HITS Daily Double

Smokey Robinson went before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday to push for passage of the Music Modernization Act, explaining the hardships experienced by songwriters whose work predates 1972.

“They should be able to rely on income from the recordings used by digital radio companies to attract listeners and earn profits,” USA Today quoted Robinson saying. “For so many, especially at this point in their careers, this is how they make ends meet. It’s how they pay their mortgage and their medical bills. It’s how they feed their families.

“My message is simple. Musicians who recorded before Feb. 15, 1972, deserve to be compensated the same way as those who recorded after that date.”

The committee heard the pros and cons of the bill. Songwriter Josh Kear (“Before He Cheats,” “Need You Now”) said streaming has prevented songwriters from making a living off royalties; National Music Publishers Association President and CEO David Israelite noted that Kear earned just over $3,000 in royalties from streams of “Before He Cheats.”

On the other side, Music Choice President and CEO David Del Beccaro said the legislation would put his company out of business as it would stifle the efforts companies without the scale of Spotify and Apple Music.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) spoke up for the legislation, which unanimously passed the House.

“I want everyone to know that I am pleased to support legislation to ensure to artists are paid for their works that were recorded before 1972,” she said. “One of the bills before us today would erase an arbitrary distinction under current law and provide the same copyright protections for digital streaming for all artists.

“I also strongly support establishing new blanket license that will make it easier for digital music companies to broadcast more music to a larger audience. At the same time, it is important that as we pass legislation, that we don’t create any unintended consequences.

“Given that one of the bills we are considering is in response to mistakes that were made in earlier legislation, I believe we have got to perform our due diligence to ensure the legislation doesn’t result in problems that will require an act of Congress to fix.”

Darlene Love, Dionne Warwick and The SupremesMary Wilson also spoke at the hearing.

On Thursday, ASCAP will hold its Stand with Songwriters Advocacy Day in D.C., asking senators to cosponsor the Music Modernization Act. ASCAP will stage a concert at The Library of Congress tonight with performances by Brandy Clark, Michael McDonald, Jason Mraz, Suzanne Vega and others.

"With the Music Modernization Act pending in Congress, we stand at a critical juncture in our fight to protect the livelihoods of songwriters and composers,” said songwriter and ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams. “We urge our legislators to pass this important bill and give the music creators a chance to see the true value of their work."