music creators by: allowing working artists and independent musicians to band together to negotiate with dominant streaming platforms; making clear the antitrust laws are no obstacle to these negotiations; granting working artists and independent musicians the ability to collectively refuse to license their music to a dominant online music distribution platform that refuses to pay market value rates.”
Deutch introduced the bill on Monday.
“Through the pandemic, streaming services became even more indispensable, allowing us to enjoy the music we love, even when live performances were shut down. But with the exponentially increasing market power of a few tech platforms, the voices of independent musicians are getting harder to hear,” said Deutch. “By empowering a more diverse chorus of voices to negotiate fair terms and rates for their music, the Protecting Working Musicians Act recognizes the fundamental value of music and gives working artists a fair shot.”
The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) and the Artist Rights Alliance (ARA) are backing the bill.
“The Protect Working Musicians Act is crucial legislation to make sure that indie music survives as distribution on dominant digital music platforms becomes all the more necessary,” said A2IM President and CEO Dr. Richard James Burgess. “The power imbalance must be addressed by Congress so that creators and independent labels can band together to fight for fair compensation and against anticompetitive schemes that devalue music. Year after year these platforms grow their profits and subscriber bases at astronomical rates while artists struggle, especially in the wake of the pandemic. We thank Representative Deutch for standing up for the premise that artists and creators deserve to make a living wage even if they aren’t a megastar or signed to a major label.”
Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Rosanne Cash is one of the co-chairs of the Artist Rights Alliance and she backed Deutch’s proposal on Monday.
“We are so grateful to have a friend and supporter like Congressman Deutch,” said Cash. “His appreciation for music is evident and his commitment to all musicians gives me hope that we can create a fairer, stronger music economy that works for fans, services, artists, and songwriters alike.”
John McCrea, the singer of alternative rock band Cake, also co-chairs the Artist Rights Alliance.
“The Protect Working Musicians Act is a huge step forward for independent artists and labels, whose livelihoods, at least in part, depend on the revenue generated from the major global streaming giants,” said McCrea.”We must level the playing field for them and boost their streaming payouts. This bill accomplishes that, and empowers them, by using free-market tools to ensure that all artists get fair market value for their work.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, on which Deutch sits. So far, there are no co-sponsors in the U.S. House and no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.