SiriusXM vs. Everyone

We know that technological progress can outpace the law. The music industry is one such poster child where existing copyright law is as old as the hills, with some legislation dating back to 1909. The last major re-visit occurred in 1998, which is still B.S. (Before Streaming), so we are long overdue for a big catch-up. The Music Modernization Act (MMA) is a bi-partisan bill (yea they still exist) that aims to bring music copyright law into the here and now.

You can read all about the MMA (not Mixed Martial Arts), but in essence the Bill creates a new entity, the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), which would be responsible for managing the flow of revenue from streaming services to songwriters and publishers, i.e. copyright holders. Today, this process is as leaky as the White House, with revenues coming in to companies like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc. but many payments never go anywhere. Spotify has already settled a $43 million lawsuit for not getting a mechanical license for the music they stream (the current mechanism for payment to the copyright holder) while another is in the works to the tune of $1.6 billion. Ouch. (I suppose Spotify can afford these settlements because they haven’t been paying people).

The MMA is meant to fix this mess and just about everyone is behind the bill. Of course details need to be worked out, and some people like composer and bandleader Maria Schnieder have done a great job at pointing these out. But the thing that’s holding up the passing of the MMA is SiriusXM.

As such, 150 artists and executives, including Paul McCartney, Kim Gordon, and Tom Waits, have threatened to boycott SiriusXM in an open letter . Sirius’ response is they are just looking out for their own interests which supposedly align with the common good. You can decide but the greater issue is this bill will actually help the people who make the ‘product’ that companies like Sirius and Spotfiy need in order to make the millions and billions of revenue they enjoy.

With that in mind, I think SiriusXM should not let self-interest stand in the way of real progress.