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Rosanne Cash to testify before Congress in support of artists’ rights

Rosanne Cash, Music Licensing, Americana Music Association
Frederick Breedon IV, Getty Images via

Singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash is set to testify before Congress tomorrow in support of artists’ rights in the increasingly digital marketplace.  Cash will be testifying on behalf of the Americana Music Association, a trade organization made up of various Americana music professionals whose self-described mission is “to advocate for the authentic voice of Americana Roots Music around the world.”

Tomorrow, Cash, accompanied by AMA Executive Director Jed Hilly, will be advocating for artists’ rights to fair compensation within the digital distribution models that dominate today’s music business. According to Cash’s testimony (which has already been made public in full here), “it seems painfully obvious that all creative people deserve fair compensation when their work is used by others. For various reasons, that does not seem to be happening in the marketplace today, and we need a realignment.”

While Cash’s testimony shows no opposition to digital distribution models specifically (streaming services in particular) or new technologies as they relate to music artists more generally, her testimony’s central claim is that current copyright law, largely enacted in the pre-Internet era, does not allow for fair compensation for artists in today’s digital world.  

According to Cash, “For an 18 month period, there were nearly 600,000 streams of my songs on a popular subscription site. I was paid $114.00 for those streams. I am not a lawyer or a politician or a policy wonk, and I couldn’t begin to parse the incredibly complex, outdated, pre-­Internet laws regarding licensing and copyrights but I CAN tell you that I see young musicians give up their dreams Every Single Day because they cannot make a living, they cannot survive doing the thing they most love, the thing they just might be on the planet to do.”

Cash will be following in the footsteps of her famous father, Johnny Cash, who testified before the same committee regarding similar issues in 1997.  “What an innocent time that was,” Cash said. “Isolated illegal websites have morphed into a multi-­national juggernaut that threatens to decimate the livelihoods of all musicians, songwriters and performers.”

According to Hilly, “It’s a critical time for music. Not just for the music business, but for the art of making music. I’m optimistic that Congress will listen to Rosanne, who, like her father before, is steeped with integrity and proud to stand up and speak the truth.”

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