HITPIECE NFT RIPOFF: What you need to know and what can you do about it.

By now you’ve probably heard of the website HitPiece.com and their outrageous scheme to mint “NFTs” of virtually every song and album in existence. If you have not I suggest you read a pair of excellent articles by Kristin Robinson at Billboard Pro. Here and here.

Founded by serial entrepreneur Rory Felton and investor Jeff Burningham, Hitpiece’s intent was to create NFTs of “every song,” according to the company’s pitch deck. Using Spotify’s API to gather information on artists of all sizes – from developing acts to Beatles members – HitPiece uploaded listings of NFTs from musicians it had never spoken to or partnered with, stating these non-fungible tokens were “available for auction” or “live” auctions. According to HitPiece’s FAQ section, the NFTs were said to operate on HitChain, a private Ethereum side chain which does not provide proof of work.”

If you are not even sure what an NFT is think of it as a sort of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. But there is only one unique token. And this token can be associated with another digital asset, like a digital drawing, photograph, song or tweet. The issue is anyone can do this. Whether they have the rights to the associated file or piece of intellectual property. And that’s exactly where the problem starts.

On Feb 1st my twitter feed began to fill with outraged artists reporting that a website HitPiece.com was offering “NFTs” of their songs. I went and checked and sure enough the website was offering NFTs of virtually every one of my songs and recordings. Now I hadn’t authorized anyone to make NFTs of my songs and recordings and offer them to the public. Nor had I licensed anyone to use my album artwork, trademark, name, likeness or image to use on any products and especially not NFTs. I checked with my former labels on the outside chance they had licensed something but as I suspected they had not. And indeed even recordings which I exclusively hold the rights were on HitPiece.com.

I dug around on the site to see if I could figure out what was going on. Here I found the above paragraph. “Each HitPiece NFT is a One for One NFT for each unique song sound recording.” That sounds like they had minted or intended to mint a NFT of each one of my songs/sound recordings. Without any sort of authorization.

I even found a live auction of one of our tracks. Curiously it is an unreleased/unlicensed live radio broadcast that recently showed up on Spotify. From this I could confirm what I suspected: HitPiece was “scraping” Spotify to auto generate NFTs for every song on the platform. In addition they were sucking in promo photos and album art.

It appeared as if there were hundreds if not thousands of similarly situated artists, as when I went back on social media every artist I follow was posting screenshots of HitPiece NFTs. All of the artists noted (often in profane terms) that they had not authorized HitPiece to offer NFTs to the public. It became a true twitter shitstorm. By the end even civilians on LinkedIn were getting into the act (see above.)

Late that evening the operators of the website, took the website down, or it crashed under the crush of traffic. They later put the website back up with the above note (minus the NFT offerings).

By Friday numerous artists had sent “cease and desist” letters, others were promising lawsuits and even the RIAA announced they were taking action on behalf of their artists. The RIAA letter asks HitPiece to preserve all relevant emails and documents, which is usually a prelude to legal action. And indeed the letter makes reference to a number of violations.

“…copyright infringement (17 U.S.C. § 101), trademark infringement (15 U.S.C. § 1114), federal unfair competition and false representation of affiliation (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)), violations of state and common law rights of publicity, and unfair competition under applicable state law…”

The RIAA also asked HitPiece to permanently close their website and business.

So case closed let’s move on ,right? The big companies with the big lawyers are on the case. No one will ever try this again. Right?

I wouldn’t be so sure. Remember YouTube started out as (and still is) a massive infringer of copyrights. Sure they pay some royalties on some tracks, but at a rate 1/8 to 1/20th that of Apple Music. And now It’s just too big to do anything about it. Do we want the same thing to happen with something like NFTs? The audacity of HitPiece scam is that by promising to mint an NFT of every song they intended to corner the entire market for song NFTs. What if it had worked? We’d have no leverage. We’d be coming hat in hand to them begging for a few pennies like we do with YouTube.

No, the best thing to do is to make an example out of these folks. Bankrupt them. These are not poor hackers living in their parents’ basements. Two are former major label record executives and the other two are wealthy private equity executives (here and here). These folks have A LOT to lose. We should make it so no one ever does business with these folks again. And the best way to do this is not by banding together through the usual copyright class action (although we can do that too), the best way to make their lives miserable is to bury them under a blizzard of individual complaints. Who knows maybe you’ll find a state prosecutor that wants to charge them with a crime. (doesn’t this seem like a criminal fraud?).

