Recording Academy's 'In My District' Campaign Sends 2,000 Creators to 315 Congressional Offices

Getty Images

The Recording Academy, caretaker of the the Grammys, is pushing lawmakers in an unprecedented day of action across the U.S.

To most Americans, the Recording Academy is a shadowy body, the gatekeeper of the Grammy Awards -- predictably criticized when a fan favorite misses out on an award (or even a nomination), easily scapegoated for the gripe du jour. But for the past 10-plus years, the Academy has expanded its scope (perhaps too quietly) from running the Grammys to also working as a wide-reaching lobbyist for artists, fighting for legislative reform, education and broader help for the musicians and creators it aims to represent.

Today (Oct. 26), the Recording Academy will initiate what it claims is the "largest grassroots movement for music in history," having enlisted more than 2,000 creators to visit 315 Congressional district offices for the third-annual Grammys in My District event. Cyndi Lauper, Eddie Money, Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Paul Wall and Terence Blanchard, among others, are leading the charge by attending meetings. Others who cannot attend, such as Tyrese, will be lending a hand via social media (the artist and model hadn't posted his support at the time of this writing).

"Grammys in My District" began two years ago, encouraging artists and music professionals to attend meetings at the offices of local elected officials, airing their concerns and issues directly into lawmakers' ears. The idea is simple: to show politicians how music-related legislation affects the bottom lines of everyday creators, not just the musical elite.

For Daryl Friedman, the Academy's chief industry, government and member relations officer, there are two key reasons why now is the perfect time for this type of action.

"On the one hand, as the market is changing and the shift of digital performances and downloads to streaming continues, the payment structure is not keeping up to make fair payment for creatives," he says. "On the other hand, you have Congress in the process of a six-year copyright review where they're looking at all aspects of the Copyright Act, and they're coming up on the final two years of that review. That sets the stage now for action."

The Academy's aims center on three main points, all of which will be familiar to those who follow the twists and turns of the intersection of music, technology and the law: fairness for performers, including the loophole around terrestrial radio which allows stations to play songs for free as promotion rather than paying for their use; fairness for songwriters, which has its sights set on the Department of Justice's consent decrees that the Academy says prohibits writers from receiving fair market value for the license of their work; and fairness for studio professionals, which advocates for the inclusion of producers and engineers in the protections afforded by copyright law.

Already, Friedman says, through the Academy's efforts there are "a number of things happening. There are three bills already introduced over the course of this Congress; a number of members of Congress have signed on to support these bills," he notes. "Second is that the Copyright Office has done a music licensing study on the subject matter a couple years ago and they've also confirmed most of what we've found. We do expect in the next two years there will be significant changes in music licensing. And, finally, more and more creators are getting involved, and those kinds of voices are very influential."

The bulk of the creators he's talking about, of course, are the local artists and professionals who make up a lawmaker's constituency -- the "everyday people" that all politicians pledge to represent, and fight for, while in office. "Many of them are just your working music professionals, not famous, but people who make their living producing records, writing songs, singing vocals on tracks, background musicians... the whole family of creators are involved in this," Friedman says. "Their livelihoods are at stake."