Thanks to the Music Modernization Act (MMA), which President Trump signed into law on October 11, 2018, independent artists may gain more revenue when their music is streamed. The law makes some changes to copyright laws, particularly ensuring that artists receive higher revenue for their streamed music. One main purpose of the law is to reform the music licensing landscape so that more digital services will legally license music.

In a time when music streaming is increasing, this act perhaps represents good news for independent artists, who tend to struggle more economically than those signed to major record labels. According to BuzzAngle Music, on demand audio streaming increased 41.8% from last year, totaling over 500 billion streams. There was also more variety in the number of projects streamed in the past year – $3 million more than 2017 which was about 9%. If people are seeking to stream more varied types of music, perhaps this could open some opportunities for independent artists. However, album sales and song sales have persisted in decline, so music in those forms do not necessarily represent promising areas for increased revenue.

The MMA seeks to ensure that rights holders receive their income from music streaming services in a more effective way. Since many independent artists also write their own music, this is another reason why the MMA may have a positive effect on that group. The MMA affects the way determinations about rates for songwriters can be made, thus creating the potential that revenues for songwriters may see favorable increases.

Currently, songs that are streamed 100 million times produce an approximate revenue of $35 million for labels and artists but only about 4% goes to those in music publishing. Historically, those on the music publishing side have not had much bargaining power, but some hope that the MMA will change that.

While the effects of the MMA are not perfectly clear, there does seem to be a lot of support for it from different areas of the music industry. Time will reveal if the bill actually accomplishes what independent artists and other music professionals hope it will.

Dora Duru


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