Although there is likely a copyright claim if you have registered your artwork, copyright infringement must be adjudicated in federal court. Similarly with Trademark infringement. And over the last two decades congress and the courts have made life pretty easy for anyone infringing copyright and trademark via the internet. The deck is stacked against us. What we really want to do is rely on laws that we can pursue easily in our own states. The RIAA letter helpfully suggests a number of tactics at the state level.

I’m not an attorney and I certainly don’t know the laws in all 50 states, this is just one musician talking about the tactics I intend to investigate and pursue:

Fraud. By any common definition of the term, what HitPiece did was conduct a fraud. The website clearly misleads the public. I didn’t offer my songs up as an NFT for sale. Yet my picture and name is right there. They “palmed off” something as a genuine product that was not. Legally is this fraud? It sure feels like it but I’m not an expert. I intend to complain in person at the local state district attorney’s office.

Rights of publicity. Many states either have a law that recognizes a kind of property right in my own persona. Companies can’t make products or provide a service with my name, likeness or image. If your state doesn’t explicitly provide a statute, it’s likely a state court has recognized a “common law” right. I intend to mention this at the local state district attorney’s office cause it’s a key element of how HitPiece executed their apparent fraud. I may file a separate civil claim against them.

Implied Endorsement. My state may also have a specific law that doesn’t allow others to imply that I endorse their product. Again this is something I will mention at the local state attorney’s office as it’s key to their scheme. I may also file a separate civil claim against them.

Unfair Competition/Deceptive Practices: Most states have these laws. What’s more deceptive and unfair than using my own copyrights,trademarks, name image and likeness to sell a product I didn’t endorse. The principals at HitPiece knew they didn’t have licenses with me. Two had deep experience in the music business managing intellectual property rights They knew what they were doing. Talk to your local state district attorney about this as well.

If hundreds of artists did something similar in dozens of states, we could really make these folks lmiserable.

Now that ‘s just my take as an artist.

Here are some similar suggestions from real attorneys…


More on this later. This is still developing.

Frozen Mechanicals Crisis: 2nd Comment of @helienne @davidclowery @theblakemorgan Opposing Conflict of Interest in Frozen Mechanicals–‘Let the future have a vote’

SECOND REOPENING PERIOD COMMENTS OF HELIENNE LINDVALL, DAVID LOWERY AND BLAKE MORGAN 

            Helienne Lindvall, David Lowery and Blake Morgan (collectively, the “Writers”) thank the Judges for the opportunity and respectfully submit the following comments responding to the Copyright Royalty Judges’ notice (“Second Notice”) soliciting comments on additional materials (“Reply”) received by the Judges[1] from the National Music Publishers Association, Nashville Songwriters Association International, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc. and Warner Music Group Corp. (collectively, the “Majors”)[2] regarding the so-called [frozen] “Subpart B” statutory rates and terms[3] relating to the making and distribution of physical or digital phonorecords of nondramatic musical works in the docket referenced above (“Proceeding”). 

The Writers previously submitted comments[4] (“Prior Comment”) responding to the Judges’ notice[5] (“First Notice”) soliciting comments on the Major’s proposed purported settlement (the “Proposed Settlement”)[6] of the Subpart B rates.  The Writers along with attorney Gwendolyn Seale[7] attempted to submit additional comments in response to the Majors’ filing but were not able to timely file that response.[8]  The Writers appreciate the Judges’ decision to reopen the comment period in order to afford the public, and those that would be bound by the rates and terms set by the Proposed Settlement,[9] an opportunity to comment on those additional materials filed by the Majors and to further participate in the rulemaking.[10]

I.  SUMMARY
            As a general comment on the record to date in Phonorecords IV, the Writers are mystified by the histrionics that have become associated with this Proceeding both on the record and in the press. A voluntary negotiation is just a deal, often made by people who are paid to always be closing. The Writers believe that Congress intended that voluntary negotiation produce a fair result on a reasonable timetable.  

 While not directly at issue in the reopened comment period, what is clearly the case is that the settlement of the Subpart B rates has unnecessarily become a major gating item for the streaming side of this Proceeding, geese and ganders being what they are.  Despite the extensive voluntary negotiation period for the Subpart B rates by the Majors, the Judges—and, frankly, songwriters around the world–are presented instead with a cornucopia of chaos across the board; the cherry on top is the frozen mechanicals crisis.  However, in this season of hope the Writers are confident that the Judges will lead us all out of this daunting situation.

