Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City.
And it was a great privilege to receive the White Hat Award recently from Nashville Songwriters Association International for my work to pass the Music Modernization Act – bipartisan legislation I introduced that ensures songwriters are paid a fair market value for their work.
I would like to thank three songwriters in particular – Lee Brice, Billy Montana and Jon Stone – for teaching me a lesson on how they get paid and why many songwriters struggle to make a living doing what they do.
A few years ago, my son Drew, who is a music publisher, invited the three of them to our cabin for a weekend of writing songs.
On the way home I stopped at a drugstore and saw an old couple sitting outside in a pickup truck.
So, I asked, “How are y’all doing?”
The old lady answered, “We’re just falling apart together.”
I told that to Lee Brice and he said, “I can do something with that.”
And so, he and Billy and Jon wrote a song, and gave me one fourth of the royalties for suggesting the name. Lee put it on his next album, and I was sure I had made the big time — until my royalty check arrived for $101.75 for the whole year!
You can’t make a living on $101.75. That’s why passing this bill was so important for Tennessee songwriters, and I’m glad President Trump signed our legislation into law last October. But it is not me who deserves the credit.
Recently at The Bluebird Cafe, I heard a new song by Will Duvall, Ryan Larkins and J. R. McCoy called “The King of Country Music, is the Song.”
That made me think that the name of this new law ought to be “The Songwriters’ Law,” because Tennessee songwriters are the ones who made it happen.
Songwriters from across our state trooped up to Washington, D.C., and reminded Congress that it all starts with a song, that somebody has to write the song, and that it is only right that the songwriter gets paid a fair market value for their work.
Our success in passing this bill was the result of most parts of the music industry – songwriters, publishers, digital music companies and broadcasters – working together on what they agree on, instead of fighting over what they disagree about.
There are very few pieces of legislation in the United States Senate that get 85 cosponsors, but the Music Modernization Act did. It was a complicated bill that had broad support. I run into lots of people who tell me they really think the Music Modernization Act will help songwriters, and I hope it does. After all, songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City.
Sen. Lamar Alexander is the senior U.S. senator from Tennessee.