Music Row: Songwriters, PROs, and Publishers Unite For Change at NMPA Town Hall Meeting

September 23rd, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer

Via Music Row:

Songwriters, PROs, and Publishers Unite For Change at NMPA Town Hall Meeting

• September 10, 2015 •

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The National Music Publishers’ Association’s Songwriter Town Hall drew a packed crowd of songwriters, PRO executives and publishers to the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

NSAI Executive Director Bart Herbison and NSAI president/singer-songwriter Lee Thomas Millerwelcomed NMPA president/CEO David Israelite, who shared a series of bleak statistics regarding songwriter and publisher income from music services including Spotify, Pandora and SiriusXM. “Digital music companies are making millions off the backs of songwriters,” he said.

Israelite shared that SiriusXM brings in $22 billion in revenue, and keeps 86 percent of its revenues. Labels get 10 percent, while writers/publishers get four percent.

Next up, Spotify. Of Spotify’s $8.53 billion income, 10.5 percent goes to publishers/songwriters, while 59 percent goes to labels and Spotify keeps 30.5 percent. This total revenue comes from Spotify’s paid subscribers. According to Israelite’s statistics, 73 percent of Spotify users do not pay for the service, meaning that revenues are based on only 27 percent of Spotify users.

Photo: SongSpace/Twitter

He also noted that songwriters currently do not have a choice as to whether their music is included on these services.

“When Taylor Swift removed her music from Spotify,” said Israelite, “understand that she could make that decision, as she was the artist behind these songs. She couldn’t do that if she was [only] the songwriter.”

Finally, Pandora. The company’s $3.79 billion is split, with 42 percent going to labels, 54 percent kept by Pandora, and four percent to publishers/writers. Israelite included that 95 percent of Pandora users do not pay for the service.

In 2014 total revenue for the U.S. songwriting and publishing industry was down 2.5 percent from the prior year, bringing in a total of $2,151,828,613.00. Of this amount, approximately 52.6 percent is from performance royalties, while 21.3 percent is from mechanicals and 20.4 percent is sync licensing.

Pictured (L-R): Ashley Gorley, Nicolle Galyon, Michael Carter, Cole Taylor with their NMPA Songwriting Gold & Platinum Awards at the Bluebird Cafe.

With more than half of publisher/songwriter revenues coming from performance royalties, Israelite says it underlines the importance of the battle that PROs, publishers and songwriters are fighting against the antiquated consent decrees that have governed PROs BMI and ASCAP since 1941.

“Companies that are against songwriters will spend an estimated $79.8 million in lobbying efforts, from 405 lobbyists,” said Israelite. “Companies fighting for songwriters will spend a total of $1.9 million on those activities. It’s an uphill battle, and it’s crucial that all interests come together to say we want our songs to be worth more than they are currently valued,” said Israelite. He also noted that the battle continues to increase statutory mechanical rates for physical formats and permanent digital downloads from the current 9.1 cents per song.

Israelite called for publishers, songwriters, PROs and music fans to unite to cause changes to laws that govern mechanical and performance royalties. “Nearly 75 percent of your song’s value is regulated by the government in a way that doesn’t regulate it properly,” said Israelite.

He lauded NSAI’s Bart Herbison and Lee Thomas Miller for their efforts to lobby for songwriters, and for bringing songwriters to testify and perform before members of Congress.

After taking questions from members of the audience, Israelite and Miller offered a myriad of suggestions to aid in the battle, including urging songwriters to join NSAI, and to support their PROs’ efforts to bring about a fair income for writers.

Israelite also mentioned the power of the artist-songwriter. “Many artists, themselves songwriters, have also joined us in these efforts,” he said, noting the work of Lady Antebellum, Bon Jovi, andSteven Tyler. “I will tell you, I feel that having Steven Tyler perform and meet with members of Congress in Washington did more to make them aware of the situation songwriters face than I had done over the course of a few years. Writers, when you are writing with other songwriters or artists, bring up these issues and get them involved. These artists are songwriters themselves and are passionate about this cause. Let’s use our secret weapon.”

Pictured (L-R): Ashley Gorley, Cole Taylor, Michael Carter, Nicolle Galyon, NMPA CEO David Israelite.

Read online here:


Billboard Country Update: Songwriters, Stand Up!

