ASCAP today presented a performance and Q&A session with hit songwriters Josh Kear and Dan Wilson in the Rayburn House Office Building in an event to entertain and inform members of Congress and their staffs about the creative process of songwriting and the challenges facing songwriters in the digital world. The event was hosted by ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams. Welcoming the ASCAP songwriters to the Hill was Rep. Marsha Blackburn, co-chair of the Congressional Songwriters Caucus.
As Congress considers music licensing reform, the event was designed to highlight the fact that the contributions of songwriters and composers are being grossly undervalued in the current digital music landscape, earning 12 times less than record labels and artists for the exact same performance. The result is that songwriters are being treated unfairly and paid far too little when their music is streamed on services such as Pandora, which is seeking to even further lower the royalties they pay to songwriters and composers.
Commented Williams: “We want to educate and work with Congress to address some of the legislative constraints that have resulted in this gross inequity in payments for those who write the songs, without which there would be no music to record or stream. Congress should no longer prohibit our rate court from considering the most relevant evidence when establishing royalty rates for online streaming.”
Kear and Wilson, both multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning songwriters, performed hits they have written for major recording artists. Kear performed “Need You Now” (Lady Antebellum) and “Before He Cheats” (Carrie Underwood) and Wilson performed “Someone Like You” (Adele) and “Closing Time” (Semisonic). Along with ASCAP EVP Randy Grimmett, they also shared information about the miniscule royalties they were paid by Pandora for the millions of streams of their songs.
In the U.S., Pandora pays only 4% of its revenues in royalties to those who write the songs through ASCAP and the other U.S. Performing Rights Organizations, compared to about 50% paid to record labels and artists paid through SoundExchange.
Commented Wilson: “Every online music stream involves a performance of both the musical composition ““ written by the songwriter ““ and the sound recording ““ the performance by the recording artist. The creative contributions of both songwriter and performing artist are essential to enjoyment of the song; without either one, the music doesn’t exist.”
Kear added: “As songwriters, we need to ensure that Congress hears our side of the story as they review how digital music royalties are paid. The way it works now, songwriters are being forced to become unwitting investors in unsustainable businesses that undervalue our music. We’d love to see streaming services truly succeed in a way that is designed to fairly compensate music creators.”