A few dozen high-profile artist managers are lending a hand to recording artists, songwriters and producers advocating for creators on legislation that impacts their community.
The Managers Think Tank will advise the newly formed Grammy Creators Alliance, an advocacy group comprised of artists, songwriters and producers announced in February. The Think Tank will review legislative proposals, identify important issues, and advise with proposals related to legislation.
“We believe managers, as the partners to the creators, often are in very good positions to give us advice and input on various proposals and trends in the industry,” Daryl Friedman, Chief Advocacy & Industry Relations Officer, tells Billboard.
The Think Tank includes managers representing many successful recording aritsts, songwriters and producers across genres, including Ron Laffitte (Alicia Keys, OneRepublic, Soundgarden, Pharrell Williams), Larry Rudolph (Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Steven Tyler, Avril Lavigne), Susan Markheim (Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds), Clarence Spalding (Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts), Dean Wilson (Calvin Harris, Deadmau5) and Troy Carter (John Legend, Miguel, Meghan Trainor).
The Grammy Creators Alliance was first announced during the Grammy telecast by Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, along with singer Jennifer Hudson and singer/producer Ryan Tedder. The Alliance also includes deadmau5, Dr. Luke, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Jennifer Hudson, Jimmy Jam, Alicia Keys, Lady Antebellum, Adam Levine, and many other well known musicians, songwriters and producers.
The announcement of the Alliance was a rare use of primetime television to urge Congress to act in creators’ interest. But it wasn’t a surprising use of the Recording Academy’s airtime given the number of weighty issues being presented to Congress. Last week the Songwriters Equity Act, a bill that would improve the royalties songwriters receive from streams and purchases, was reintroduced to Congress. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. The Department of Justice is expected to conclude its review of those consent decrees later this year.
What does a Think Tank member think about the climate of today’s music business? Damien Smith (Earth, Wind & Fire, Jennifer Hudson, Raphael Saadiq) and the Recording Academy’s Friedman spoke with Billboard.
Billboard: Damien, why get involved in the Managers Think Tank?
Smith: “For us, it’s like a position to help alliance members to service the creative community. As managers we’re the music creators’ main business partners. We’re involved in every aspect of an artist’s or writer’s career — even what’s going on in technology, branding, we’re right there on the front line to help identify any issues that are coming up and be on the horizon for the creative community. The industry is competitive. It’s changing all the time. The Think Tank is coming together to work with the Academy toward a common goal and good of the creators.
Billboard: Do you feel a sense of urgency right now?
Smith: “I do [feel a sense of urgency]. Like I said, it’s rapidly changing. I think there’s a sense of urgency with everything that’s changing and going on right now that we do all have to go together right now. You see how managers are partnering together in business in general shows there is a sense of urgency. It’s now.”
Friedman: “The other thing is the Congress is looking at copyright very closely right now. The managers want to make sure the creators’ voice is at the head of the table.”
Billboard: Damien, what issues are really important to you right now?
Smith: “Just making sure [the creators] are getting the most for their work. To me that’s one of the most important issues.”
Billboard: Do you think creators are getting shortchanged now, or do you worry they might be shortchanged in the future?
Smith: “In the future. And now. As you look at writers and creators over the past 30, 40, 50 years, and what’s happened and transpired, I think there are some things that have to change and we have to protect.”
Friedman: “I would also direct you to Jennifer’s statement at the show when she announced the Alliance. She said, ‘Look, those of us who have had success, we now want to make sure the next generation can function in a sustainable marketplace.'”
Billboard: Daryl, producers’ voices are not usually too loud, at least from where I sit. You hear a lot about recording artists. You hear a lot about songwriters. Are we going to hear more from producers from the Creators Alliance?
Friedman: “Yeah, the Grammy Creators Alliance has a number of very high profile producers, including Dr Luke, Ryan Tedder and Jimmy Jam and others. I think you will hear them coming forward and making their voices stronger. But the main thing I think you’ll see is there’s unity among the songwriting, producing and performing community to make sure all creators are paid fairly.”
Billboard: Either one of you can answer this. Are people from either the Think Tank or the Creators Alliance going to testify before Congress if the opportunity comes up?
Friedman: “I think they’ll certainly be invited and some members will consider doing that. We obviously finished a few years of hearings.”