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Composer Williams Takes Hard Look At Music Licensing At ASCAP Conference

Composer Paul Williams addresses members at the 10th Annual ASCAP “I Create Music Expo.” photo credit: Groundpunk Productions

Pandora took a victory over the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers on May 6th when an appeals court ruled against an increase in royalty rates the non-profit performer’s rights organization was hoping to acquire from the music streaming service. The group was looking for a three percent increase to be divvied out over a three year period. Pandora will continue to pay 1.85 % of its revenue to songwriters – a ruling established by a New York federal judge in 2014.

A week prior, at the “I Create Music Expo” – ASCAPs annual member expo featuring one on one mentoring meetings and song writing panels, master classes and music demonstrations, composer Paul Williams spear-headed the keynote address, emphasizing the importance to changes in legislation. Recently re-elected as president of the org, Williams first expressed his appreciation to the membership for their continued support. “It’s such an honor to be your president,” Williams humbly stated. Shortly after the applause subsided he encouraged the packed room, full of novices and award-winning musicians alike, to take an active role in supporting the ASCAP Legislative Fund for the Arts.

“You have to protect what the world is building their businesses on: your music, your songs,” said Williams.

Following the buzzy celebration of Emmy, Tony and Grammy winning ASCAP members, Williams briefly outlined the Pandora licensing issue by explaining that the royalties the company pays are split amongst all aspects of music production. He further explained the last time serious legislative advancements were reviewed and instated was prior to the release of the iPod, a device that ushered the popularity of podcasting and alternative methods of digesting musical content.

“Large trade groups are keeping the money from hitting the creators,” rallied Williams. “You need to get involved and add your voice. This affects all of you.”

To persuade the attendees of the importance of involvement, he broke down his vision of change into three sound bites:
A: a faster, efficient way to resolve rate disputes
B: the need to simply listening and reduce transaction costs
C: grant right licensing to interactive entities, providing fewer markets without restrictions.
After outlining his voice, he declared “I’m pleased that our voices have been heard,” informing attendees that congressional members including Congressman Doug Collins (9th District, Georgia) and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (8th District, New York) have become staunch supporters and initiated the creation of the “Songwriters Equity Act.” There hope is to gain traction amongst other members of Congress to review and amend the US Copyright Act, Section 114 and 115 that “currently prevent songwriters and composers from receiving royalties that reflect the fair market value of their intellectual property.”

“They get our issues,” said Williams.

To learn more about the Songwriters Equity Act, please visit:
http://www.ascap.com/about/legislation/songwriter-equity-act