After Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package Monday evening (Dec. 21), the music industry came out in force to celebrate a number of measures included that specifically benefit the music business.
A coalition of music organizations including the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Artists Rights Alliance (ARA), Music Artists Coalition (MAC), Nashville Songwriters Association, Recording Academy, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SAG-AFTRA and Songwriters of North America (SONA) issued the following statement:
“This legislation is a much-needed lifeline for so many in the music industry who have faced loss and uncertainty for far too long through no fault of their own. We are very grateful for the extension of vital CARES Act benefits including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and the inclusion of the Save Our Stages Act, which will make billions of dollars in grants available to venues and live entertainment workers who have been unable to do their jobs for months. We are also thrilled by the inclusion of a dedicated $100 weekly benefit for mixed earners. Simply put, these relief provisions will save lives and livelihoods, and they are a substantial step on the road to recovery.
“We also welcome the inclusion of consensus-driven intellectual property reforms in the omnibus bill. The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act and Protect Lawful Streaming Act (PLSA) will strengthen creators’ ability to protect their works against infringement online, and promote a safer, fairer digital environment, which are particularly needed as the arts struggle to survive the pandemic. We look forward to continuing our work to provide greater relief for the American creative community.”
Chief among the music and entertainment-focused measures included in the bill is the Save Our Stages Act, which will provide $15 billion in relief funding for “live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions” that have been devastated by coronavirus-related closures. The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act will create a small-claims adjudication system within the U.S. Copyright Office — allowing creators engaged in copyright disputes to skirt paying exorbitant legal fees — while the Protect Lawful Streaming Act (PLSA) will make illegal streaming for commercial profit a felony.
“This is the lifeline our industry so desperately needs to emerge from a devastating year,” said Dayna Frank, owner and CEO, First Avenue Productions and board president of the National Independent Venues Association, in a statement. “Without independent venues and promoters across the country working to engage their communities, staff, and artists, our voices would not have been heard – we are thankful for those tireless efforts. Careers came to a standstill overnight, and people continue to face personal hardships, which is why legislation like this and extending Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is essential. Our immense gratitude goes, in particular, to Senator Klobuchar, Senator Cornyn, and Senator Schumer, for securing the future of independent venues and promoters for generations to come.”
“The Recording Academy is pleased that Congress heard the call of thousands of music creators and included protections for the music community in the omnibus bill,” added Recording Academy chair and interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. in his own statement. “In addition to extended and improved unemployment benefits and small business loans for freelance creators, the package includes several bills which the Recording Academy, its members, and the larger music community advocated for. From the Save Our Stages Act, which provides a lifeline to performance venues and promoters, to the CASE Act, which creates an avenue for smaller creators to defend their copyrighted works, Congress has ensured that both music creators and those who act behind the scenes to bring music to life are given the support they need during this difficult time.”
Added NMPA president and CEO David Israelite: “We commend Congress for passing key legislation within today’s Omnibus bill that will help creators. The CASE Act provides a reasonable and needed pathway to justice for everyone from songwriters to photographers whose work is being used unlawfully. Additionally, the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act is crucial to enforcing copyrights by fixing the streaming ‘loophole,’ which has allowed rogue enterprises to run rampant and profit without the necessary law enforcement tools to prosecute them. Now, criminal penalties for illegal streaming will be aligned with illegal downloading and distribution. Both of these bills are important steps forward for the music industry and larger creative community and will allow songwriters to better enforce their rights. We sincerely appreciate Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Senator Thom Tillis’ (R-NC) leadership on these issues.”
While not specifically aimed at the music industry, unemployment benefits provided for in the final package will nonetheless have widespread implications for those who work within it. These include both the new round of $300 federal supplemental unemployment payments as well as extended unemployment aid for freelance workers — who make up a sizable portion of the industry’s workforce — through March 14, 2021. An extra $100 weekly unemployment benefit for “mixed earners” — those who earn income both as employees and freelancers — will benefit workers who were barred from receiving benefits under the unemployment program created for freelancers and gig workers because they qualified for traditional unemployment benefits.
One notable measure excluded from the final package was the HITS Act, which would allow musicians, technicians and producers to deduct up to $150,000 in recording expenses on their taxes in the year they were incurred. Billboard has learned that a separate effort to pass the HITS Act will continue in the new year.