For Songwriters

Learn more about some of the critical issues affecting songwriters and composers.



  • For decades, outdated laws—dating back to 1909—have prevented songwriters from earning fair market value for their work.

  • The Music Modernization Act (MMA) establishes a new mechanical licensing collective, paid for by the digital services and administered by songwriters and publishers, that will result in more timely payments of mechanical royalties to songwriters for their works used by streaming services. Watch the Recording Academy’s webinar with The Mechanical Licensing Collective to learn more about how it can help you collect royalties.

  • The MMA also amends Sec. 115 of the Copyright Act to provide a fair market rate standard for songwriters. Instead of the below market standard previously used, mechanical rates will now be set using the “willing buyer, willing seller” standard that better approximates the rates that would be established in the free market. 

  • The MMA establishes a free and searchable database of musical works ownership to make copyright ownership more transparent and reduce the amount of unmatched works that have historically yielded no royalty payout to songwriters. 

  • For any remaining unmatched works, songwriters will be entitled, for the first time, to at least 50% of the unclaimed royalties and have audit rights to ensure that royalties are being paid and paid accurately.



  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trying time for songwriters and the entire music ecosystem, leaving many music creators without access to their traditional income streams. Since many songwriters are self-employed workers or freelancers, many were left unable to access unemployment insurance support and needed relief quick. 

  • The Recording Academy and its members worked with Congress to provide relief for struggling creators, resulting in the passage of two landmark bills.

  • The CARES Act, which passed in March 2020, included a new pandemic unemployment assistance program for eligible self-employed workers and a new Small Business Administration loan program for self-employed workers.

  • A $900 billion relief package, which passed in December 2020, established and extended critical unemployment programs for self-employed workers, and replenished Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs.

  • The Biden Administration and Congress continued to support self-employed workers and freelancers by passing the “American Rescue Plan” in March 2021, which extended unemployment assistance, provided direct relief payments, and appropriated funds to enhance the existing Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs. The Biden Administration also issued updated guidance for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide a higher and more equitable loan amount for self-employed workers.   



  • ASCAP and BMI, two of the performing rights organizations (PROs) relied upon by songwriters and composers to collect royalties for public performances, are restricted by consent decrees issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that date back to 1941. These outdated decrees have failed to keep pace with changes in technology and the music marketplace and constrain the PROs from securing fair compensation for their songwriters.

  • While the Music Modernization Act (MMA) does not affect the consent decrees, it does improve the rate court process for ASCAP and BMI in two significant ways so that they can secure fair market value for their songwriters. First, rate courts will be able to consider all relevant market evidence—including sound recording royalties—when setting royalty rates for public performances. Second, instead of a single rate court judge for each PRO, judges will be randomly assigned to each rate proceeding for ASCAP and BMI to ensure impartiality.