What is SONA?

Songwriting partners Kay Henley and Michelle Lewis founded Songwriters of North America (SONA) in January of 2015 in response to the licensing rates paid to music creators by digital streaming companies like Pandora and Spotify. As songwriters themselves Kay and Michelle found the licensing rates set by digital streaming companies “abysmal” and unfair. Kay and Michelle felt it essential to form a collective of songwriters to spearhead the multitude of issues that all songwriters face in the new digital music economy. With the help of Dina LaPolt, an entertainment attorney and activist, Kay and Michelle created SONA, a grassroots advocacy organization, to educate, strategize and mobilize the songwriter community.

We composed this guide to share with you the work, resources, and goals of the Songwriters of North America. We hope this guide will help you understand what SONA advocates for and how SONA is actively helping Songwriters across North America.

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In this newsletter:

A cross-party group of UK lawmakers is advocating for regulations to protect human music creators from unauthorized use of AI, including laws safeguarding artists' personalities from AI replication without consent, transparent labeling of AI-generated content, and requiring AI developers to obtain permission from copyright holders for training materials.

Federal lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation known as the American Music Tourism Act, aimed at boosting music tourism and venue business nationwide. Sponsored by Senators John Hickenlooper and Marsha Blackburn, the bill mandates the Commerce Department to enhance music tourism domestically and internationally, with an annual report to Congress on its progress.

SiriusXM experienced a notable decline in self-pay and promotional subscribers during the first quarter, with CEO Jennifer Witz attributing some of this loss to disruptions caused by the SiriusXM streaming app launch. Despite this, the company remains optimistic about reaching younger demographics and improving engagement metrics.

Now, the details...

Exploration Weekly - May 3, 2024
Compiled by Ana Berberana

UK Lawmakers Call For AI Legislation To Protect Artists From Deepfakes, Copyright Infringement

A group of UK lawmakers from across the political spectrum has thrown its support behind a new report that calls for AI to be regulated in the market in order to protect human music creators.The report calls for the UK to pass new laws that would protect artists’ personalities from being copied by AI without permission; mandate transparent labeling of AI-generated content; and require AI developers to gain permission from copyright holders to use their materials for training, among other things. The report, put out by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music – an informal group that includes members of the House of Commons and House of Lords – was funded by industry umbrella group UK Music, and is not an official report of Parliament or any parliamentary committees. Titled Artificial Intelligence and the Music Industry – Master or Servant?, the report includes an opinion survey showing that 83% of UK adults want action to be taken on the issue of unauthorized deepfakes of artists like Taylor Swift and Drake. The survey, carried out in March by Whitestone Insight, also found that 80% of UK adults believe the law should prevent AI from being trained on on artist’s music without their permission; 77% believe that it amounts to “theft” when an AI uses an artist’s music without acknowledgment; and 83% agree that an artist’s creative “personality” should be protected against copying by AI. The poll also found that 69% of UK adults fear that AI will replace human creativity, and 62% are worried about the rise of deepfakes of music artists. “We must… confront the danger that unfettered developments in AI could pose to the UK’s musicians and music businesses,” Labour MP Kevin Brennan wrote in the report’s preamble. “We ignore the necessity to sow policies, which will harvest the benefits of AI, and help stave off the threats it poses, at our peril. Our central insight must always be that AI can be a great servant but would be a terrible master.”

