New law proposed to amend compensation for songwriters

New law proposed to amend compensation for songwriters

ABINGDON, Va. - We've all got our favorite songs and performers; some of us even have them as a ring tone on our phones. But behind every song, there's a songwriter. Does that songwriter get anything for you using that song on your phone?

Compensation for songwriters and composers is the subject of a bill introduced to properly compensate them for their work

It just so happens that there are a lot of top song writers in the region for a songwriters' festival at Virginia Highlands Community College this weekend.

We sat down with the festival's namesake, Richard Leigh, to get his view of this proposed new law.

When you hear music of any kind in a concert situation it's basically free, except for the charge to hear it. But behind each and every song is a songwriter.

If that song makes it to a recording, the songwriter gets a small portion of the proceeds, but it's not much.

The fact that the amount they receive hasn't changed since the first laws were enacted is making it harder for them to make a living. "We were paid the same for about 70 years. We got that landmark decision but our mechanical rate was still two cents from 1909 to 1968," says songwriter Richard Leigh. By mechanical rate, he means a marketable recording of a song. 

It's a profession they've given their lives to. "It's our work, its what we do for a living and we've dedicated our lives to it with the idea that these laws would protect us and after devoting our time instead of going to dental school we created music that people purchased," he said.

Enter the internet, and what's commonly called 'sharing' music with no compensation for the songwriter. "It's a terrible thing. People don't realize that there's a face behind every song. There's a guy who's got a mortgage and a car, tuition that he pays for his kids. You're not stealing from the big nameless record label, you're stealing from everybody," Leigh says.

That's why Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and Orrin Hatch from Utah, introduced the legislation to bring a level playing field for all music creators. It's called the Songwiter Equity Act of 2014.

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