Listen Up: Judiciary Hearing to Discuss Music’s Antitrust Future

Musical Notes
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These days, music is everywhere.

It’s piped into planes, airports, restaurants, supermarkets and more. Talk show hosts bump into and out of segments with fitting tunes (Say, Smooth Criminal for a segment on Sen. Bob Menendez). And of course, it’s on the phone in everyone’s pocket. It can seem as though everyone’s plugged in to music all the time.

With all these tunes in and on the air, it’s amazing to consider that the way music is licensed hasn’t changed much since Bing Crosby was lighting up the charts.

In 1941, the Justice Department issued a consent decree to limit the power of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Musicians (ASCAP). With minor changes, that decree still governs the music industry. Entire business models are built around it.

So while Washington is a long way from music-producing hotbeds such as Nashville or Los Angeles, what happens in D.C. can change the way people can listen to music.

Listeners may want to tune in to a Senate hearing, scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Sen. Mike Lee, a conservative Republican favorite from Utah, is to preside over a hearing titled: “How Much For a Song?”

The panel plans to hear from expert witnesses who will discuss the antitrust decrees that currently control the market for music. They’ll also provide a potential preview: Will listeners be able to access music as easily in the future as we do today? It might be worth unplugging the headphones long enough to tune in.