In a keynote address at the MusicBiz Nashville conference’s opening day Sunday, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier said that the time is ripe for the music industry to try and reach for some long-sought goals, such as earning royalty payments for artists from terrestrial radio. But he cautioned that it would need to happen, like the recent Music Modernization Act (MMA), through industry consensus.
The keynote kicked off the May 5-8 conference as a Q&A with moderator Bart Herbison, Nashville Songwriters International Association executive director.
Glazier emphasized that there were other areas besides radio where the music industry can work together with their partners to achieve long-standing goals. “One of the RIAA’s main focuses is always fighting piracy,” he said. “Currently stream-ripping is the most advanced, and causes the most damage because it is so easy to do.”
He added, “It’s difficult to fight this form of piracy because the companies enabling it might be a corporation in the Ukraine, so that has forced the RIAA to rethink its piracy strategy.” As part of its new initiative to combat piracy, Glazier said his trade organization and the major labels are appealing to technology platforms like Google, Facebook and Apple to help the RIAA ramp up its arms race against the ever-evolving piracy market.
With regard to the performance royalties for sound recordings, Glazier noted that the music industry only passes universally beneficial legislation when both sides have incentive to sit down at the negotiating table together, as they did for the MMA.
In five to 10 years, he said, consumers will be accessing AM/FM radio through their smartphones, which means it would qualify as digitally streamed, programmed music; thus, by current law, stations would have to pay royalties. “Now, radio stations have an incentive to come to the table to negotiate a performance royalty to be paid to labels and artists,” he said. “With those negotiations, the RIAA’s goal is that artists should get paid fairly.”
He also pointed out that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is now approaching 20 years old. One of that law’s components includes the “safe harbor” provision, which said that content-supporting platforms couldn’t be held liable if a user violated copyright laws, as long as they agreed to certain requirements — for example, if “good faith” is demonstrated, or the law was so complex that these tech companies simply couldn’t follow it. “In short, the tech companies got immunity in exchange for stopping piracy,” Glazier said. “But times change and technology overtook that law in about two months. They got immunity but it didn’t stop piracy.”
But now, with the approval of Article 13 in Europe and the attendant conversations surrounding digital privacy and corporate regulation, Silicon Valley’s Big Three now have an incentive to negotiate with content partners. “There’s a chance here now for self-regulation as a way to avoid Congress dictating the terms,” he said, “so we are making call to our partners in the tech community to do what we did with the MMA.”
Glazier added that the RIAA is telling the technology division’s major players to sit down, list a set of goals, and try to solve these issues piece by piece. And like the MMA, “When we all came together, we said, ‘Let’s drop the things we know we can’t get, and stick together on what we can get,” he said.
Even with the upswing in the music industry’s finances and fortunes, “we are in a crucial time,” Glazier said early on in his keynote. The industry is at the beginning of a period with “so many different opportunities for our companies — the majors — to be able to license music to so many companies in so many different ways. We have no idea what will happen next, but we know innovation will prevail.”