September 23rd, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer


Via Billboard:


SONGWRITERS, STAND UP! Nashville songwriters were encouraged during a National Music Publishers’ Association town hall meeting on Sept. 9 to make their voices heard as the government reviews an antiquated system that regulates royalties. NMPA president/CEO David Israelite used slides and financial data to demonstrate that songwriters and publishers are in a David-and-Goliath battle for fairness as consumers transition from a music-purchase economy to a streaming model. The $2 billion publishing industry spent $1.9 million to lobby Congress in 2014, just 2 percent of the $79.8 million investment that its adversaries, including Spotify, made in politicking. The latter business, valued at $8 billion by analysts, is four times the economic size of music publishers. Hundreds of songwriters attended, including Bill Anderson, Ashley Gorley (“Kick the Dust Up”), Tom Douglas (“The House That Built Me”), Wood Newton (“Bobbie Sue”), Steve Bogard (“Carried Away”) and Lee Thomas Miller (“Crushin’ It”).

Israelite encouraged them to stand together as a community and to enlist with writer agencies — particularly the Nashville Songwriters Association International — as their representatives work to revise procedures and rate mechanisms that were established in older eras. Copyright in the digital era is built upon a system that was started to solve player-piano disputes before even the radio became a public commodity. Songwriter royalties are doled out in smaller percentages in the United States than in other developed countries, according to Israelite. One of the biggest issues, he said, is that every congressman has broadcasters among their constituents, while songwriters are concentrated in smaller areas. Legislators are often unaware of songwriters who grew up their districts and unfamiliar with the economics of their business. “Put a songwriter in front of a member,” said Israelite. “They’ll listen to us.”


Image from NMPA’s Nashville Town Hall

Music Row: Zac Brown Band Gets Knee Deep in NMPA Awards

August 19th, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer

Via Music Row:

Zac Brown Band Gets Knee Deep in NMPA Awards

• August 17, 2015 •

Zac Brown Band members Zac Brown, Coy Bowles and John Hopkins were recently honored with awards from the National Music Publishers Association during a Jekyll+Hyde tour stop in Washington National’s Park. NMPA President and CEO David Israelite recognized the band members with multi-platinum awards for their hit songs “Knee Deep” (penned by Brown and Bowles) and “Chicken Fried” (Brown). Platinum recognition was awarded to “Colder Weather” (Brown, Bowles), and “Toes” (Hopkins, Brown), while the NMPA honored the tunes “Sweet Annie” (Bowles, Brown) and “Whatever It Is” (Brown) with gold awards.

Pictured (L-R): NMPA's David Israelite and ZBB's John Hopkins.

Who Wants to Regulate Publishers? Tech-Funded Interest Groups Like ‘Public Knowledge’…

July 24th, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer


Who Wants to Regulate Publishers? Tech-Funded Interest Groups Like ‘Public Knowledge’…

Thursday, July 23, 2015

David Israelite


The following response comes from David Israelite, President and CEO of the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA).   The NMPA is the trade association representing all American music publishers and their songwriting partners.

I read with interest the recent article by Sherwin Siy, speaking on behalf of the big tech companies that fund him, entitled, “The Argument for Regulating Music Publishers…”.

The only real “argument” for regulating music publishers is that doing so will allow giant digital services like Pandora and Spotify to continue profiting off of the backs of songwriters without having to pay them a fair market rate.


And just who is making this argument?  Public Knowledge calls itself a “consumer advocacy group”, however, despite its name, will not provide the knowledge to the public of who funds it.  The truth is that Public Knowledge is a Washington, DC interest group that lobbies hard against copyright protections and is funded by Big Tech interests that directly benefit from keeping songwriters regulated and under-paid.


Mr. Siy’s argument for more restrictions on songwriters and publishers is not only disrespectful to those who create the music that make his patrons’ businesses possible, it is downright foolish in suggesting that publishers, whose entire industry amounts to $2.2 billion in the United States, have too much market power against giant digital companies like Google, Pandora, Apple and Spotify who are valued at almost a trillion dollars.  In reality, songwriters have always been the David to digital music company’s Goliath, with government regulation keeping our hands tied.

In fact, today songwriters and publishers are the most heavily regulated sector of the music industry.  Over 75% of a songwriters’ income is regulated and restricted by the federal government, and this started long before Pandora and Spotify.


Right around World War II, the Department of Justice put in place forced agreements between the major Performance Rights Organizations, ASCAP and BMI, who dole out royalties to songwriters, and those who wanted to license music for their businesses.  These incredibly debilitating regulations were created before the Digital Age was even conceived of, and today have resulted in hard-working songwriters having no ability to say no to, or to negotiate with, streaming services like Pandora – meaning they are paid a meager $0.00009 per stream.  The decrees, which were enacted in an effort to prevent price-fixing, backfired, and now have predetermined below-market prices for songwriters across the entire industry.

