Aloe Blacc, Tom Douglas: Music Modernization Act A "Fair Deal" For Songwriters
Songwriters behind hits like "The House That Built Me" and "Wake Me Up" testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the value of songs and why music creators need fair compensation
"Aloe Blacc and Tom Douglas are two amazing songwriters, responsible for huge hits, yet both find it hard to make a living just from songwriting. It's clear the system needs to change. Royalties for songwriters need to reflect fair-market value and creators should always be properly compensated for their work." — Conversations In Advocacy #9
Make no mistake, the entire music industry is built upon the foundation of one thing: songs. Think about it. Without them, there'd be no radio, no streaming services, no Super Bowl halftime performances, and certainly no GRAMMY Awards.
Unfortunately, the integral role songwriters play in shaping the industry's foundation is not recognized properly in the form of just compensation.
This is a problem GRAMMY-nominated songwriters Aloe Blacc and Tom Douglas know all too well. In a bid to move the needle for music creators in the right direction, the duo addressed the House Judiciary Committee during "Music Policy Issues: A Perspective From Those Who Make It," a GRAMMY Week field hearing held in New York City on Jan. 26.
Though Douglas' name may not be as ubiquitous as Maren Morris or Luke Bryan, millions of lives have been enriched by his creative footprint. As a professional songwriter who makes magic behind the scenes, the Atlanta native has penned country hits such as Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me," Lady Antebellum's "I Run To You," Tim McGraw's "Grown Men Don't Cry" and Martina McBride's "God's Will," among others.
With his impressive catalog racking up millions in streams, you'd think that would equate to robust royalty sums. Think again.
"When my first hit song, [Colin Raye's] 'Little Rock,' was climbing the charts, artists sold millions of albums and broadcast radio was not being challenged by streaming companies yet to exist," testified Douglas. "My royalties for record sales or terrestrial radio broadcasts were counted in pennies. When my song is streamed, royalties are counted in micro pennies. For songwriters, it is not uncommon for millions of streams to equal only hundreds of dollars in royalty payments.
Our songs identify American culture and move hearts and minds across the globe. Our songs have value."
Douglas shared his optimism in the Music Modernization Act as a potential "right path" solution. As part of a comprehensive music licensing reform package that also includes the AMP Act and the CLASSICS Act, the MMA would establish a new rate standard for songwriters' digital mechanical streaming royalties, a new blanket licensing system to address song ownership issues, and entitle songwriters to funds from digital mechanical royalties, among other provisions.
"For many years songwriters have begged Congress for relief," he said. "The entire American songwriter community is hopeful we will begin finding that relief in the Music Modernization Act."
Blacc, whose hits include "I Need A Dollar" and "Wake Me Up" with Avicii, offered the committee a tangible real-world example to drive home the fact that songwriters are getting a raw deal in today's music industry landscape.
"My biggest hit — 'Wake Me Up' — was streamed by the two leading interactive streaming services for a combined 136 million times in the past four quarters alone," said Blacc. "Yet, as one of three co-writers on the song, I only received about $2,400 total — that's only 1.8 cents for every 1,000 streams. It's hard for a songwriter to earn a living when counting pennies."
While Blacc argued that more music is being listened to today now than ever, he stressed that — thanks to streaming services — it's actually being valued less.
"This is because the government-regulated marketplace has suppressed the rates paid by digital music services for streamed songs, and the royalties from these services are remarkably low," he said."
Like Douglas, Blacc urged Congress for reforms that would constitute a "fair deal" for songwriters by bringing "our laws into the digital age."
"This is a defining time for music licensing reform. I can tell you we are in desperate need of change if we’re going to protect what is arguably America’s greatest export: music," Blacc concluded. "Now is the time to take action. I urge you to move this legislation through quickly — songwriters need this relief."
"Conversations in Advocacy" is your weekend digital tip sheet on music advocacy and the policies that affect music makers and their craft. New installments post every Friday.
