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Grammys 2015: Recording Academy’s Neil Portnow Uses Speech to Lobby on Streaming Payouts

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, joined by Jennifer Hudson and OneRepublic singer and producer Ryan Tedder, used his annual speech from the Grammy stage to introduce the Creators Alliance…

The controversial issue of digital music royalties made a rare, primetime television appearance from the Staples Center Sunday evening when The Recording Academy introduced a new advocacy group formed to influence legislation.

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow (and recent Power 100 honoree), joined by Jennifer Hudson and OneRepublic singer and producer Ryan Tedder, used his annual speech from the Grammy stage to introduce the Creators Alliance, created to push for increased remuneration for artists in the digital age.


“What if we’re all watching the Grammys a few years from now and there’s no Best New Artist award because there aren’t enough talented artists and songwriters who are actually able to make a living from their craft?” asked Portnow. To ensure this scenario would never happen to artists, Portnow said new technology and distribution would have to figure. “Music has tremendous value in our lives,” Portnow added. “While ways of listening to music evolve, we must remember that music matters in our lives, and that new technology must pay artists fairly.”

Jennifer Hudson spoke of the Academy’s lobbying in D.C., saying that “in the first ten years [of Grammys on the Hill], nearly a thousand music creators have traveled to the nation’s capitol to speak out for our rights.”

Portnow continued: “At a recent congressional hearing, I made the case that laws… must strongly protect those who create the soundtrack of our lives.”

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler said of the initiative in a statement that “There is a major battle going on in Washington, D.C. right now between music creators, who are fighting to keep control of our music, and tech and media companies, who want to use to use our music for paying very little or for free.”

Tedder referenced the recent court battle between The Turtles and SiriusXM, which saw a court ruling that The Turtles’ pre-1972 recordings, which were previously argued by broadcasters to be ineligible for federal copyright protection (and thus royalties) fell under that protection. Tedder also referenced Taylor Swift’s infamous retraction from streaming services following the release of 1989. “From The Turtles to Taylor Swift… musicians are speaking out.”

The creation of the Alliance is timed to the current review of U.S. copyright law in Congress. The Alliance is meant to “advise Congressional leaders” as they draft legislation and also work within the music industry “to ensure fair royalty rates to creators on all platforms,” according to its website. The non-profit organization’s founding members are Alicia Keys, Jimmy Jam, Steven Tyler, Adam Levine, Lady Antebellum, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, deadmau5, Dr. Luke, Hudson and Tedder.

Sunday’s announcement came three days after the U.S. Copyright Office issued a set of policy recommendations which seem to point towards more rights for performers and songwriters, and which will place increased scrutiny on digital listening services’ labyrinthine payout structures. The report includes numerous pro-creator recommendations, such as a performance right for sound recordings at terrestrial radio and federalization of pre-1972 recordings. Both are hot-button issues that were addressed in legislation introduced to Congress last year. The Free Market Royalty Act of 2013 dealt with the performance right while the RESPECT Act attempted to ensure labels and artists get paid digital performance royalties for songs released before February 15, 1972.