These regulations are so limiting, even top songwriters cannot earn an honest wage.  Today, Pandora pays songwriters just around 4% of revenues, while paying record labels and performing artists around 50%, and keeping around 46% for itself.   That means simply to deliver a song over the internet, Pandora is paid more than 11 times the value of the song itself.  Clearly this is because songwriters and publishers have too much influence.

This anomaly exists because decades-old consent decrees prevent songwriters and publishers from licensing their work in a free market.  Today, if a songwriter does not like the government-mandated rate for streaming their songs, they cannot say “no”.  And due to the shift towards streaming by music listeners, soon streaming royalties are going to be all that matters.  Therefore, if we do not change how songwriters are paid by market-dominators like Pandora, we put the entire music-making industry at risk.

That’s why the Nashville Songwriters Association estimates we have already lost 80% of America’s songwriters.

The publishers who represent songwriters are on the front lines of this battle to give creators negotiating power.  Of course, this terrifies special interest groups like Public Knowledge whose supporters have enjoyed the government-set prices for music for many years.  Today, it is as if the major streaming companies expect songwriters to subsidize their businesses.  Everyone from small independent publishers, of which there are hundreds, to the major publishers, are in agreement that the market cannot work if songwriters continue to have no voice and no choice.

What publishers and songwriters are asking is to let the market decide what these rights are worth (if this sounds familiar, it’s because that’s how all other property owners do business).  Doing so would do the exact opposite of what Public Knowledge warns against – it will allow emerging streaming companies to be competitive with market-dominators like Pandora and Spotify by giving them the ability to negotiate deals to offer diverse services and songs to listeners.

Right now there is hope – the DOJ has seen how dysfunctional the music marketplace has become because WWII-era rules are regulating a completely different digital industry – and they are considering making changes.  The fact that someday soon, songwriters may actually be able to stand up to the giant tech companies that refuse to pay them fairly, and work with new entrants to the streaming market is hugely exciting for anyone who loves music.  Keep in mind – songwriters and publishers are not asking for more money – they are only asking for a fair market negotiation.


Public Knowledge will continue to try to cloud the issue with claims about how songwriters and music publishers have too much clout.

The reality is, if that were true, legendary songwriters like Pharrell wouldn’t be making $2,700 in songwriter and publisher royalties from 43 million streams of “Happy” on Pandora.

If songwriters and publishers had the power that Public Knowledge claims, they wouldn’t be fighting this decades-long battle for songwriter freedom in the first place.  After all, an interest group led by the former Director of Global Public Policy at Google – one of the world’s largest tech companies – writing pieces about the dangers of monopolistic power is almost as ironic as a group called Public Knowledge offering misinformation in the name of transparency while refusing to disclose from where their funding comes.

Top image by Racchio, licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 (CC by 2.0).                           

NMPA to Honor Billy Joel, Senator Corker at Annual Meeting in NYC

May 20th, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer















NMPA Members: Watch the live webcast here.

Media Contact: Charlotte Sellmyer

Washington D.C. — The National Music Publishers’ Association today announced that at its Annual Meeting in New York, it will honor legendary singer-songwriter Billy Joel for his contribution to songwriting and advocacy for those in his profession. The event, which will focus on the state of the music publishing industry, will feature performances by Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter LeAnn Rimes and singer-songwriters Westrin & Mowry. The keynote address will be given by National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu.

In recognition of his leadership on the issues facing music publishers and songwriters in the Digital Age, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) will also be honored with the NMPA President’s Award. Former ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento will receive the first-ever NMPA Industry Legacy Award for his achievements in support of creators and Ralph Peer II will receive the Lifetime Service Award for his decades of successes in the field of music publishing.

“This year is incredibly significant for music publishers and songwriters, so it is only fitting that we have such important honorees at our Annual Meeting. We are beyond thrilled to pay tribute to Billy Joel for his immeasurable contribution to songwriting, and his endless work on behalf of those who hope to follow in his footsteps. Having LeAnn Rimes perform some of his hits is a tribute to the breadth of influence he has had across the industry,” said NMPA President and CEO David Israelite. “Additionally, we’re excited to recognize Senator Corker’s steadfast commitment to helping songwriters succeed. Without his leadership helping creators achieve a fair wage in a free market, we would not be making the progress I believe we are making today.”

Each year the NMPA holds its Annual Meeting at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square on the night prior to the Songwriters Hall of Fame Dinner. As an annual tradition, a songwriting icon and a lawmaker are honored for their work to better the livelihoods of those who fuel the music industry. The event culminates with a State of the Industry Address given by NMPA CEO David Israelite.

