Today, Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) introduced the Protect Working Musicians Act of 2023. This legislation will give small independent artists and music creators the power to collectively negotiate with both streaming platforms and generative artificial intelligence (AI) developers for fair compensation.

Under current laws, small and independent musicians have little ability to bargain for market value rates for the use of their music by global streaming platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Music. Instead, they are forced to accept whatever terms are offered by these platforms, while also having almost no ability to engage with AI companies who routinely scrape and use their music without permission or consent. This legislation allows independent artists to band together and collectively negotiate with large streaming platforms and AI developers, without the obstacles of antitrust laws. 

“North Carolina has long been home to outstanding artists and a vibrant music scene that plays a vital role in our state’s culture and economy,” said Congresswoman Ross. “Working musicians and small independent labels face urgent challenges to their livelihoods posed by the market power of streaming platforms as well as the explosion of AI applications that use their work without licensing or pay. This legislation will help give small, independent music creators a level playing field, empowering them to stand together for fairer compensation and giving them a voice in important negotiations that will determine the future of the music industry.” 

The Protect Working Musicians Act is endorsed by the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) and the Artist Rights Alliance (ARA).

“Musicians today are fighting for fair treatment on so many fronts, including both in the online streaming marketplace and against the growing threat posed by AI companies who exploit creators’ work without permission,” said Jen Jacobsen, ARA Executive Director. “The ‘Protect Working Musicians Act’ will give small and independent artists a shot at facing these challenges by allowing them to negotiate collectively with the large and powerful entities who profit from musicians’ hard work. We thank Rep. Ross for her leadership in empowering creators with tools to navigate this ever-changing market.”

"Thank you, Rep. Deborah Ross, for championing the rights of artists through the introduction of the Protect Working Musicians Act,” said Dr. Richard James Burgess MBE, President & CEO of A2IM. “The PWMA would help level the playing field for indie artists who struggle to make a living from the mega corporations that control the streaming marketplace.” 

“I’m so grateful to my fellow North Carolinian Deborah Ross for fighting for independent music and the future of creativity,” said singer-songwriter Tift Merritt, Co-Chair of the Artist Rights Alliance. “Artists, songwriters, and independent labels have never needed each other more, and this legislation will ensure our voices are heard and we receive fair pay for our work.” 

“The Protect Working Musicians Act is a necessary tool for independent artists and labels to compete in today’s marketplace and receive fair compensation for their work from streaming platforms and AI companies,” said ARA Co-Founder John McCrea of CAKE. “It is amazing that it even needs to be said, but people who make things have a fundamental right to negotiate with the giants who use and distribute their work.” 

“We at Merge would like to thank Congresswoman Ross for endorsing the North Carolina music scene as the strong cultural and economic force it is and taking this step to make sure we can compete and succeed in the digital world,” said Laura Ballance, Co-Founder, Merge Records and member of the band Superchunk.

The bill text is available here