The Writers are not interested in the personalities, the arm-waving or the finger-pointing.  They are interested in the results, particularly because neither they nor anyone they authorized had input into the negotiation that produced either the Proposed Settlement or the impasse.

There is at least one easy way to fix this and recognize the intrinsic value of songs:  Raise the statutory rate proposal for Subpart B configurations in at least some relation to the streaming rate increase.  A song is no less valuable because of the medium in which it is exploited.[11] 

As the Writers will argue, just like the voluntary agreement on Subpart B that led to this impasse was reached by the Majors, those same parties can go back to the drawing board to reach an appropriate conclusion with a higher Subpart B rate.  

Neither the public nor the songwriters are well served (and frankly neither are the Judges) by thrashing about and waiving arms. This may serve well the people who are paid by the hour but it hasn’t served people who are paid by the song.  At all.  “Victory” without winning may pass for success in Washington, but it does not in the writer room or at a songwriter’s kitchen table.

            The Proposed Settlement is a crystallization of everything that is wrong with the licensing and payment practices that have arisen under the compulsory license regime where no is yes, more is less and the Kool-Aid whispers “Drink Me.”  

While the Writers will focus in this comment on the frozen mechanicals issue that has become emblematic of the current crisis, it must be said that the decade-plus MOU [black box] agreements are a backward looking and inequitable insider arrangement that permits a mindset of sloppiness and a “kick the can down the road” mentality that debilitates the entire music publishing business.[12]  It’s no accident that the Mechanical Licensing Collective—run by largely the same cast of characters under a jaw-dropping Congressional governance mandate—has been sitting on $424,000,000 of other peoples’ money for nine months during a pandemic with no visible compliance with another Congressional mandate of paying songwriters correctly in Title I of the Music Modernization Act.[13]  

            The MLC and the sequence of MOUs are both descended from the same ancestors a generation ago.  Each have essentially the same business model and each are somehow inexplicably viewed as a “win” for the songwriters.  The irony of splicing the genetic code of the ancien régime MOU [black box insider settlements] to the future is not lost on anyone.  If the failure to match money and songs in the MOU process is still a problem after fifteen years as well as the much-trumpeted Title I of the Music Modernization Act, it’s not the horse’s fault.  It’s the rider’s.

            It would be a real pity for the CRB to perpetuate this unfairness by adopting the Proposed Settlement.  With respect, it is bad law, bad policy, and a failure to even try to bend the arc of the moral universe.  Conversely, rejecting the Proposed Settlement would provide the kind of steely oversight tragically lacking in the current regime.  Please let the future have a vote, just once.

            The Writers object to the Proposed Settlement for the following reasons and respectfully suggest constructive alternatives.  The gravamen of our objection is that (1) the Subpart B rates have already been frozen since 2006 and extending the freeze another five years is unjust; (2) no evidence has been publicly produced in the Proceeding that justifies or even explains extending the proposed freeze aside from the connection to the memorandum of understanding in the MOU4 late fee waiver (“MOU”), a document that the Majors only recently disclosed in their Reply; (3) very large numbers of songwriters and copyright owners of various domiciles around the world and national origins are unlikely to even know this Proceeding is happening and there still is no evidence that the unrepresented have appointed any of the participants to act on their behalf or were asked to consent to the purported settlement before the fact even if they were members of these organizations aside from the respective board of directors; (4) physical sales are still a vital part of songwriter revenue (which the Writers documented in the Prior Comment[14]); and (5) there are many just alternatives available to the Judges without applying an unjust settlement to the world’s songwriters who are strangers to the Proposed Settlement and in particular the MOU component (as the MOU will likely require membership in the NMPA to benefit consistent with prior MOUs).

[Read the full-length original filing here.]


[1] 86 FR 58626.

            [2] NMPA, NSAI, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc. and Warner Music Group Comments in Further Support of the Settlement of Statutory Royalty Rates and Terms for Subpart B Configurations, Determination of Royalty Rates and Terms for Making and Distributing Phonorecords (Phonorecords IV), Copyright Royalty Board (Aug. 10, 2021).

            [3] 37 C.F.R. §385.11(a).