Interested members of the media must register to attend. Photos will be provided upon request.

About the NMPA:
Founded in 1917, the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) is the trade association representing all American music publishers and their songwriting partners. The NMPA’s mandate is to protect and advance the interests of music publishers and songwriters in matters relating to the domestic and global protection of music copyrights. Learn more at

billboard: Publishers Call BMI’s Win Over Pandora a ‘Small Fraction of What Music Creators Deserve’

May 19th, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer

Publishers Call BMI’s Win Over Pandora a ‘Small Fraction of What Music Creators Deserve’


While Pandora immediately denounced the finding by Judge Louis Stanton that it should pay 2.5 percent of revenue for the BMI blanket license and vowed to appeal, the music publishing community has praised the decision. Moreover, publishers also expressed their resolve to continue their fight against Pandora, which they accuse of trying to benefit economically at the expense of songwriters.

“It is a positive first step to the entire publishing and songwriting community that Judge Stanton ruled in favor of BMI, requiring Pandora to pay them a higher percentage of its revenue,” National Music Publishers Association president David Israelite said in a statement. “While still a small fraction of what music creators deserve, this decision sends a clear message that Pandora cannot continue to get away with growing its business on the backs of struggling songwriters — who deserve to be paid fair market value for their work.”

BMI Wins in Rate Court Battle With Pandora

ASCAP applauded Judge Stanton for citing market benchmarks, which ASCAP has long argued are relevant in these rate court proceedings. The market benchmarks consisted of deals cut by publishers like Sony/ATV and Universal Music Publishing Group, who had withdrawn their digital rights from the PROs’ blanket licenses. Even though both judges in both rate courts subsequently ruled that the consent decrees under which both ASCAP and BMI operate don’t allow for partial withdrawals, Stanton found that the direct deals cut by the withdrawing publishers were relevant benchmarks, regardless of them being signed “under duress,” as Pandora maintained. This is the opposite opinion that Judge Denise Cote reached, who presided over the ASCAP/Pandora rate court trial and disregarded the direct deals, setting Pandora’s ASCAP rate at 1.85 percent of revenue.

“This decision [the Stanton ruling on rates] is welcome news for music creators, but make no mistake, Pandora will stop at nothing in their ongoing effort to shortchange songwriters,” ASCAP president and chairman Paul Williams said in a statement. “ASCAP and the music community must continue to fight for the urgent reforms needed to enable all songwriters, composers and music publishers to obtain fair compensation for the use of our music.”

How Pandora Has Caught a Break (Twice) In Its Battle Over Royalties

Finally, Sony/ATV, which administers EMI Music Publishing, issued a statement saying it was pleased by the decision. “While it is at the lower end of benchmark rates obtained in free market and arm’s length negotiations between publishers and Pandora, the rate decision is a step in the right direction towards obtaining better royalty rates for our songwriters,” the statement said.  We reject, as the court did, Pandora’s continued pretense that the agreements it voluntarily entered into with us during the time our digital rights were withdrawn from ASCAP and BMI were made under duress. We will continue our fight to obtain fair payment for our writers and hope that Pandora will come to recognize the value of the music that forms the very basis of their businesses.”

The full ruling by Judge Stanton has yet to be released, as BMI and Pandora agree on what should be redacted from the public release. When such decisions are written, they often contain competitive data in making arguments to back the decision but the parties involved may not want such information disclosed.


billboard: Pandora’s Radio Station Gets FCC Approval

May 7th, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer

Pandora’s Radio Station Gets FCC Approval


Pandora can now start playing music — on the FM dial.

Broadcast approval for Rapid City, South Dakota’s KXMZ, which Pandora purchased for $600,000 in the summer of 2013 was finally given the green light by the FCC last night. The license underwent a long delay because of a Communications Act law preventing broadcast radio stations from being owned by foreign entities.

The station purchase was part of a savvy move by Pandora, which will now look to take advantage of lower royalty rates offered by ASCAP, which manages performance rights, to companies which own broadcast radio stations and the digital radio services those broadcasters operate. ASCAP’s settlement with the Radio Music Licensing Committee, which represents the majority of U.S. radio stations, sets a blanket license fee of 1.7 percent of gross revenue, less standard deductions. Currently, Pandora pays the PRO 1.85 percent of revenue.

Pandora’s Bid to Own South Dakota Radio Station Gains Steam With FCC

Dave Grimaldi, Pandora’s director of public affairs, said in a statement this morning that ““Pandora is radio, and the acquisition of KXMZ would qualify Pandora for the same RMLC license under the same terms as our competitors. This move makes sense to us beyond the licensing parity alone,” going on to say the company was excited to work with the local community in Rapid City. BMI are currently awaiting a decision on recent arguments delivered in Manhattan court that will set rates for that PRO.

