When it comes to negotiating streaming rates, the major record labels are in the drivers seat, doing deals in the backroom that no one knows about until they’re announced. Needless to say, artists have no say in this. That could change if the updated Protect Working Musicians Act becomes law.
The bill would allow artists to collectively bargain with the streaming services, giving them direct say in how much they’re paid. The latest version of the bill would also set limits on how music is included in Ai datasets so artists and songwriters would be entitled to payments if their songs or voices are scraped during training.
“AI threatens the creator — finding the person or entity that has co-opted your work and turned it into something else and then going after them is so onerous,” said Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), who sponsored the revised act and sits on the House Judiciary Committee. “That’s one of the reasons for this bill — to allow people to do this collaboratively. We need to do this sooner than later. We’re seeing this threat every single day.”
The bill was originally introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) in October of 2021. When he retired from the House, Rep. Ross decided to champion the bill. She then held hearings with indie artists in her district to better understand their plight regarding both the threat from Ai and streaming royalty rates.
While the Protect Working Musicians Act sounds exactly like what current artists need, it unfortunately faces an uphill climb to get passed. Even though the bill has bipartisan support, Congress isn’t passing much new legislation these days thanks to political animosities between both sides.
Also, this won’t apply to artists that are signed to major labels since the labels would still control the song copyrights and therefore be entitled to negotiate any licensing deals. Still, with more and more artists deciding to stay independent, it would be great to have a seat at the table the next time streaming royalty rates are negotiated.