Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
California Passes The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act: Why It's A Win For The First Amendment & Creative Expression
The California State Senate just passed the modest, common-sense act unanimously, which now goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign it into law.
Remember the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act (AB 2799), the California bill which was created to protect the First Amendment Rights of artists and stop the use of an artist's lyrics or creative expressions as evidence during criminal and civil proceedings?
The California State Senate just passed it — unanimously, after the California General Assembly did the same earlier this year. The bill now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk to be signed into law in the coming days.
For the Recording Academy, the legislation has been a priority of their ongoing advocacy efforts this year. While the bill is California-specific, it has the potential to set an example for the rest of the nation and mirrors other efforts already underway such as the federal RAP Act — which the Academy has also been closely involved with.
"Not having this legislation has allowed people to utilize people's creativity and lyrics against them when we know that's not fair," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. recently said. "I don't think anybody in the studio when they're in their cars in their garage or when they're writing music, they shouldn't be thinking about, 'Is this going to be something that I shouldn't say in art and music?'"
"We should be able to express ourselves," Mason continued. "We should be able to say things that are on our minds and our hearts or in our imaginations without fear of somebody bringing this up in a courtroom."
To summarize the California bill, AB 2799 will protect artists from having their creative expression used against them as evidence in a criminal trial. The use of creative expression, specifically rap lyrics, in criminal proceedings has been an ongoing issue since the early 1990s.
There have been hundreds of cases where rap lyrics have been used to build criminal cases against artists, claiming that aggressive or violent lyrics are indicative of an artist's behavior.
But AB 2799 is about more than just rap lyrics. Music, literature, film, and all works of creative expression should be protected by the First Amendment.
The legislation is a modest and common-sense bill that will limit the use of creative expression as evidence in a trial and help protect artists and creators from unfair bias. It ensures that all artists are able to express themselves freely without fear of reprisal from the justice system simply because of the content of their art or because of biases held against their chosen art form.
AB 2799 is the first legislation of its kind to pass a state legislature and head to a Governor to become law. A similar bill was considered in New York earlier this year and will likely be reintroduced in 2023. And at the federal level, the Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act was introduced in July by Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY).
The Academy will continue to advocate to ensure AB 2799 is signed into law and to advance the RAP Act in Congress. Watch this space for more news on both fronts, and to keep up with Recording Academy Advocacy's fight for the rights of all music creators.
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images, Courtesy of Recording Academy
Looking Forward To 2023: Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. On Rebuilding, Laying The Groundwork & Paving The Road Ahead
With Final Round GRAMMY Voting coming to a close, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. is looking forward to the GRAMMYs' return to L.A., making the Academy even more diverse and equitable, and building reach-for-the-sky initiatives in 2023 and beyond.
Last June, the Recording Academy announced five new GRAMMY categories to be debuted at the 2023 GRAMMYs and awarded onward: Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical; Best Alternative Music Performance; Best Americana Performance; Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media; and Best Spoken Word Poetry Album. Additionally, a highly anticipated Special Merit Award for Best Song For Social Change was added, along with various category amendments and procedural updates.
Elsewhere, the Recording Academy continued its wider mission to create a more inclusive and equitable music industry, starting with major developments from within.
Last September, the Academy further diversified our membership body with the inauguration of the 2022 New Member Class. Of the nearly 2,000 newest Recording Academy members, 44 percent are from traditionally underrepresented communities; 47 percent are under the age of 40; 32 percent are women; and 52 percent are male; the remaining 16 percent are composed of individuals who identify as non-binary and those who opted not to disclose. The 2022 New Member Class, our most diverse class to date, further helped the Academy reach our goal of adding 2,500 women voting members by 2025; having added 1,913 women to its voting membership since 2019, we are now 77 percent of the way to reaching this goal.
