An Open Letter to Maria Cantwell: Vote Yes on the Music Modernization Act

Dear Senator Cantwell,

As a songwriter and musician, I implore you to back the Music Modernization Act. We are currently being paid off copyright precedents set back in 1908.

Album purchases are at an all-time low (as I’m sure you’re well aware of) and streaming companies have taken over the industry. While great for the consumer, compensation for streams are minuscule compared to the sale for a single/album.

Here’s some real-word context:

If a song has 100 million streams, it creates around $3.5 million on the mastered copy for record labels and artists — but only 4% of that goes to the publishing. So in that case, it’s creating around $140k in mechanical royalties for songwriters. And that’s often split four ways, which leaves about $35,000 per person. There are currently 12 songs that have a billion streams. That creates about $35 million on the master side, and only 4% of that goes to the writers (source: Forbes).

To make matter more dire, streaming companies are currently operating under a model where they are not paying mechanical licensing royalties – meaning songwriters are not being paid for their work. Believe it or not, music copyrights are more heavily regulated than all other major industries – including Tobacco. We – as songwriters – have no bargaining power. In fact, we are LEGALLY UNABLE to negotiate on our own behalf.

Some stances have been raised a counter saying this is an attack on the consumer. This is false. The consumer won’t be picking up the bill here. On a per sale / stream basis, we’re talking a matter of cents.

Now, the Music Modernization Act has the ability to remedy some of the challenges we’re facing, and was passed 415-0 in the House of Representatives.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and pray you do the right thing.


Duncan Byargeon