U.S. Capitol at dusk (photo: Martin Falbisoner (CC BY-SA 3.0))

photo: Martin Falbisoner (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The music industry’s Congressional ‘connecting committee’ is in place.

Members of the 116th Congress’ Recording Arts and Sciences Caucus have been announced.  The bi-partisan caucus was first established in 2005 as a way to work with members of the music industry for legislation.

The 116th Congress RAS caucus is as follows:

  • Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
  • Julia Brownley (D-CA)
  • Ken Buck (R-CO)
  • Tony Cárdenas (D-CA)
  • Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
  • Steny Hoyer (D-MD) — House Majority Leader
  • Sheila Jackson (D-TX)
  • Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — House Minority Leader
  • Michael McCaul (R-TX)
  • Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
  • Martha Roby (R-AL)
  • Linda Sánchez (D-CA)
  • Adam Schiff (D-CA)

The Recording Academy government relations officer Daryl P. Friedman says the Academy looks forward to working with the new caucus.

“The 116th Congress began on a strong tailwind for music policy issues, and the robust, bipartisan membership of this caucus demonstrates a continued focus on music policy.”

Given recent legislative gains, it looks like the caucus concept is working.

Last year, the Music Modernization Act was passed into law with help from the 115th RAS caucus. The caucus has continually met with music advocates and industry figures like Kelly Clarkson, Slash, and other singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists to discuss how laws impact their work.

The Music Modernization Act offers a serious update to U.S. Copyright Law, most importantly as it relates to mechanical licensing and payouts for streaming music platforms.  The bi-partisan piece of legislation creates a single, centralized mechanical licensing entity to collect royalties for all songs played by digital service providers. DSPs must pay for all uses of the work, even if they cannot find an owner.

Previously, DSPs could keep the money unclaimed indefinitely — if they tracked it at all.  Now, the money must be paid to the licensing entity, which will make sure the royalties are distributed fairly to compensate songwriters, artists, and publishers. Songwriters are also obligated under law to receive at least 50% of all royalties for unmatched works.

The MMA also changes the way pre-1972 works are handled, thanks to the CLASSICS portion of the bill.  But missing pieces include giant royalty loopholes enjoyed by US-based terrestrial radio stations, specifically around recording broadcasts.  And serious questions now surround the mechanics of implementing the MMA, including the details around the formation of the bill’s Mechanical Licensing Collective, or MLC.