Arts Opinion: Bill aids struggling artists despite industry criticism

Congress passed the bipartisan Music Modernization Act on Sept. 18. The proposed legislation has paved the way for fair payment of songwriters in this streaming-crazed world. 

The act allows copyright holders and producers to get paid when songs are streamed and enables songwriters to collect royalties on recordings pre-1972.

While the Senate and House of Representatives both passed the act unanimously, companies like SiriusXM have stubbornly opposed it. Legislation needed one more concession, and the last industry-holdout on the bill was SiriusXM who had at least two senators that were allegedly understanding of the company’s concerns, according to Billboard.

SiriusXM put up an “aggressive lobbying effort” to try to change the bill, making it worse for the artists and producers it was supposed to protect, according to Billboard. Efforts of businesses like SiriusXM regress the music industry’s progress. Artists have enough trouble making money as streaming websites cause the usual forms of music distribution to become passé.  

After the bill was approved, Senator Lamar Alexander deemed the act the most important piece of legislation in a generation.

“The Internet changed the music industry just like it has changed other industries ... but copyright law didn’t keep up,” Alexander said, according to Billboard. “Copyright laws were way out of date and hadn’t been modified since the days of the piano roll.”

This act is an incredible step forward for all artists who have been paid unfairly. Companies have picked the wrong side of the fight and their efforts to create compromise have been selfish. 

SiriusXM has asserted that the provision requiring them to pay a new set of royalties on pre-1972 recordings is unfair because terrestrial radio companies are not held under the same rule, according to Billboard.

The radio company stated that, in agreement with other industry players, they would pay half of the royalties for pre-1972 recordings to allow the bill to move. Every business associate knows that with great compromise comes as little effort as possible. 

SiriusXM’s CEO Jim Meyer argued that supporters of the bill were making SiriusXM the enemy, according to Billboard. Meyer believes they are all wrong in their descriptions of the company’s intention in the payment of artists. 

“SiriusXM supports a music industry that rewards artists for their creative work, allows consumers access to the music they want and how they want it,” Meyer said, according to Billboard. “As currently written, the MMA would hinder those objectives and SiriusXM’s ability to provide music, news, talk, weather, traffic and other services to our 33 million subscribers, as well as to the many communities we serve.” 

The idea that the bill would hinder their ability to provide music warrants sympathy, but it is also selfish. Meyer delineates exactly what the bill seeks to offer artists— the bill is just too inconvenient for Meyer to actually support. He suggests that it is unfair for his company to have to pay so much while other companies get a free slide. 

SiriusXM’s pouty attitude towards the Music Modernization Act is unacceptable in a time of struggling artists. The people who create and produce music should be paid fairly. Companies like SiriusXM should not hold back the music industry with their selfish opinions. The requirement of paying an artist for their work should not be a criticism.