            [4] Comments of Helienne Lindvall, David Lowery and Blake Morgan, Determination of Rates and Terms for Making and Distributing Phonorecords (Phonorecords IV) (July 26, 2021) available at https://app.crb.gov/document/download/25533.

[5] 86 FR 33601.

            [6] Motion To Adopt Settlement of Statutory Royalty Rates and Terms for Subpart B Configurations, Docket No. 21-CRB-0001-PR (2023-2027).

            [7]  Ms. Seale does not otherwise join in this comment.  We understand she is filing a separate comment regarding the additional materials.

            [8] The Writers’ reply was posted on The Trichordist website available at https://thetrichordist.com/2021/08/16/frozenmechanicals-crisis-unfiled-supplemental-comments-of-helienne-lindvall-davidclowery-theblakemorgan-and-sealeinthedeal/.  Parts of that unfiled comment are included in this comment.

[9] See 17 USC 801(b)(7)(a)(i).

                  [10]  As with the Writers prior submission in response to the First Notice, the Writers focus in this comment almost entirely on the Subpart B rates applicable to physical carriers under 37 C.F.R. §385.11(a).  

            [11] The Judges no doubt will be told many stories about how Subpart B configurations are not meaningful sales compared to streaming so rates deserve to be frozen.  This is a novel copyright argument without a statutory basis.  The theory is also not based on accurate facts as the Writers discuss extensively in the Prior Comment at paragraph 5 and will not repeat here.

            [12] There is a growing backlash to decades of delaying definitive action on song metadata and songwriter payments such as Credits Due campaign of the Ivors Academy and Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus.  See generally Chris Cooke, PPL Backs Björn Ulvaeus’s Credits Due Campaign, Complete Music Update (Oct. 4, 2021) available at https://completemusicupdate.com/article/ppl-backs-bjorn-ulvaeuss-credits-due-campaign/

            [13] See, e.g., H. Rep. 115-651 (115th Cong. 2nd Sess. April 25, 2018) at 5; S. Rep. 115-339 (115th Cong. 2nd Sess. Sept. 17, 2018) at 5 (“The Committee welcomes the creation of a new musical works database that is mandated by the legislation….Music metadata has more often been seen as a competitive advantage for the party that controls the database, rather than as a resource for building an industry on.” (emphasis added)).

            [14] See Prior Comment at 16.

Sneaky Services Use Frozen Mechanicals Public Comments by Songwriters and Independent Publishers–to LOWER Streaming Mechanicals

Only drug dealers and Big Tech refer to their “customers” as “users.”

We really appreciate how Trichordist readers have stuck with the story we have been telling about the treachery afoot at the Copyright Royalty Board in the current review of statutory mechanical royalty rates. This is kind of dry stuff but it sure has resulted in a lot of passion from the songwriting community.

That passion is directed at the frozen mechanical–the collaboration between the big publishers and big record companies to “freeze” the statutory mechanical royalty for physical goods at 2006 levels despite the current inflationary crises and debasement of the value of even the frozen rate itself. We will have more to publish on that subject to call your attention to the voices of songwriters and publishers opposing the freeze.

Ask yourself this question: Is there any reason that a songwriter who opposes a freeze on mechanicals–the only question they were asked to respond to by the Copyright Royalty Board–would ever support a reduction in the streaming mechanical? Would anyone say, oh, well if Spotify is asking for a reduction, then by all means? If you thought the passion against frozen mechanicals ran high, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

But in one of the great acts of self-sabatoge that they are so good at, that passion is currently being hijacked by some of the biggest companies in commercial history to somehow convince us that less is more. Remember–these are the same people who benefit from the sick mass manipulation and addiction practiced and normalized by the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab.

And now they are trying to use that trickery and psychology on songwriters to gaslight them into ignoring reality and supporting the chaos at the Copyright Royalty Board.

We will be posting a series of excerpts from public filings in coming days. If you want to skip ahead, you can read this letter from Chris Castle to the Copyright Royalty Board roasting the services for twisting the words of Helienne Lindvall, David Lowery and Blake Morgan.

All Economic Indicators Are Flashing Red at the Copyright Royalty Board on Frozen Mechanicals–MusicTech.Solutions

by Chris Castle

All of the economic indicators are telling us that inflation is going to be around for a while–so songwriters should expect some cost of living adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index when the Copyright Royalty Board sets mechanical royalty rates, especially for the frozen mechanical rate on physical phonorecords. Why do I say that?

