PAYMENTS DECREASED TO SONGWRITERS BY 70-90%
On July 9, 2012, when musicians all around the US checked their bank and ASCAP member accounts, many found their quarterly ASCAP royalty distribution payments for the 4th quarter of 2011 had unexpectedly dropped by 70-90%.
Many of these musicians rely on a majority of their income composing music and songs for television. They count on these checks to help pay their mortgages and feed their families.
We knew ASCAP was our performing rights organization. As a self proclaimed "organization owned and run by it's members" we were hopeful that the decrease in payments was a mistake.
SPECIFICS OF THIS CHANGE IN ROYALTY DISTRIBUTION PAYMENTS
Before the change was implemented, songs with lyrics played on a television show were paid at a higher rate than instrumental cues. ASCAP's recent change has made songs with lyrics and instrumentals royalty payments equal. The payments for instrumental cues did not increase and the payments for songs have now decreased to the same rate that instrumental cues have always paid.
In this new system of payments – a song placement will only pay a higher rate if it is a theme or performed live.
Songs are utilized by music supervisors based on lyrical content. Many times, these songs convey emotion based on the lyrics. Songs are also frequently used as a feature over a montage and highlight to wrap up scenes. We believe there should be another category in the pay scale at ASCAP to be fair to songwriters who add lyrics to their cues.
BACKGROUND INSTRUMENTAL PAYMENTS DID NOT INCREASE
Once we learned of this change – we assumed that payments for instrumental cues went up. This was not the case. Instrumental cues are paid the same rate as before the change.
WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?
Where is the money that they were paying songwriters in background vocal use going now? Since there was no increase to Instrumental plays – this money had to go somewhere. We want ASCAP to answer this question.
PAYMENTS DECREASED WITHOUT NOTICE
We have been told by several executives at ASCAP that they spent two years looking into this possible change to payments. Yet, when the decision was made to drastically lower the rates for songs, this self proclaimed representative democracy gave no notice or explanation to songwriters.
ASCAP also decided to apply this change to songs that had been placed prior to when the decision was made. Yes, this new payment system went into affect and was applied to songs that had already been broadcast months earlier - making the change retroactive as well.
ASCAP NEEDS TO TREAT ALL MEMBERS EQUALLY REGARDLESS OF STATUS/INCOME
Apparently, ASCAP's administration KNEW that these changes would seriously affect the very members they are supposed to be protecting. They mentioned running a YEARS worth of models with the new pay scale to see how these changes would affect their members. When asked why they had not reached out to their members to let them know that this change was coming and explain to them the dramatic difference they would see in their royalty payments, a representative at ASCAP simply said, "It had never occurred to them." We were also told that a few members had been notified of the change (“a small group of composers that this change would affect").
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT? FUTURE OF MUSIC
We believe that the future of music is at risk when we de-value music and those who create it. We feel that we must stand up for the rights of songwriters and composers. In this ever changing world of technology, digital music, and internet opportunities, it is important to hold on to the "value" of the truest part of the business, the music itself. Even if you are not a musician, we need your help. Please help music creators in their quest to be compensated and treated fairly.
We need to get the message across to ASCAP that to have a true representative organization, they need to have an open dialog with those they represent and give proper and timely notice when changes are made that affect their livelihood.
If you are an ASCAP member, please let us know in the comment section when you sign the petition. We appreciate comments about how this has affected you or your family/friends as well.
Dawn Wisner-Johnson started this petition with a single signature, and now has 1,304 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.