‘American Music Tourism Act’ Arrives in Congress With Support from the RIAA, NIVA, the Recording Academy, and More

Federal lawmakers have officially introduced bipartisan legislation designed “to increase music tourism,” and the measure is drawing support from the Recording Academy, the RIAA, and others. Senators John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) just recently unveiled the American Music Tourism Act, which they say aims to increase the number of “domestic and international visitors” giving their business to “venues nationwide.” And on this front, the senators summarized as well that the bill would require the Commerce Department’s assistant secretary for travel and tourism to spearhead a plan to enhance music tourism among stateside and global fans alike. Additionally, the legislation would compel a yearly report to Congress “on the findings and achievements” of said plan. Digging into the text of the concise bill itself, the American Music Tourism Act would simply amend the Visit America Act, which became law as part of a massive spending package in late 2022 and created the assistant secretary position. As its title suggests, the Visit America Act aims “to support the travel and tourism industry, which produces economic impacts that are vital to our national economy.” Under the American Music Tourism Act, the existing law would be updated so that the secretary’s responsibilities include “identifying locations and events in the United States that are important to music tourism and promoting domestic travel and tourism to those sites and events.” A similar addition would institute the same requirement for international tourism, and the assistant secretary would then present the mentioned annual congressional reports on the “activities, findings, achievements, and vulnerabilities relating to the” promotional undertakings. Lastly, the American Music Tourism Act specifically defines music tourism as the act of traveling to attend live performances or “to visit historic or modern day music-related attractions, including museums, studios, venues of all sizes, and other sites related to music.” As noted, multiple industry organizations are backing the bill, with National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) executive director Stephen Parker touting the broader focus on “music tourism as a catalyst for economic development.”

SiriusXM Sheds 445,000 Subs, Pandora Drops 64,000 in Q1 2024 — Both Accelerated Declines

SiriusXM has reported a loss of 445,000 total subscribers for its Q1 2024—a massive loss compared to the 281,000 subscriber loss from Q1 2023. The satellite radio company shed 359,000 self-pay subscribers during the first quarter, an accelerated loss compared to 347,000 shed in Q1 2023. Paid promotional subscribers fell 86,000 compared to a gain of 66,000 in the same quarter last year. Self-pay subscribers for Pandora services fell by 64,000 in the first quarter. CEO Jennifer Witz conceded that the SiriusXM streaming app launch has been disruptive for even long-time customers. But she adds that the service is reaching younger customers beyond automobiles. “Our early engagement metrics and other consumer signals we are following from the new SiriusXM are improving,” Witz told investors. “We are confident that our app platform relaunch and the product improvements coming in the car are putting us on the right path.” Overall, SiriusXM posted quarterly revenue of $2.16 billion, up 1% from $2.14 billion in Q1 2023. The company recorded earnings of $265 million, or 7 cents per share, up from $233M or 6 cents per share in the same quarter of 2023. SiriusXM also points to its advertising revenue rising 7% to $402 million, offset by subscription revenue falling 1% to $1.68 billion. Howard Stern and SiriusXM announced an agreement to continue his contract as a longstanding host with Sirius for five years in 2020—bringing up the question of what SiriusXM could look like post-Howard Stern should he decide to retire. Scott Greenstein, President & Chief Content Officer of SiriusXM told investors the company is prepared to move on, should that be on the table.

The MLC Seeking Publisher Candidate Suggestions For Board Of Directors & Committees

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) is seeking suggestions for publisher candidates for its Board of Directors. They are also seeking publisher candidates for its Unclaimed Royalties Oversight, Dispute Resolution and Operations Advisory committees. There are two publisher representative positions on the Board of Directors. Under the MLC Bylaws, a publisher candidate qualifies as a music publisher which songwriters have assigned exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution of musical works. Additionally, the MLC has six committee publisher seats open. Two are on the Unclaimed Royalties Oversight Committee, where they will recommend policies and procedures to the board pertaining to the distribution of unclaimed accrued royalties. The two seats on the Dispute Resolution Committee will recommend policies and procedures to the board for the processing of royalties related to works that are subject to disputes over ownership. Lastly, the two seats on the Operations Advisor Committee will make recommendations to the board regarding the operations of The MLC. Elections will take place this summer, and elected candidates will serve for three-year terms and are eligible for re-election. The board and committees meet regularly, with all meetings taking place virtually. Suggestions for publisher seats will be accepted until May 31.

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