Coalition asking Congress to update music copyright laws

I was thinking the other day: When was the last time I purchased a CD? Honestly, I can’t remember. And this is from a guy who, back in the 90s, was buying new music at least twice a week.

I probably listen to music more now that I did 30 years ago, so why am I not buying it? Because I don’t have to.

Like most music lovers, I can log onto Spotify or my Amazon Prime account to listen to a playlist of favorite songs or a specific song, free. The question is: If everyone else is doing the same thing, how are the artists making money so they can make more music?

The Music First Coalition sees it as a problem too, and is asking Congress to update outdated copyright laws to keep up with the changing landscape of music listening.

“Music is more valuable, is more important and really more accessible to more people than ever before,” said Music First Coalition Executive Director Chris Israel. “They’re making money, but it’s always a challenge. There’s always just a tension.”

So, how much do these artists make when fans play their music on a streaming service? Pennies.

“On Apple Music, for 1,000 songs, generates about $12,” Israel said. “Spotify, if they play a song 1,000 times, you get about $7.” He told me those services pay the most, while YouTube and Sirius-XM pay much lower. FM radio has never compensated artists directly for playing their music.

For major artists with new music, that fee structure sounds pretty good. Drake’s latest song, for example, is played on Spotify about 4 million times a day. Most artists though, aren’t making enough to notice. Some songs from legendary artists make $0.

“Music that’s recorded before 1972 often isn’t paid at all because the federal copyright doesn’t protect it,” said Israel.

YouTube is the most popular streaming music service in the world. Last year’s hit “Despacito” had a total of 4.7 billion views. “YouTube and Google have been frustrating partners in all of this,” said Israel. “The rates that YouTube has kind of negotiated with artists are really a take-it-or-leave-it deal. They’re dramatically lower that exists for Spotify or Apple Music.”

The Music First Coalition has the ear of Congress on Friday, hoping to change things for the artists and songwriters who entertain us

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