Music

Country Songwriters are Fighting Labels, Congress for Fair Pay

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Songwriters across the globe are struggling to make ends meet. Now, songwriter organizations want artists to stand up to those responsible, including Sony Music.

WZTV Nashville recently spoke to Jamie Floyd, a successful songwriter who works two jobs because the pay is so terrible. Floyd has several cuts, including Ashley Monroe’s “The Blade,” which earned a Grammy nomination.

“It’s something we have earned and to not be given the fair share of what we have earned, the fair share of our work that everyone else is profiting off of, that’s unacceptable,” Floyd told WZTV. She’s currently a server at a local area restaurant.

Every time you stream a song, songwriters share a fraction of a penny. Meanwhile, Sony Music is secretly fighting for artists to earn even less of that.

The Nashville Songwriter Association International (NSAI) represents songwriters from all over the world. NSAI recently sent a letter to artists on Sony’s label, including Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert. The organization wants these artists to stand up for songwriters and fight back against the label.

Both Underwood and Paisley additionally sued Sony for shoddy royalty payments in the past. Underwood’s lawsuit is pending, and features other artists such as Kelly Clarkson.

NSAI executive director Bart Herbison told WZTV, “If there were any other profession in this country, any other profession, Congress would call an emergency session and that’s what we’re dealing with.”

He says the future of the industry is at stake. However, they haven’t gotten any help from the government, either.

The Department of Justice recently shocked the music community by upholding old formulas for determining who can use a song. The DOJ also struck down another clause that protected songwriters.

Songwriters are part of performing rights organizations (PROs). These organizations track their songs and make sure they get paid. There are 3 main ones: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

So, two writers write a hit song. One of them is from ASCAP, and one is from BMI. Now Paramount Pictures wants to use that song in a film. Before, Paramount needed the permission of both ASCAP and BMI. But now, the DOJ says Paramount only needs permission from one of them.

That means BMI or ASCAP won’t know to demand compensation. It also adds serious administrative costs to the organizations, which are non-profits.

Thankfully, NSAI isn’t the only organization fighting these ludicrous proposals. Virtually every music industry group united to fight for writers and artists. They are preparing to sue. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins also says he’s fighting for songwriters through the Songwriter Equity Act.

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Country Songwriters are Fighting Labels, Congress for Fair Pay