Music Modernization Act of 2018
On September 18, 2018, Congress unanimously passed the Music Modernization Act of 2018, S.2334. The bill received
immense support from musicians, their affiliated labels, and from government agencies representing the platforms
In essence, the Act guarantees that musicians will be rightfully paid for their royalties, without much flexibility for labels to
adjust their payments and therefore, receive whatever portion of the revenue they please. In the age of streaming, this issue
has been under heated debate and concentrated attention for nearly a decade now. Labels that represent the artists under the
platforms of Spotify, SoundCloud, Pandora, and Apple Music are placed under responsibility to ensure that their artists
are consciously aware and satisfied with the payments they’ve been receiving.
From an article entitled Senate passes Music Modernization Act from The Verge, The article concisely states the
accommodation. The Act serves to allow musicians to gain access to rights to their music when earning royalties, so there’s no
sense of business-to-artist discrimination.
Although the media may cover the benefactors of the implemented regulation, every good breed some loss. For every pro,
a con is also manifested. This type of Act can be compared to the likes of other regulations of the pervasive workforce. This is
comparable to the likes of the Employee Rights Act of 2017 or the Employment Rights Act of 1996 in the U.K. Is it ethical to
pay workers higher wages while in turn risk the chance of smaller business unable to afford those requirements, to eventually
shut down and lose all potential for the employer and the employees?
This asserts the rights of musicians to receive more freedom for their royalties. Once an artist is signed into a label, they now
contain more demanding power, objectively demanding subjective “fair pay,” based on the royalties their art has earned.
Considering the bill has received untempered support not only from fellow musicians but from many labels themselves, it
seems that this integration is wholly just, and is unwilling to waver anytime soon.
This is an essential time period for musicians to get smart and start to focus on what they should be respectively paid. If a
major artist receives millions of streams for their newest single, that artist will be expecting a paycheck almost to the same
degree of his or her respective label. If a rising musician starts to see his or her numbers elevate in popularity, this will mask
an achievable and ethical win for the musician and the representative label.
If only that were true for all labels. I had once had a conversation on my way home with an Uber driver. The driver was a
struggling label owner trying to make ends meet by tirelessly working on his business on the side of supporting his household
income and wife driving for a taxi service. The label had a mere handful of artists, by which half of them felt that they weren’t
receiving a “fair-pay.”
If asked, how many labels could you name on the top of your head? Perhaps the first ones that were thought of were the top
music labels, such as G.O.O.D. Music, Interscope, and Def Jam. As these labels were affected by the bill, all affiliates of these
labels were proponents of the bill as well.
What about the rest of the labels? The up-and-comers of the music market? Majority of the labels are striving to even be
present in the vast canary of the internet. If not enough listeners purchase, stream, or download their music, they don’t
receive the revenue they wish for. If not enough revenue flows in, how can the affiliated artists get their “fair share?”
Regardless if the Act could be a benefactor or disadvantage for the future of music, it will be interesting to see how this will
adjust to the ongoing evolution of the industry. All circumstances aside, the immense amount of support from artists and
managers alike really show that artists could be there for one another.
Through a circumstance comes activism, and through activism comes unity. Musicians and consumers alike have come a long
way to stop now.