CLASSICS CORNER: The Arbitrary Divide

The music industry has a long history of song covers, sampling, and remixing. Reinvention is a key pillar of artistry. Unfortunately, the way streaming services like SiriusXM have interpreted state laws has created an arbitrary divide of who gets paid for their art and who doesn’t. Songs recorded after 1972 receive royalty payments when they’re played, while songs recorded prior don’t.

This unfairness is exactly what the CLASSICS Act strives to remedy. Gloria Jones recorded “Tainted Love” in 1958, but receives no payment for digital radio airplay of the song. In 1981, Soft Cell famously covered the song. They receive royalties on it, simply because their version was recorded after 1972, while Jones’ was recorded prior.

The same is true for many covers and remixes — The Clash receives payment from “I Fought the Law” while the original recorders, The Crickets, don’t.

Unfortunately, this pay discrepancy most often affects older artists who have since retired and are dependent on royalties from past work.

Putting the images of these artists side by side in stark contrast, it’s clear that all of them deserve payment for their work. An arbitrary date should not determine who gets compensated for their art and who doesn’t.

Congress should quickly pass the CLASSICS Act as part of the Music Modernization Act.

Artist-run, non-profit advocating for musicians, performers, & songwriters in the digital landscape. (Formerly the Content Creators Coalition or “c3”)

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