ASCAP opposed the radio station license approval, but the FCC disagreed that its arguments pertained to any potential conflict regarding foreign ownership rules. “With respect to ASCAP’s allegations regarding Pandora’s motivation in acquiring the Station,” the FCC writes, “the Act does not require us to examine the business rationale” of a sale, only whether it runs afoul of foreign ownership law.”

ASCAP issued a statement to Billboard on the news, writing that “Pandora has to comply with a number of requirements pertaining to its foreign ownership. It has 90 days to do so; and assuming it does comply with the FCC’s requirements, the FCC will then consider Pandora’s application for permission to purchase KXMZ.  In the meantime, ASCAP will be considering what, if any, additional comments to make, or other steps to take, in light of the FCC’s Declaratory Ruling. Pandora’s purchase of KXMZ is a transparent ploy squarely aimed at paying songwriters even less for online music streams and serves as yet another example of the urgent need for reform of the nation’s music licensing system.”

The FCC cites two separate studies of the company’s stock in its ruling, which determined a majority (between 82 to 83.5 percent) of the broadcaster’s stock to be held by U.S. interests, as well as no single foreign shareholder as possessing more than a 5 percent share in the company. The ruling requires Pandora to more closely monitor foreign investment and to re-submit its finding biannually.

The David Israelite, CEO of the National Music Publishers Association, called Pandora’s purchase “cynical and shameless,” calling the station a “pawn in Pandora’s game,” concluding that “now, there can be no doubt that Pandora has declared war on songwriters.”

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly was also dismissive of the FCC’s policies as related to broadcast purchases, writing that “the Commission can, and should, go beyond the current case-by-case approach to these requests by setting rules and policies affirmatively permitting more foreign ownership.”

Commission Ajit Pai, in his statement, writes that “the Commission has tied itself (and Pandora) in knots trying to determine whether foreign interests own more than 25 percent of Pandora stock, and if so, whether Pandora should be able to own a single FM radio station in a small South Dakota town. This is absurd.”

Updated, 9:49AM ET with a statement from Pandora.

MUSIC ROW: NMPA Finalizes Licensing Deal with SoundCloud

May 7th, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer

NMPA Finalizes Licensing Deal with SoundCloud

• May 6, 2015 •

National Music Publishers’ Association
(NMPA) President and CEO David Israelitetoday (May 6) announced the organization has negotiated the terms of a Rights Agreement with SoundCloud.

The deal will benefit of NMPA’s independent music publisher and songwriters members to receive royalties through content monetization for their work on the streaming site.

“This agreement ensures that when SoundCloud succeeds financially, so do the songwriters whose content draws so many users to their site,” said Israelite. “I am thrilled that we could agree on terms that will benefit both creators and the SoundCloud platform that has brought online music access and creativity to a new level.”

SoundCloud launched in 2008 by Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss in Berlin. The audio platform gives users access to the world’s largest community of music and audio creators.

Billboard reports Sony Music has removed original recordings from the SoundCloud pages of Adele,Hozier, Miguel, Kelly Clarkson, Passion Pit, Leon Bridges, and more “as part of a breakdown in negotiations between the major music group.”

“Until recently [Soundcloud] was a completely free service to more than 350 million monthly users,” notes Andrew Hampp. “Though its content was unlicensed, the platform has played an influential role in helping developing artists like Lorde and, ironically, Bridges get discovered and ultimately signed by major labels – as well as a destination for established acts like Beyonce,Miguel and Drake to debut new material.”

NMPA Gives The Band Perry Gold & Platinum Awards

April 22nd, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer


The NMPA recently presented The Band Perry with Gold & Platinum songwriting awards for their hits “Postcard from Paris,” “Done.,” and “If I Die Young.” The presentations were made after The Band Perry had spent the day on Capitol Hill, discussing the need to protect music creators with The Recording Academy. Read more in MUSIC ROW here.

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NMPA’s Annual Celebration of the American Songwriter

April 22nd, 2015 by Charlotte Sellmyer


NMPA’s Annual Celebration of the American Songwriter was a huge hit on a beautiful night in Washington, D.C.

Grace Jones opened for Lady Antebellum who spoke about what songwriting has meant to them. Members of the band were honored with NMPA’s Songwriter Icon Award and performed several iconic songs.

Lawmakers, Congressional staff and industry executives were in attendance and heard about the challenges songwriters face in the Digital Age. Photos from the event are below:

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