Brian McKnight, Desmond Child Call for Music Licensing Reform - Rolling Stone
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Brian McKnight, Desmond Child Call for Music Licensing Reform

“Our music is played more and is valued less,” says Desmond Child

copyright, ASCAP, brian mcknight, desmond child, monica, mozella, miley cyrus wrecking ball, advocacy day, songwriter rights, paul williams

From left: singer-songwriter Rob Thomas, musician Desmond Child, singer Suzanne Vega, singer-songwriter Brian McKnight, songwriters Brett James and Kevin Kadish at the 2016 ASCAP "I Create Music" EXPO.

Lester Cohen/Getty

Award-winning songwriters and musicians are calling for music licensing reform in light of the digital streaming landscape in Washington, D.C.

“Copyright is starting to mean nothing,” songwriter MoZella, who co-wrote Miley Cyrus‘ Number One hit “Wrecking Ball,” tells Rolling Stone. “We’ve had over 250 million streams of ‘Wrecking Ball’ on Pandora, and I made about $3,000 on my writers’ share. The industry can’t survive if the hit writers are each making about $10,000 after taxes from all the big streaming services online combined. This is serious.”

The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) is presenting a 1,500-signature petition urging policymakers to update WWII-era federal laws that regulate how songwriters license their works. Some of the petition’s signatories include Pat Benatar, Nate Ruess of Fun. and Omi, best known for his hit “Cheerleader.” 

“We’re asking policymakers to stand with songwriters at a time when our future livelihoods and the future of American music are both in jeopardy,” ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams said in a statement. “Streaming has vastly changed music listening habits but licensing laws haven’t kept up with the way people consume music today, so songwriters are struggling.”

MoZella is joined by Brian McKnight, Monica, Desmond Child (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Kiss), Brett James (Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride), Priscilla Renea (Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato), Needlz (Bruno Mars, The Lonely Island), Savan Kotecha (Madonna, Ariana Grande, One Direction) and others today in D.C. 

“My ‘a-ha’ moment was when I was told how many times my music is streamed per month and then consequently how much actual revenue I was actually receiving,” McKnight tells Rolling Stone

Legendary hit songwriter Desmond Child echoed McKnight’s sentiment: “Even though our music is being played more and more, it seems to be valued less and less by the companies that use it,” he tells Rolling Stone. “The laws that govern how songwriters license our work were written long before the Internet or iPhones or streaming even existed.”

To address Desmond’s point about songwriters facing antiquated U.S. law, ASCAP released a PSA-style video featuring its songwriter members highlighting the ways American culture has changed –including the invention of Frosted Flakes and the introduction of Hawaii as the 50th state – since the licensing laws went into affect in 1941.


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