More Bullshit From Nashville Songwriters Association on Consent Decrees

A Nashville songwriter forwarded an email from the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). It concerns the oppressive and likely unconstitutional consent decrees that allow a single judge to (arbitrarily) set songwriter public performance organization royalties. For years the NSAI has claimed to oppose the consent decrees.  Now that the DOJ is seriously considering eliminating the decrees and thus let the market dictate the rates, the NSAI has suddenly decided they like the consent decrees!

“After months and months “reviewing” the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, the U.S. Department of Justice Anti-Trust Division may be winding toward final recommendations on the antiquated decrees imposed during World War II! NSAI, for years an advocate for eliminating or making radical changes in the decrees, took a different position after Congress adopted the Music Modernization Act (MMA) in 2018. The most important changes we wanted to the decrees were made in the MMA. Those were changes as to how the ASCAP and BMI rate courts set digital performance royalties. Now that those judges are required to approximate market value royalties, NSAI has advocated NOT to completely eliminate the decrees.”

Most organizations that purport to represent artists and songwriters are run by folks who are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Thus we’ve seen some stunningly stupid decisions by similar organizations. But this is the stupidest ever.  Why do we need judges to approximate the market value of our songs? And how will they do that? There hasn’t been a free market for performance royalties since WWII.  If the DOJ is willing to let songwriter organizations out of the consent decrees, why don’t we just get out of the consent decrees and let a true “willing seller/willing buyer” market set rate? No approximation needed. Why would an organization that purports to represent songwriters essentially give away songwriters’ fundamental right to price their songs? I am dumbfounded.

To be fair NSAI has an answer. Sort of.

“We instead want to first see how the new rules impact songwriter royalty payments AND because of concern Congress might undo all of the gains from the MMA when they replace the decrees with new copyright laws.”

Oh, I see. Congress has readied some legislation to replace the ad hoc consent decrees with new copyright laws.  And these new laws *might* roll back gains made in the Music Modernization Act.

Bart Herbison is the Executive Director of the NSAI. I assume he wrote or approved the above email. This is so important I want to address him directly now.

Bart:

What the fuck are you smoking? There is no pending legislation. I asked everyone.  DUDE, YOU CAN’T JUST MAKE SHIT UP. This is the most misleading shit ever. What kind of EO of a membership organization makes shit up to scare their members into limiting their rights?

Alright. Maybe that’s too harsh. Maybe what you meant to say is that “eliminating the consent decrees will possibly cause broadcasters to introduce copyright legislation that would gut songwriter pay to benefit some of the most hated corporations in America.”

In the middle of a pandemic.

In the worst financial crisis since the great depression.

I’d like to see them try.

JFC man you are supposed to fight for songwriters. Yet you seem afraid of that fight?  This is your fucking job man. This is what you signed up for. If you can’t do that you need to give up your $275,000 a year salary.  Step aside.  Let a real songwriter advocate run the organization. Songwriters don’t need any more quislings.

 

About Dr. David C Lowery

Platinum selling singer songwriter for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven; platinum selling producer; founder of pitch-a-tent records; founder Sound of Music Studios; platinum selling music publisher; angel investor; digital skeptic; college lecturer and founder of the University of Georgia Terry College Artists' Rights Symposium.