In a series amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.
This installment is with David Israelite, the president/CEO of music publishing trade association NMPA.
David Israelite: We’ve just been in a kind of holding pattern. We have a lot of of pending issues [for which] we’re waiting for decisions from government bodies or legal bodies. Right before the shutdown, on March 10, we had our oral arguments regarding the appeal of the copyright royalty board rates by Spotify and Amazon in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Now we’re just waiting for a decision. The court is still working remotely, but obviously it’s impacting the timeline of when we’re going to get a decision. We are hoping this summer we will know what the rate structure is for this five-year period of the copyright royalty board term, which is a big deal.
The other big matter we’re waiting on is for the Department of Justice to make a decision about what to do regarding the consent decrees that govern ASCAP and BMI. The process was all complete. It’s now in the department’s hands, and again, they’re all working remotely as well, but undoubtedly the timeline will be impacted by what’s going on. Those are two giant issues that we are waiting on.
My team has been working from home for about the past eight weeks. As for structure, we gather twice a week for a Zoom call to catch up. Because of that, I think most of the work that we do at NMPA is going forward uninterrupted.
The only area that is really impacting us is with regard to our public facing events. Our annual meeting, which is normally about 1,000 people in a ballroom in New York, is now going to be online on June 10. We’ve canceled our events with regard to our SONGS (Supporting Our Next Generation of Songwriters) Foundation Golf Tournament and our Board meetings will go virtual until the end of the year. We have other events that we normally would hold — our 4th Annual NMPA Gold & Platinum Gala in Nashville and events around the Country Music Association that will also be shelved for the remainder of the calendar year.
But the main work that we do, the legal work, the lobbying work and the business affairs work, that’s been going pretty smoothly working from home.
The [annual] meeting this year is going to be geared much more towards substantive discussions and less toward entertainment. We usually have a lot of live music, but now we will have more informational and discussions about key topics. This year we will be honoring Garth Brooks as our songwriter icon. He’ll be doing a session from his home remotely.
The annual meeting is going to look quite a bit different than normal, but I’m just glad that we’re able to still do it and hopefully provide a lot of information that’ll be interesting with regard to how COVID-19 is impacting the economics of the industry. We will also be talking about how our new partnership with Peloton is working. I will be interviewing their head of music partnerships, as well as one of their top instructors, who’s a favorite of mine.
What’s funny is that I’ve always been into fitness quite a bit, but during our lawsuit against Peloton, I didn’t feel comfortable doing Peloton. I’ve always been into spinning classes and I actually was doing Flywheel at home. But when we settled our dispute with Peloton and became partners, then I got a Peloton and it was just when the shutdown started. It was perfect timing. So for the last two months, I’ve transitioned to be a Peloton user and I’m loving it.
I also have two young daughters, ages six and three, with me at home. That’s been a little bit of a challenge to try to keep them entertained without school, kindergarten and Montessori daycare. We moved my mother-in-law, who was in a nursing home, into our home. She’s nearing 80 years old and there were just some concerns about her being in a nursing home, so we decided to move her in.
I try to keep a routine. I’ve got a home office. I try to work out every day and spend some time with my family and try to get outside. We’re in Chevy Chase, Maryland. We belong to the Columbia Country Club, which just opened up its golf course last Friday, where you can walk and carry your own bag. That’s been a blessing.
Despite the fact that we were working from home, we worked with other music organizations and lobbied collectively for provision in the CARES Act that would allow independent contractors like songwriters and musicians to [be eligible for] the government benefits. It wasn’t walking the halls of Congress, it was emails and phone calls. Normally, most members of Congress have a hundred different things that they’re dealing with and you’re trying to get their attention on your issue, whereas with this, everybody was focused on the CARES Act. There were a lot of champions in Congress that went to bat for the music industry.
We also had an office move in the middle of all this, so our employees had to go into our old office individually and pack up. That was planned well in advance before the shutdown. We’re going to start the process of setting up the new office, having each employee go to the office one at a time to set up their work space. We’re looking at maybe having some in-office experiences starting in July.
I guess what has been most interesting during this time is that, because we are all working from home, no one’s keeping office hours. At NMPA, we like to be available to our membership 24/7 to discuss an issue. I think there’s more of that going on as people don’t have as regular schedules. Dogs are running around in the background. I have two young children and they can be a little noisy in the mornings or evenings, but that’s fine. That’s all, you know, part of the new normal.