Graphic Courtesy of the Recording Academy
4 Ways To Maximize Your Recording Academy Membership
Here is a thorough guide to the primary ways all Recording Academy members can use their platform, maximize their membership, and get involved with the Academy's various divisions and initiatives.
If you're reading this, chances are you've decided to become a member of the Recording Academy. You are to be commended for this decision!
As part of the world's leading society of music people, you are in a unique position to make your voice heard — and effect change that not only manifests during the GRAMMYs show, but ripples throughout the music industry and world at large.
As such, becoming a member is merely the first step: it's time to use your platform to the fullest and get involved with the Academy's various divisions and initiatives. Below is a handy guide to the primary ways you can maximize your Recording Academy membership.
Fight For Music Creator's Rights
One of the most crucial divisions of the Recording Academy is Advocacy, which fights to protect the rights of music makers and advance their interests in the realms of /ocal, state and federal policy.
Additionally, Advocacy works to educate the public about key legislation and policy issues that affect everyone in the music community.
As an Academy member, you can get involved with Advocacy in a number of ways. One is by familiarizing yourself with GRAMMYs On The Hill, a two-day event consisting of the GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards and subsequent Advocacy Day.
Over the course of these events, music creators come together with Members of Congress to celebrate those who have been exceptional in their support of creator's rights and to advocate for the passage of legislation that will further improve those rights.
Another important component of Advocacy is District Advocate, the largest grassroots advocacy movement for music and its makers.
This manifests every year in District Advocate Day, where Recording Academy members across the U.S. met virtually with their Senators and Congressional Representatives to fight for change for the music community.
Other facets of Advocacy to get acquainted with include the GRAMMY Fund For Music Creators and the quarterly advocacy newsletter and annual magazine. Furthermore, click here for a helpful landing page that features practical routes to support Advocacy initiatives.
Support The Next Generation of Music
The GRAMMY Museum's education initiatives aim to keep music in our schools and introduce music as a profession to young people.
Here are four ways they do this:
The GRAMMY Museum's K-12 educational outreach and funding efforts ensure the future of music is only as strong as the next generation of creators. Last year alone, the Museum reached more than 700,000+ students through their free virtual education programming by way of GRAMMY Museum At Home and online streaming service, COLLECTION:live.
Their many public programs range from panels on the state of the music industry to intimate performances.
The Museum's Los Angeles location offers a variety of interactive and educational experiences that provide insights into artists who have shaped music history — as well as the creative process itself.
Re:live Music Moments on COLLECTION:live, the official streaming service from the GRAMMY Museum featuring artist interviews, performances, and livestreams.
Support Music Makers
As a freshly minted member of the Recording Academy, you can help spread awareness of resources that aid all music makers in need.
Founded by the Recording Academy in 1989, MusiCares is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to supporting the health and welfare of the music community through preventative care, crisis relief and recovery support.
Here are just some of the ways MusiCares is here to support you and your peers in the music community:
Mental Health & Addiction Recovery Services
Support, referrals, and emergency financial assistance for counseling, psychiatric care, inpatient treatment, coaching, intensive outpatient care, group therapy, sober living and more.
Financial assistance during medical crises and preventive services such as dental and medical screenings, hearing clinics, vocal health workshops, and assistance obtaining low-cost health insurance.
MusiCares provides humanitarian disaster relief, and emergency financial assistance for basic living expenses like rent, utilities, car payments and insurance premiums.
They can also assist with funeral costs, or instrument replacement/repair if stolen or damaged in a natural disaster — excluding wear and tear.
The human services team also offers preventive programs addressing financial literacy, affordable housing, career development, legal issues, and senior services.
Support The Academy's Future & Evolution
As a member, you have the ability to make big moves at the Academy by:
Recommending fellow music peers to become members
Submitting projects for GRAMMY Awards consideration
Proposing amendments to GRAMMY Awards rules
Voting in the GRAMMY Awards process (if you're a voting member; key dates here)
Getting involved in the Academy's DEI efforts
Running for a Recording Academy board and/or participating on advisory committees
Joining local chapters and voting in chapter elections
Participating in members-only programs
Supporting the Producers & Engineers (P&E) and Songwriters & Composers (S&C) wings
Additionally, you can become eligible to purchase GRAMMYs tickets and join the Latin Recording Academy as a dual member.
