RIAA Chief Mitch Glazier Talks 2019 Priorities, Lobbying the New 'Napster Generation' in Congress: Q&A

ISSUE 1 2019 - PRESS PHOTO
Courtesy of RIAA
Mitch Glazier

"The MMA is a tough act to follow, but there's a lot on the agenda, so we need to maintain the alliance that got it passed."

After a year-and-a-half transition, Mitch Glazier just became chairman/CEO of the RIAA, succeeding Cary Sherman, who retired in December after more than 20 years at the organization. "Cary is such an icon that I came in today feeling like I was walking into dad's office," Glazier told Billboard on Jan. 2.

His first official act: promoting to COO Michele Ballantyne, who will manage the organization on a day-to-day basis. "This plays to both her talents and the needs of the organization," says Glazier. "She's a phenomenal manager who has great relationships within the music communities in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles and everywhere else."

Glazier, who has worked at the RIAA since 2000, played a key role last fall in pushing the Music Modernization Act over the finish line, forging a last-minute compromise between the recording business and SiriusXM that let the bill come to a vote in the Senate. "We had a window when the bill could go to the floor and we had an hour to get the final deal done with Senators [Lindsey] Graham and [Lamar] Alexander," says Glazier. This year, "the MMA is a tough act to follow, but there's a lot on the agenda, so we need to maintain the alliance that got it passed."

What are your priorities for 2019? It's a hard time to pass legislation.

Item one is visiting new members of Congress -- very few come in knowing a lot about copyright. Another issue is performance rights [for recordings played on traditional radio]. And we have all of these trade agreements coming up that are very important to issues like term of copyright and in stopping big technology companies from putting in safe harbors or U.S.-style fair use in countries that don't have any kind of judicial history of fair use.

You're becoming CEO at a time when there's more skepticism of big technology companies in Washington, D.C., on both sides of the aisle. Does that make your job easier?

We were the canary in the coal mine, and we tried to talk about problems with the internet ecosystem and the failure of these companies to take responsibility. But we're not screaming in the dark anymore; we're screaming into the light, and other industries are saying the same things we were. This is about every aspect of our lives.

The European Union is trying to make YouTube responsible for copyright infringement on its platform. Do you think the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which gives companies a safe harbor in the United States, could be revisited as well?

The Copyright Office is coming out with a report on this in the spring, and this will be the launching pad for anything we do.

I don't know what their recommendations will be, but I can't imagine they would say that the safe harbor system is working perfectly.

The RIAA lawsuit against the ISP Grande Communications also deals with the issue of what kind of protection these companies should get. How important is that?

That's a priority because [the lawsuit] established that a repeat infringer policy [that outlines how to deal with consumers that repeatedly infringe copyright] is an important part of the DMCA. Piracy is still a big deal, and this sends the signal that you can't get the benefit of safe harbor without being a responsible player. 

How do you feel about the incoming Congress? Some champions of copyright, like Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Bob Goodlatte have retired, and a lot of the new legislators are more extreme on either the left or the right.

The leadership of the judiciary committees is great -- [Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey] Graham, [Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Diane] Feinstein, [House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry] Nadler, [House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug] Collins. They're champions of creators and they can work on a bipartisan basis. But getting to new members is important. In one election, the average age of a member of Congress decreased by a decade -- both because of retirements and new members -- and the people who are entering Congress are from the Napster generation. Obviously they've changed since college, but their experiences are different, and the generation following them -- the streaming generation -- will be different as well. We have to remind them how important the music they love is.

If you could take any member of Congress to a concert, who would you choose and where would you take them?

What do you think would happen if I brought [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy to a Post Malone concert? We could solve all the country's problems.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 12 issue of Billboard.