New Bill in Congress Would Empower Indie Artists to Negotiate for Better Streaming Rates

The U.S. Capitol
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The U.S. Capitol is seen during a partial shutdown of the U.S. government, on December 26, 2018 in Washington, DC.

The Protect Working Musicians Act aims to give indie artists and labels the ability to bargain for higher rates.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) introduced new legislation Monday that would allow independent music artists, labels and creators to collectively negotiate for better royalty rates.

Endorsed by the Assn. of Independent Music (A2IM) and the Artist Rights Alliance, the Protect Working Musicians Act would allow independent artists to band together to negotiate with streaming platforms and make antitrust laws no longer an obstacle to those provisions, as well as grant artists the ability to collectively refuse to license their music to any dominant online distribution platform that doesn’t pay market rates.

Currently, as freelancers, independent artists aren’t allowed to collectively bargain and have no union to bargain for them.

"Through the pandemic, streaming services became even more indispensable, allowing us to enjoy the music we love, even when live performances were shut down. But with the exponentially increasing market power of a few tech platforms, the voices of independent musicians are getting harder to hear," said Deutch in a statement. "By empowering a more diverse chorus of voices to negotiate fair terms and rates for their music, the Protecting Working Musicians Act recognizes the fundamental value of music and gives working artists a fair shot.”

“The power imbalance must be addressed by Congress so that creators and independent labels can band together to fight for fair compensation and against anti-competitive schemes that devalue music,” said A2IM president/CEO Richard Burgess. “Year after year these platforms grow their profits and subscriber bases at astronomical rates while artists struggle, especially in the wake of the pandemic. We thank Rep. Deutch for standing up for the premise that artists and creators deserve to make a living wage even if they aren’t a mega star or signed to a major label.”

"We must level the playing field for [independent artists and labels] and boost their streaming payouts,” added Cake’s John McCrea, who is co-chair of the ARA with Rosanne Cash. “This bill accomplishes that, and empowers them, by using free-market tools to ensure that all artists get fair market value for their work.”

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