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Digital Performance Royalties for Older Songs Considered by Tennessee Legislature

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Musicians of all genres today are building on the legacy of earlier songwriters. But digital performance royalties are not paid to artists for music recorded before 1972. Two Tennessee legislators from opposing parties are trying to address this bizarre situation and have introduced legislation in Tennessee. Such state legislation may help push things forward on a national basis on down the line but hoping for productive change from our currently dysfunctional legislators is likely an effort in frustration.

State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) and state Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) filed their legislative effort last week to ensure that digital performance royalties are paid to musicians for songs recorded before February 1972.

Their attempt to address outdated legislation apparently caught some nationalTennessee politicians who have previously supported such efforts by surprise. Hopefully they can all connect but as The Tennessean's Nate Rau points out:

“Last month, Congress renewed the decades-old debate about comprehensive royalty reform during a hearing in the House judiciary committee. But there are many complicated aspects and competing interests to royalty reform besides creating digital performance royalties for recordings produced before Feb. 15, 1972. There’s no evidence that realistic reform is on the way from this divided Congress."

It's a sad state of affairs that elected officials can't or won't do their jobs but that is the reality all of us face, musicians or not.

What's even sadder is each year more artists pass that would have benefited from such legislation. And even some of those who were once quite famous die in obscurity and poverty.

Younger musicians should be supporting this legislation. Even hip hop, which was invented after 1972, has relied on the work of an incredibly wide range of artists, especially the greats of soul music, to construct their creations.

So it's great to see more Tennessee politicians getting on board.


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