The U.S. Consumer Price Index closed 2021 at 7%. That is the highest inflation level since 1982–and remember in 1982 the U.S. had already had a solid two to three years of Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker’s anti-inflationary surge after the malaise of the 1970s.

The Producer Price Index for 2021 was measured at 9.7% by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest calendar year increase since 2010. The PPI is a leading indicator of inflation as measured by the CPI because it measures a large basket of raw inputs and future price increases that will affect the CPI in weeks or months.

The University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment fell to 68.8%, its second lowest level in a decade (the lowest being in November 2021). The survey also measured “confidence in government economic policies is at its lowest level since 2014.” The consumer sentiment survey indicates that consumers expect bad times ahead, or at least expensive times. This can have a pronounced effect on consumer inflation expectations.

Consumer inflation expectations remained unchanged after rising strongly over the last year, particularly the one-year outlook. Inflation expectations can be a self-fulfilling driver of inflation for a number of reasons such as FOMO pricing on homes and cars as well as wages–if you expect inflation to rise x% in the next 12 months, today you will seek wage increases of at least x% (if not more).

All of this tells us that the entire idea of extending the freeze on statutory mechanical royalties gets more absurd by the day. It’s entirely reasonable to “index” statutory mechanical royalties during the current rate setting period of 2023-2027 as we’ll all be very lucky to get through that period without suffering crippling inflation that will further erode the 2006 rates the CRB has used for the past 15 years.

[Why this wasn’t fixed in Music Modernization Act is anyone’s guess. This post first appeared on MusicTech.Solutions]

Dylan Smith: Electronic Artist Skee Mask Removes Music From Spotify, Citing Lack of Respect for Creators and Investments In Defense Technology — Artist Rights Watch

Electronic music producer and artist Skee Mask (full name Bryan Müller) has officially removed “all” his tracks from Spotify over the platform’s perceived lack of respect for creators, in addition to CEO Daniel Ek’s multimillion-dollar investment in AI-powered defense company Helsing. he Germany-based “Rev8617” artist announced his voluntary Spotify exit on social media, and the much-publicized move follows Skee Mask’s May of 2021 decision to release Pool physically and digitally sans a streaming option.

“it’s done, all of my sh-t is gone from Spotify,” Skee Mask said of his music’s just-finalized removal from the Stockholm-headquartered service. “i have nothing against streaming in general, it’s one of many good ways to make music even more accessible!….

“my music will be available there again as soon as this company starts (somehow) becoming honest & respectful towards music makers. if you really don’t have the money to listen to my music in any other way, feel free to digitally steal it anywhere, BUT don’t give you’re [sic] last penny to such a wealthy business that obviously prefers the development of warfare instead of actual progression in the music business. PEACE!” concluded Skee Mask.

Regarding the “100 MILLION €,” “development of warfare,” and “PEACE” components of the statement from Skee Mask, Daniel Ek’s Prima Materia in November provided €100 million (about $113 million at the present exchange rate) in funding to Helsing, “a new type of security and artificial intelligence company.”

Read the post on Digital Music News

Save the Date! Free Webinar Tomorrow (12/8/21) on Radio Royalties and the American Music Fairness Act

Learn about Radio Royalties and the American Music Fairness Act from industry stakeholders and experts during this FREE educational webinar sponsored by: Austin Music Foundation, Austin Texas Musicians, I Respect Music Austin, SoundExchange and Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts.

The American Music Fairness Act is a bipartisan bill which would establish a performance right for sound recordings broadcasted via terrestrial radio. As you may know, the United States is one of the few countries in the world and the only western democracy that does not recognize a performance right for sound recordings on terrestrial radio broadcasts. 

Artists and record companies have long advocated for a change to the law to provide a payment when their recordings are broadcast. The U.S. made a step in this direction in 1995 with the Digital Performance Right In Sound Recordings legislation that led to the creation of SoundExchange and the compulsory license for digital performances like webcasting and satellite radio with a royalty rate set by the Copyright Royalty Board.

The legislation has many carve outs and special treatment for small radio stations, college or other non-profits and public radio. 

The panelists will provide a background on the history of this issue and discuss how the American Music Fairness Act will ensure artists are compensated fairly for their works when broadcasted on terrestrial radio.

