Among the artists at the White House today to witness President Donald Trump’s signing of the Music Modernization Act were Kid Rock, John Rich, Sam Moore, Mike Love, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and members of MercyMe. But just as notable was who was not in the room as the landmark copyright legislation became law.
A number of music industry executives who were involved in the bill’s passage were invited on Wednesday and then disinvited, including RIAA President Mitch Glazier, SoundExchange President/CEO Michael Huppe and MUSICFirst Executive Director Chris Israel. ASCAP President Paul Williams and BMI Senior VP Ann Sweeney are also believed to have been disinvited.
Among the bill’s primary organizers who were present included Digital Media Association CEO Chris Harrison, National Music Publishers Association President and CEO David Israelite and Nashville Songwriters Association International President and songwriter Steve Bogard and former President and songwriter Lee Thomas Miller. Also there was Recording Academy CEO and President Neil Portnow, whom Trump introduced, saying, “in the world of music [he] is big stuff.”
In addition to representatives from stakeholders ASCAP and BMI, Songwriters of North America counsel Dina LaPolt and SONA songwriter Matt Squire’s names were submitted to attend, but they were not cleared. SESAC, which has opposed a major portion of the bill until a resolution was reached, was not invited.
Also absent were any female songwriters, although many led the drive to pass the legislation. “Of course, we’re thrilled that the MMA is now law, but it’s a shame that almost none of the artists and songwriters, particularly the women, who worked so tirelessly to push the law through were represented at the signing ceremony,” said SONA founding songwriter Shelly Peiken. The only female who appeared to be present was Senator Shelley Moore Capito.
On Wednesday, the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Public Liaison sent invitations to those initially cleared to attended the signing. But on Thursday morning, only slightly more than two hours before the 11:45 a.m. EST signing, those disinvited received a letter from the same office, stating, “We regret to inform you that due to changes in the President’s schedule and the current storm in the southern United States, we will be limiting public participation in today’s event and we will no longer be able to host you at the White House, today October 11. We are terribly sorry for this unplanned change and any inconvenience this may cause.”
Sources add the the room where the signing was held could only hold around 30 people, and, therefore, space was extremely limited, especially to make room for several key legislators, including Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Bob Goodlatte, whose names are included in the bill’s formal title, Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act.
The artists invited were either known close supporters of Trump, such as Kid Rock, Love and former Celebrity Apprentice winner Rich, or longtime advocates of the bill.
In an email exchange, Moore’s wife and manager Joyce Moore said her husband, of the legendary duo, Sam & Dave, had long pushed for copyright reform. “He got invited because he and I have been working through both the past two administrations — Republican and Democrat. We’ve been non-partisan, nondenominational through all of this all of the time. We’re both Independents and are thrilled that finally a president of the United States signed a bill into law that we’ve been working on to try and bring some equity to the pre-’72 recording artists for years and years and years! It’s not perfect, it’s not everything we want, but as everyone has said we had to start someplace and everyone finally grabbed [hands] and collectively put our toes in the water.”
She added that both SoundExchange and RIAA wanted Moore — who has performed for all six living presidents — there, even though their own representatives ultimately ended up not attending.
The White House’s Office of Public Liaison referred calls to the White House Press Office, which was not able to immediately comment further on the disinvites.