Blake Morgan Addresses Radio Royalties, Billy Joel Receives Songwriting Award at NMPA Meeting

Billy Joel
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Billy Joel speaks at the NMPA Annual Meeting 2015.

The National Music Publishers Assn. has formed a partnership with the I Respect Music campaign, established to support passage of the Songwriters Equity Act re-introduced to Congress earlier this year. The partnership was announced at the organization's annual meeting, held yesterday at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

The campaign was started by Blake Morgan, who started a petition, to help drive awareness so the U.S. congress would enact laws so that when recordings are played on terrestrial radio, performers and labels would receive royalty payments. Currently, only songwriters and music publishers receive payments in the U.S., while throughout the rest of the world artist and labels are paid by terrestrial radio.

"It's the largest spontaneous movement in history," NMPA CEO David Israelite hyperbolized. "To date, [I Respect Music] has mainly focused on artist and labels," but songwriters could benefit from being aligned with the movement.

"I am an American songwriter… I got tired of hearing tech companies saying they are seeking ways to incentivise us," Blake Morgan said to the crowd. "I know a way -- pay us."

But the tech companies say songwriters and artists don't understand and by demanding payment, "it would stifle innovation," Morgan continued. "I got a little tired of being lectured on innovation."

If you listen to the tech companies, you would think American musicians and songwriters -- the people who invented rock 'n' roll, blues, jazz, hip-hop, and country -- don't understand innovation, he said.

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"Music is one of the things that America still makes that people around the world still want," Morgan said. "The people that write music should be paid for it. Not someday. Today. That's why the Songwriters Equity Act should be passed."

Also during the annual meeting, Billy Joel was presented with the organization's Songwriter Icon Award.

"I never realized when I was starting out it would go on this long," Joel said, accepting the award. He pointed out that he had just played Bonnaroo, where the average age of festivalgoers is 23 years old. "I didn't know if they [the young crowd] are going to like my stuff," he said. "But I must have done a good job, because these kids were singing along."

After Joel was presented with the award, LeAnn Rimes sang two of his songs, "Lullabye (Good Night, My Angel)" and "She's Got A Way."

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Other awards were presented to recently retired ASCAP head honcho John LoFrumento (the NMPA Industry Legacy Award); Ralph Peer II, CEO and chairman of Peer Music, (NMPA Lifetime Service Award) and an acknowledgement to Senator Bob Corker, (R-Tenn.), who is one of the sponsors of the Songwriters Equity Act.

Also, the NMPA Board of Directors election results were revealed, with new members including Justin Kalifowitz, CEO of Downtown Music Publishing; Golnar Khosrowshahi, president of Reservoir Media Management; and Jody Klein, CEO of ABKCO Music & Records.

The meeting also touched upon the creation of a new foundation, the NMPA SONGS Foundation (Supporting Our Next Generation of Songwriters), which will kick off this fall with a fundraising golf tournament including songwriters near Washington, D.C. The foundation, which will be chaired by Israelite, will support aspiring creators either through scholarships or grants.