To learn more before the event, check out these informative materials first: https://musictechpolicy.files.wordpress.com/2021/12/talaamfa-1.pdf

Please register for the event at Eventbrite, and you can also tell Congress to pass the legislation by signing the Copyright Alliance petition here.

Panelists:

Chris Castle, Christian L. Castle Attorneys

Sean Glover, Director of Royalty Administration at SoundExchange

Terrany Johnson (“Tee-Double”), Artist, Producer, and Artist Advocate

Gwendolyn Seale, Mike Tolleson and Associates

Find this free online event streaming LIVE on Facebook, December 8th at noon CST on the following pages:

Artist Rights Watch

Austin Music Foundation

Austin Texas Musicians

I Respect Music Austin

Texas Accountants and Lawyers For the Arts

Interview: @TerranyJohnson aka Tee Double on Radio Royalties and the American Music Fairness Act #IRespectMusic–@musictechpolicy

Terrany Johnson pka Tee Double

[Tee Double is speaking on the free “Radio Royalties and the American Music Fairness Act” live stream panel hosted by Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts, Austin Texas Musicians, SoundExchange, I Respect Music Austin, Austin Music Foundation and Artist Rights Watch on December 8 at noon CST. Register on Eventbrite. If you’d like to support the American Music Fairness Act, you can sign the petition to Congress here.]

1. Tell us a little about your history as an artist and your work in the Texas music community.
Well, I’ve been recording and releasing music since i was 9 years old in Austin, Texas around the same time I sent my first demo I self-produced and performed on to Warner bros. Records. I have been on various boards such as the Texas Chapter of The Grammys, Austin Music foundation, Black Fret a nonprofit which give artist grants yearly to further sustain their craft. I currently am the founder of the urban Artist Alliance which is a leader in education in the music business for underserved creatives who never have access to the tools to succeed in an ever-changing industry. Which recently won the Austin Business Chamber A-List award for Best Bootstrap Company FOR 2021.

2. Can you explain a bit about radio royalties as an artist and then as a songwriter? Sure. Royalties are one of the many ways artists can continue to benefit off their art in new platforms. As an artist, radio royalties are not paid to us even though we are the driving force behind why the song is a hit or synced for commercials and so on. We are as much a contributing factor as the song itself. As a songwriter which I am both an artist and a songwriter of my catalog, I receive those monies which depending on the frequency of the song can generate a nice bit of change. As an indie you don’t go rich but you have some sort of return on your time and effort of creating the song for which someone else ( in my case me) would perform.

3. When SoundExchange opened up a whole new income stream for webcasting and satellite radio, did that have an effect on your revenue as an artist? Any new platform is a good thing if it also includes some positive financial upside for the creatives. But artist must not just limit their potential revenue streams to radio as there are many channels to funnel your art through to add on top of that money. Education is key and adding a unified front to approach unfair practices or outdated laws that truly damage the livelihood of creatives is a step many should be taking moving forward.

4. How will the American Music Fairness Act help working artists, especially those who Blake Morgan calls “middle class artists”? TheAmerican Music Fairness Act will not just help “middle class artists” but also new artists first releasing music to be able to see the economic benefits of that art when it is played on radio now and future technology that will introduce new ways of sharing music. By keeping smaller stations unscathed and making sure larger ones are held accountable to the artist that sustain their ability to remain economically feasible by ads and so forth it is only a good thing.

5. When I speak to artists about copyright policy issues, they often seem overwhelmed by the process and tend to leave it to others. What advice do you have for artists to take direction action to get involved in copyright policy making? My advice would be to join organizations that have your interest at heart. Grammys on the hill is a great one as it also has artist going to their local reps to push their cause. Following blogs and publications that speak to YOU and build up a mental database of ever-changing ideas within the music industry. As I tell artists I mentor, if it makes you one more cent you should be aware of it because music is not a rich person’s game but a long-term journey. Stay the course and stay inspired.

#FrozenMechanicals Take 2: Chelsea Crowell, Erin McAnally, and Abby North Comments to CRB

[Trichordist says: The Copyright Royalty Board reopened the comments on frozen mechanical song royalties in Phonorecords IV rate setting and the filings are coming in, especially from songwriters! We will be posting the comments (or excerpts from the long ones. First up is a straight from the heart contribution from Chelsea Crowell, Erin McAnally and Abby North.]