The Recording Academy is thrilled to have you as a member — whether you've already joined, or plan to join in the future! Watch this space for further news about Recording Academy membership and all other goings-on with the world's leading society of music people.
Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Urban One Honors
4 Ways Pharrell Williams Has Made An Impact: Supporting The Music Industry, Amplifying Social Issues & More
From advocacy and activism to music education and philanthropy, trailblazing superproducer Pharrell Williams uses his global reach to enact social change and inspire the masses — which is exactly why he's a 2023 GRAMMYs On The Hill honoree.
Thirteen-time GRAMMY winner Pharrell Williams understands how to wield his influence for the betterment of humanity. When he's not in the studio making award-winning music, the prolific multihyphenate spends his time supporting causes like education, sustainable fashion, conservation, and human rights, and leverages his platform to make change happen — creating a blueprint for merging passions with social causes.
The visionary's philanthropic reach is awe-inspiring. Since establishing his first non-profit, From One Hand to AnOTHER, in 2008 — a six-week summer camp that offers learning programs focused on science, technology and the arts to children from low-income families — Williams has given a host of communities access to resources, tools and life-changing opportunities. He's helped build an after-school center in his hometown of Virginia Beach, offered internships to students from Harlem, New York, and launched a non-profit initiative for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs on the heels of the 2020 racial justice protests.
Ultimately, the mega-producer wants to make the world a better place for future generations, which shines through in his dedication to education, climate action and equality. By taking action to tackle these big-picture issues, Williams is showing others in his position that it's possible to do what you love and make a difference in the world.
To mark Williams' efforts and their impacts, the multihyphenate will be honored alongside U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) at this year's GRAMMYs On The Hill in Washington D.C. The annual event spotlights congressional leaders and music makers who have worked together to raise awareness and pass legislation to help ensure fair pay and equal rights for creators.
Ahead of the event on April 26 and 27, take a look at four ways Williams has supported the music industry — and beyond.
He Advocates For The Protection Of Creators' Rights
Williams has made a concerted effort to negotiate with labels for control of his music, and he uses his platform to help fight for equality and equity for all artists. "I shouldn't be the only one with this preferred deal," Williams said to the head of Columbia Records after negotiating a deal to own his masters in 2015. "All artists should own their intellectual property — otherwise you're just working for someone else. It's really weird: They own the fields where you and God have laid the seeds; you do the harvesting, but they have the ownership."
Williams has consistently highlighted the importance of ownership in music, and his push to usher in new protections for artists extends to the virtual world. In 2021, the music mogul joined the advisory council of CXIP DAO, a decentralized organization that allows creators to protect their copyrights and manage their digital assets.
He Supports And Funds Arts & Music Education Programs
Williams got his musical start as a drummer in elementary school before taking band in middle school, where he met a similarly music-minded classmate named Chad Hugo, his future production partner in the Neptunes. Along with support from his grandmother, this educational experience shaped Williams into the innovator he is today, and encouraged him to center much of his philanthropy on the arts and education as a whole.
"I want all children to have access to that kind of creative growth, access, and support. All kids, not just my own," Pharrell told Billboard in 2019.
His actions have shown just that: In 2009, Williams' non-profit launched a Summer of Innovation camp in association with NASA. His foundation would go on to donate school supplies and offer free after-school programs and camps to kids from his hometown areas.
In 2018, the "Happy" singer partnered with American Express Platinum for The Yellow Ball, a fundraising event at the Brooklyn Museum to benefit Young Audiences Arts for Learning. Soon after, he joined forces with Verizon to launch a tech-forward music curriculum for underserved middle schools all over the country, which provides students with access to virtual reality, 3D printers and other emerging technology.
