Thousands of young Americans are in a deep hole because of student debt.  They are desperately trying to dig themselves out of the economic trap presented by the debt. It makes them a slave to their job and stops them from taking entrepreneurial chances, it effects whether or not they marry and start a family.  New families buy houses, furniture and lots of stuff, which puts money back into the economy. That was lost on Republican lawmaker Bill Posey of Florida when he questioned Hassan Minhaj, a comedian and Netflix host. Minaj explained that student loan debt is putting a “paywall” around young Americans, and that as a result, many are stuck on the sidelines. He went on the say that young people are asking celebrities to help pay off their student loans. Minaj asked Congressman Posey, “Are you a fan of Taylor Swift? Are you a Swiftie? Posey was lost.  Manaj continued, “Because even her fans have gone up to her and said would you pay back my student loans. That’s how desperate student borrowers are…They’re not even asking for selfies anymore.”  Minhaj’s testimony was done in good conscience and good humor, but it’s not clear how well it was received by Congress. The bottom line here is that student debt is a major issue for thousands upon thousands and is holding many back from making significant contributions to our society. America needs to take a hard look at this crisis to figure out how to better serve and educate the future of our nation.

On Monday the Congressional Internet Caucus Academy held a panel titled “In the Era of Streaming, Who’s the Bigger Music Mogul: Jay Z or Congress?” Part of the panel was about the Music Modernization Act, a complex, proposed law that sets up a new compensation mechanism for artists in the streaming environment.  Prior to streaming, the system for paying artists was well established; ASCAP and BMI pay songwriters for the use of their work through an national auditing system of venues and broadcast stations while record companies pay artists a royalty on sales.  If you are singer/songwriter you get pad from both sides. Straightforward.

Streaming doesn’t fit into either system, hence, the need for the Music Modernization Act.

Kevin Erickson, the director of the Future of Music Coalition (FMC), was brought into Congress to explain the complexities of the act.  He brought puppets because he was told the representatives wanted an explanation dumbed down to a five year old level – PowerPoint was too sophisticated.

His presentation explained what you can read in the first paragraph using Sally, the songwriter puppet, who wants to take her music to market with the help of the publishing puppet and Ricky, the artist puppet, who works with a record label puppet. Ricky makes recordings and the record label puppet helps Ricky market his physical recording. He goes on to explain that for streaming, the Music Modernization Act establishes a new non-profit called the Mechanical Licensing Collective (M.L.C.). It will be set up to collect royalties from digital music streaming services such Spotify and Apple Music. The publishers will get paid by the M.L.C. and the publisher will then pay the artist. It really gets confusing when Kermit the Frog sings “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”  Who gets the royalty – the puppet, the actor holding the puppet or the songwriter? MLC will sort it all out.