Artists, songwriters and producers are taking a greater interest in Washington, D.C., these days. With Congress halfway through its review of copyright law, the creative community, as well as radio stations, digital music services and intellectual property experts, is trying to influence how and how much royalties will be paid in the coming decades.
Legislation introduced in 2015 addresses some of the main issues. The Fair Pay, Fair Play Act of 2015 seeks the right for record labels and recording artists to receive royalties from broadcast radio. The Songwriter Equity Act would benefit music publishers by changing how some royalty rates are established. And the Allocation for Music Producers Act aims to improve the royalties received from performances at digital services.
While digital companies have armies of high-priced lobbyists, the music business has the power of its stars, often marshaled by Daryl Friedman, the chief advocacy and industry relations officer for The Recording Academy. Alicia Keys, Steven Tyler and Rodney Jerkins are just a few of the high-profile advocates for the creative community. It’s a grass-roots effort, too. This year’s Grammys in My District event led more than 1,500 creators to visit congressional representatives while they were home for recess.
Between songwriter equity, producer royalties and broadcast performance rights, 2015 was a busy year on the Hill for the creative community. Will that be the case in 2016 as well?
We’re in the middle of the congressional term right now. So all the issues that were introduced in 2015 will still be in play next year. And I think we’ll see more legislative action happening. [House Judiciary] Chairman [Rep. Bob] Goodlatte is continuing to move the ball forward on his copyright review, including going around the country for listening sessions. The momentum is continuing.
Is the creative community more involved in these issues than it used to be?
Absolutely. We’re turning people away because we don’t have space. At the Grammys on the Hill ceremony this year we had Alicia Keys come to Washington and personally thank members of Congress who had been supporting music. We had Steven Tyler write an op-ed during Grammys in My District. We had The Band Perry come in at the beginning of the year for a Welcome Back to Congress event. And even with our [Department of Justice] filing, a government body that’s very legalistic, we had major songwriters that read it, were interested in it. People like Evan Bogart, Ryan Tedder and Greg Kurstin, who wrote “Hello” for Adele.
What’s the difference between an artist advocating to Congress and you doing the same?
The connection between a music creator and a policy maker is a very special one, because in many ways they’re similar. I’ve seen meetings between members of Congress and artists where they really bond — Orrin Hatch playing songs for Lyle Lovett. In addition to that, it helps level the playing field. Some of the opposition to the music community issues are very powerful, monied tech companies, with teams of lobbyists and large budgets. What we can bring as The Recording Academy is the creators themselves.
This story originally appeared in the Jan. 2 issue of Billboard.