He Launched A Private School
Back in 2021, Williams took his education advocacy to the next level when he announced the launch of Yellowhab, a tuition-free private school for third to sixth graders from low-income families in his home state of Virginia. Always innovating, Williams's micro-school takes "a future-forward approach" to learning that includes using tech and other methods to immerse students in the educational process.
"If the system is fixed and unfair, then it needs to be broken," Williams said in a press release. "We don't want lockstep learning where so many kids fall behind; we want bespoke learning designed for each child, where the things that make a child different are the same things that will make a child rise up and take flight."
He Uses Fashion To Help Global Causes
The fashion influencer has created a number of clothing and accessory lines throughout his career, from the Billionaire Boys Club label to its many offshoots. He's partnered with high-profile brands to create collections that raise awareness and funding for socially conscious causes; in December 2022, his global lifestyle brand ICECREAM collabed with Mini USA for a capsule collection whose proceeds went to Polar Bears International, a non-profit that works to protect the endangered species.
But with eight million metric tons of plastic in the ocean, his sustainable denim collection with Bionic Yarns may be his most socially impactful. Over a two-year period, this collaboration converted an estimated seven million plastic bottles into clothing items.
"We are trying to infiltrate the entire spectrum of fashion, high-end and low. It's a part of sustainability and the cause is to never throw anything [plastics and trash] into the ocean again," Williams told Women's Wear Daily in 2014. "The ocean is just one part of the earth we're concentrating on, but the world is made up of 75 to 80 percent water. It's a huge place to start."
Everything You Need To Know About The Recording Academy's 2022 Chapter Board Elections
The Recording Academy's 2022 Chapter Board Elections, open March 29 - April 4, are a pivotal opportunity to serve our local Chapter communities and to help launch the next generation of Recording Academy leaders. Here's everything you need to know.
As we prepare to celebrate music's best and brightest at the 2022 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards, we must also recognize those who are dedicated to serving our music community year-round.
The active participation of Recording Academy members makes a difference, whether it's voting in the GRAMMY Awards process, recommending peers for membership, or registering for the District Advocate advocacy movement.
The upcoming Chapter Board Elections are a pivotal opportunity to serve our local Chapter communities and to help launch the next generation of Recording Academy leaders. The results of this election will impact the future of the Academy from the local to the national level.
Here's everything you need to know about the Recording Academy's 2022 Chapter Board Elections before voting opens next week.
When are Chapter Board Elections?
The Chapter Board Elections are typically held in early April of each year. The 2022 Elections are open Tuesday, March 29, at 8 a.m. local time – Monday, April 4, at 11:59 p.m. local time.
What are Chapter Boards?
The Recording Academy's membership is organized into 12 Chapters nationwide. Each Chapter has a local Board of Governors that advises and supports the National Board of Trustees and collaborates with the Chapter President and Academy staff on local programming and Academy initiatives.
Who is eligible to vote in Chapter Board Elections?
Each Chapter's Voting and Professional membership vote in their respective Chapter Board Elections to elect their Chapter's Governors.
Who serves on Chapter Boards?
A Chapter Board is composed of Recording Academy members who are elected to the positions of Trustee; Chapter Officers, which include a President, Vice President, and Secretary; and Governors.
Why is voting in Chapter Board Elections important?
Voting is a right and a responsibility as a member.
While we love hearing creators' voices on stage and on recordings, it's our responsibility to listen to their concerns, ideas and recommendations in order to keep our Academy and our industry moving forward.
Your vote makes a difference.
Voting in this election is an opportunity to help drive the Recording Academy and our music communities forward by electing the best and brightest members to your Chapter's leadership.
Your vote helps ensure a diverse, inclusive and representative Board.
Recording Academy members elected to their Chapter Boards ensure the policies and procedures put in place by the Academy reflect the needs and aspirations of our vastly diverse music community.
Your vote is your voice.
As a member of the Recording Academy, your vote carries weight and is tremendously valued.
How can I vote in the Chapter Board Elections?
