• Carl Does Music

The Music Modernization Act (Songwriting & Music Publishing)...

Signed by Donald Trump, The Music Modernization Act (MMA) is a step towards giving songwriters (lyric writers and/or music composers) fairer earnings and treatment. According to Billboard, music publishers will be further ensuring that rights owners receive their fair share of monetary profits. These gatekeepers will also oversee how the songs are made available to the public while protecting the service providers (like Spotify and Apple Music) from unfair losses. Rights organizations, like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, will be empowered to negotiate improved terms relative to their music catalog and represented artists. Props to the president, props to lawmakers, props to publishers, PROS and streaming platforms.

A quick lesson on songwriting and rights. When you write, you have rights; you own the “copyrights”. This all falls under “publishing”. The moment you record your original song (or any work really), the copyright is yours, but, legally you have to register that copyright in order to “prove” it’s yours. Note, you do not always have to create the thing you copyright for it to be “yours”. Copyrights are bought, sold, and licensed (given permission to use) all over the universe. A song consists of lyrics and music (lyrics alone are not “music”). A songwriter writes lyrics (making them the author) and composes music (making them the composer). A songwriter can be one person or encompass many people (which in that case means multiple songwriters for one song). Many times a song is simply split between an author and composer (like maybe the entire Maroon 5 composed the music for "Girls Like You" and Adam Levine authored the lyrics) but the arrangement can be split up an infinite number of ways (like two composers receiving 25% credit each and five authors receiving 10% credit each… all combined to equal 100%). Plus, there’s someone that helps “publish” (make public and/or capitalize on) songs. They are known as the publisher and are also entitled to copyrights when in a contract with a songwriter. Lyrics are words and letters. Music is the melody and underlying music (where applicable). Sometimes underlying music is not considered enough to be considered for copyright (like just hitting a cowbell or holding a few bass notes throughout a song).


All of the above relates to the DNA of a song. The other part of a song is more like the body… the final recorded, physical, “mechanical” version (like mp3, sheet music, tape, or CD). That final version being shared throughout the world is referred to as the “master” (though it’s really a copy of the master). A record label or artist usually owns the copyright to their masters, but like songwriting copyrights, everything is relative to the situation. Anytime music is purchased or played on a public medium, the copyright owners are entitled to their respective share of master and publishing royalties. So, when Spotify or Apple Music plays a song, the songwriter, master owner, and publisher are all entitled to payment. The Music Modernization Act is helping to ensure that this whole process goes more smooth and fair.


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© 2020 by Carl Does Music. All rights reserved.

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