Copyright Royalty Board 37 CFR Part 385
[Docket No. 21–CRB–0001–PR (2023–2027)]
Determination of Rates and Terms for Making and Distributing Phonorecords (Phonorecords IV)

Interim Chief Copyright Royalty Judge Suzanne Barnett
Copyright Royalty Judge Steven Ruwe
Copyright Royalty Judge David R. Strickler
US Copyright Royalty Board
101 Independence Ave SE
Washington, DC 20024

SECOND REOPENING PERIOD COMMENTS OF ABBY NORTH, ERIN MCANALLY
AND CHELSEA CROWELL

To Your Honors:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit additional comments, now that the details of the
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU4) apparently related to the Subpart B mechanical rate
settlement negotiated by the NMPA, NSAI and three major labels have been made available.

Only the NMPA’s 300 or so publishers are potential parties to the MOU, assuming the opt in
terms are the same as those of MOU3 (http://nmpalatefeesettlement.com/mou3/faq.php). The
publishers that opt in to the MOU4 settlement will receive money for their participation, and in
exchange for this money, the NMPA Board members have agreed to freeze the Subpart B
mechanical rate at the $.091 rate that’s been in place since 2006.

In this exchange, NMPA publishers have a stream of revenue (the MOU4 money) that offsets the
negative effect of the lack of rate increase in the Subpart B mechanical.

Although foreign CMOs could opt into the current MOU3 settlement, rightsholders that are not
NMPA members may not opt in and will not receive the buffer that the MOU4 money provides,
yet they are subject to the frozen mechanical rate that is an apparent condition of the negotiation
related to the proposed settlement of the Subpart B rates and terms.

Thousands, if not tens of thousands of songwriters in the world have songs published or
administered by those NMPA publishers that are party to the rate freeze settlement, but neither
these songwriters nor the vast number of songwriters around the globe were given a say in the
decision to freeze the mechanical rate.

The concern we have is not that there is a settlement. The concern is that the settlement does not
provide for a base rate greater than $.091, plus annual increases to adjust for inflation.

To quote the NMPA’s Supplemental Comments: “…mechanical royalties from Subpart B
configurations now constitute only a small part of total mechanical royalty revenue in the U.S.,
and that share is expected to get smaller during the period covered by this proceeding.”

That concept only resonates with a corporation that aggregates thousands or millions of
copyrights.

To an individual songwriter or a small rightsholder, it doesn’t matter if Subpart B mechanicals
constitute 1% or 15% or 50% of total royalties. Why? Because every single penny counts.

When an individual is paying a mortgage, tuition or a car payment, every single penny counts.
When a health crisis occurs, every penny counts. When existing off the very low streaming
royalties generated by even a hit song, every penny counts.

Physical and download mechanicals are still an extremely relevant revenue stream to individual
songwriters and small publishers.

At the current retail price of $.99 for a download, the $.091 mechanical is 9.2%.

The streaming royalty pool for songs is roughly 10.5% of the total, possibly as much as 15.1%,
per the CRB III hearing results (after all this time, still under appeal). The NMPA has suggested
an increase of the streaming royalty rate to 20%. This would be an exceptional improvement.

How is the download royalty not at least the same percentage as the streaming royalty?

Why is the value of a downloaded song less than that of one that is streamed?

We suggest the Subpart B rate and the streaming mechanical rate (based on percentage) should
be on no less than a most favored nations basis with one another.

To songwriters and most publishers, every royalty type and every revenue stream matters. The
move from physical to digital, the unbundling of albums in favor of singles and the unlivable
streaming royalty rates absolutely substantiate the need for an increase in Subpart B mechanicals,
at least to reach the percentage paid on the streaming side, and with periodic adjustment for
inflation. 3

We appreciate the opportunity to submit these additional comments, and we ask the Judges to
recognize that songwriters and small publishers are individuals who do not have the luxury of
collecting royalties from the aggregation of hundreds of thousands of works.

It is not fair that songwriters signed to the NMPA publishers have a frozen mechanical rate
forced on them, and it is remarkably egregious that non-NMPA publishers and their writers are
also forced into this horrible reality.

Respectfully,

Abby North, North Music Group LLC
Chelsea Crowell, Songwriter
Erin McAnally, Songwriter/Factory of Strange Tones