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.
GRAMMYs On The Hill Honorees Named
Legendary artist and producer Quincy Jones — 27-time GRAMMY winner and The Recording Academy's ambassador for its 50th Celebration — will headline a day of music advocacy as part of The Academy's GRAMMYs on The Hill activities in the nation's
Quincy Jones, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Marsha Blackburn to be saluted
Legendary artist and producer Quincy Jones — 27-time GRAMMY winner and The Recording Academy's ambassador for its 50th Celebration — will headline a day of music advocacy as part of The Academy's GRAMMYs on The Hill activities in the nation's capital on Sept. 5, it was announced today by The Recording Academy.
Events will include a unique afternoon jam session with GRAMMY-winning artist Keb' Mo' and members of Congress. Later that evening at an awards gala, Jones will be honored for his lifelong contributions to American music, and honorees Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) will be recognized for their legislative support of the arts and music creators.
Among the luminaries joining Keb' Mo' to salute the honorees will be four-time GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy Chair Jimmy Jam, Academy President Neil Portnow, nine-time GRAMMY winner Ray Benson (of Asleep At The Wheel), "Godfather of Go-Go" Chuck Brown, GRAMMY-winning songwriter Brett James ("Jesus Take The Wheel"), country superstar John Rich (of Big & Rich), four-time GRAMMY winner BeBe Winans and seven-time GRAMMY winner CeCe Winans.
"GRAMMYs on the Hill connects top music makers — from singers and songwriters to producers and engineers — with members of Congress in Washington to shed light on the effect music has in enriching our lives," said Portnow. "This year, as part of our 50th Celebration activities, we will highlight the importance of music preservation and education so that it continues to thrive in our culture for years to come."
Throughout the day, more than 120 music professionals from across the country will come to Washington to speak to legislators about promoting policies that improve the environment for music and its makers. Earlier in the day on Capitol Hill, the GRAMMY Foundation will showcase its programs with a special performance by Keb' Mo', who will jam with members of the Recording Arts and Sciences Congressional Caucus (the "Congressional GRAMMY Band" — a group of musician members of Congress who have informally jammed at previous Academy advocacy events) in the Cannon House Office Building Caucus Room on Capitol Hill.
That evening, GRAMMYs on the Hill will move to the ballroom of the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel for its 7th annual gala dinner where The Recording Academy will honor Jones, Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Blackburn. Chesnee High School of South Carolina will receive the GRAMMY Foundation's Signature School Award and Scholarship for its outstanding commitment to music education.
The Recording Academy Reveals Leadership Council For Newly Launched Black Music Collective
The distinguished leadership committee will work with honorary chairs to elevate Black music creators and professionals
The Recording Academy's newly launched Black Music Collective (BMC), a group of prominent Black music creators and professionals who share the common goal of amplifying Black voices within the Academy and the wider music community, has announced a distinguished leadership council. The leadership committee is dedicated to progressing the Recording Academy's mission to achieve equitable representation across its membership and the music industry.
The collective will serve as a space for members to speak openly about new and emerging opportunities in Black music alongside an inspiring group of groundbreaking Black music creators and business leaders. Leadership has already begun creating and identifying programming that will encourage the acceleration of Black membership within the Academy.
Members of the leadership council will join Honorary Chairs Jeffrey Harleston, Jimmy Jam, Quincy Jones, Debra Lee, John Legend and Sylvia Rhone to work hand in hand to elevate the mission of the collective. Recording Academy Trustee Riggs Morales serves as the BMC Chair and Washington, D.C., Chapter Executive Director Jeriel Johnson is the Executive Sponsor.
The Black Music Collective's Distinguished Leadership Committee includes the following accomplished music professionals:
- Yolanda Adams, Artist
- Brianna Agyemang, Executive
- Derek "MixedByAli" Ali, Engineer
- Tunde Balogun, Executive
- Tuma Basa, Executive
- Aloe Blacc, Artist
- Boi-1da, Producer
- Catherine Brewton, Executive
- Terri Lyne Carrington, Musician
- D-Nice, Artist
- Phylicia Fant, Executive
- H.E.R., Artist
- Om'Mas Keith, Producer
- Rico Love, Songwriter
- Heather Lowery, Executive
- Riggs Morales, Executive and BMC Chair
- Steve Pamon, Executive
- Tayla Parx, Songwriter
- Ryan Press, Executive
- Rashid Shabazz, Executive
- Jamila Thomas, Executive
- Dion "No-I.D." Wilson, Producer
"Our time is now and I'm so excited to add my voice in whatever way I can to honor those who came before me, those who worked building the foundation in this important work in music," H.E.R. said. "Initiatives like this help give a voice to young and emerging artists who dream of an even bigger future. We're all in this together."
"This is a new era of change for the Recording Academy and we are honored to have these leading artists, executives, producers and engineers who are all at the top of their fields join us for such an important moment in our world, our nation and our industry," Harvey Mason jr., chair and interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy, said. "Black music is part of the fabric of our industry and it is so reassuring to stand with these leaders to create momentum, bring change and amplify Black voices."
"We're energized by our partnership with such an esteemed group of Black music leaders who share our mission to foster and accelerate Black representation, equity and inclusion throughout the music industry," Valeisha Butterfield Jones, chief diversity & inclusion officer of the Recording Academy, said. "We've doubled down on our partnership with these leaders and are committed to the work ahead."
Stay up to date on the BMC's progress here.
Neil Portnow's 49th GRAMMYs Telecast Remarks
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