When the elections open on Tuesday, March 29, Voting and Professional members will receive an email from the Recording Academy with a direct link to their online ballot. This login will be different from each member's Recording Academy login.
Once you click on your ballot link, review the candidates' bios. Vote for the individuals who you believe will best represent your local music community.
Be sure to submit your Chapter Board Elections ballot before voting closes on Monday, April 4. If you have any questions or issues with your ballot, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Recording Academy Governance or to view the current list of Elected Leaders, visit https://recordingacademy.com/Governance.
Recording Academy Bolsters Membership With 2,710 Music Creators And Professionals Invited
The Recording Academy Announces 3rd Annual "Behind The Record" Initiative To Continue To #GiveCredit To Creators In Music
This year, the Recording Academy's "Behind The Record" initiative, a global social media activation aimed at spotlighting the many creators in music, introduces Behind The Record Advocacy, a new virtual program to discus creators' needs with Congress
The Recording Academy has announced that it will continue giving credit where credit is due with its 3rd annual "Behind The Record" initiative, a global social media activation aimed at spotlighting the many producers, engineers, songwriters, composers, mixers, instrumentalists, and other creators who contribute to the music recording process. Taking place Friday, Oct. 15, the industry-wide conversation encourages artists across all music genres to celebrate their collaborators' incredible behind-the-scenes work on the tracks, records and albums loved by music fans around the world. This year's campaign features a short film, narrated by Recording Academy Board of Trustees Secretary/Treasurer Om'Mas Keith, illustrating that behind every hit song is an intricate dance of creativity that builds and builds to the final product.
A day before the social media activation's launch, on Thursday, Oct. 14, the Recording Academy will introduce Behind The Record Advocacy, a new virtual advocacy program to inform lawmakers about issues affecting the creators behind their favorite records. Building off the success of the Recording Academy's "Behind The Record" initiative, Academy members will meet virtually with members of Congress nationwide to discuss legislation that would have a direct impact on America's recording artists, songwriters and studio professionals, such as the HITS Act and the American Music Fairness Act. With nearly 200 meetings with congressional offices anticipated for Behind The Record Advocacy, members will focus on ensuring that the individuals behind the record are able to earn fair compensation for their work.
"It takes a village to create a recording, and as an organization that serves to support all music creators, we invite our peers to join us in spotlighting the many music professionals behind our favorite songs," Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, said. "While we celebrate the music professionals behind the scenes, we also recognize the importance of fighting for fair treatment of creators. We're proud of the evolution of 'Behind The Record' to include an advocacy element this year as we continue our ongoing work to ensure all music creators flourish."
"Behind The Record" is supported by the Recording Academy's Advocacy Department, Producers & Engineers Wing and Songwriters & Composers Wing. Supporting all music creators—including the artists behind our favorite records—is an urgent initiative for the Recording Academy year-round. Within the past year alone, the Recording Academy established the Songwriters & Composers Wing to better represent the diverse community of music creators who provide the world with the gift of song. The Academy also reintroduced the HITS Act in the House and Senate, which would allow artists and record producers to deduct 100 percent of sound recording production expenses in the year they are incurred, and continued efforts to support women producers and engineers through its Women In The Mix initiative.
To help the Recording Academy further support creators working behind the scenes, artists can participate in "Behind The Record" by:
- Emailing email@example.com to request an access code to the Credit Cover Generator Portal.
- Posting your Credit Cover across social media channels and tagging those who worked on your project. Use hashtags #BehindTheRecord #GiveCredit #WeAreMusic.
- Artists can create Credit Covers for a single track or album, and covers will live in a gallery on the "Behind The Record" website for music fans to view and discover the roles of creatives behind some of their favorite records.
For the third year, Jaxsta, the world's largest public-facing dedicated database of official music credits, provided credits for Warner Music, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and Merlin releases.
For more information, please visit the "Behind The Record" website. Follow and join the global conversation on social media using the hashtags #BehindTheRecord, #GiveCredit and #WeAreMusic.