The Academy's commitment to cultivating a community that embodies the ethnicities, genres and crafts that power the music industry is also reflected in the nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs: more than half of the songs nominated for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year are by solo female artists; half of the albums nominated for Album Of The Year are by solo female artists; and nearly half of this year's leading nominees are women and more than half are people of color.
For Mason jr., these significant developments perfectly reflect the great year of continued change the Recording Academy experienced in 2022, a notable evolution he promises to progress this year and onward.
"Last year, we made a lot of progress. We've implemented a lot of change," he says in an exclusive interview. "It was a year of rebuilding, investing and laying groundwork for the road ahead.
"2022 was a great setup year," he continues. "It got us to a point where we're in a better position, and now we can really start to do some of the important work that I know the Academy can do.”
Mason jr. also had some personally transformative experiences last year, including a trip to Africa, which he describes as, "Mind-bending. Game-changing. Eye-opening."
"Being in Africa was a profound learning trip. It was an opportunity to listen, see and interact — a chance to meet and talk to artists from that region," he reflects. "It also helped me learn how the Academy can be involved there and globally. How can we be helpful? How can we make sure that we're furthering our mission in music — not just in the U.S., but around the world?
With the 2023 GRAMMYs right around the corner, Mason jr. opened up for an in-depth interview in which he reflected on seismic shifts in the Recording Academy and mapped out the road ahead in the ongoing fight for all music people.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Final Round GRAMMY Voting is underway, and nearly 17,000 eligible entries were submitted for GRAMMY consideration for the 2023 GRAMMYs. All in all, more than 11,000 Recording Academy members voted during the GRAMMY Awards process. What would you like to communicate to members involved in this vital and precious process regarding the power of their vote?
I would say, very simply, that the reason the GRAMMY is what it is — which, I believe, is the most prestigious music award you can win as a creator — is precisely because it's determined by the voting body of your peers.
Voting is important because in order to maintain the importance and significance of the GRAMMY, and what it can do for someone's career, or music, or for the genre, we have to make sure that the voting body is voting with intent and is well-informed; that way the GRAMMY remains relevant, and we can honor the deserving people, records and projects every year.
For us, everything comes down to voting. Voting determines the GRAMMY nominations, the nominations impact the GRAMMY winners, the GRAMMY winners impact the show.
And the show ultimately allows us to do all the really important work we do year-round on an ongoing annual basis: supporting music people. That's MusiCares. That's education via the GRAMMY Museum and GRAMMY U. That's Advocacy in Washington, D.C. All that ultimately relies on members voting.
Let's go through some of the new GRAMMY categories and developments being introduced at the 2023 GRAMMYs. What can you say about the magnitude of the new Best Spoken Word Poetry Album category?
I think the category is going to be really important this year. Bifurcating the Spoken Word Field into two categories, along with Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording, is going to make a big difference for us.
We heard from that group of people, who said they weren't being recognized nor accurately evaluated and nominated. Now, from the looks of these nominations, it's been a sea change for us. Whereas before, artists and poets were competing with books on tape and other narration.
Now, it's purely spoken word; that's really exciting.
How about the expansion of the Best New Age Album category into Best New Age, Ambient Or Chant?
A lot of the time, with categories like this, we really needed to hear from the community and people who are working in that genre and space. These last two years, we've been really intent on listening and learning.
So, when a group of creators comes to us and says something needs to be changed or altered in their category — whether it's a name change, definition change, or sometimes an all-new category — we listen.
This is one of those cases: the New Age Field needed some attention. We heard from them, and I think we made a good refinement.
How about the added Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media GRAMMY category?
This award is exciting because it points us toward the future, to some degree. There's so much music being created in the gaming space, and again, it's a community of creators that wasn't being fairly or accurately represented by the Academy.
Having their own category gives us a chance to really get a good number of submissions in, and also gives our voters an opportunity to listen to that music through the lens of peer-voted submissions specifically in that category instead of a video game score coming across in another category.
There's intention around that style and genre of music. It's a forward-looking category. We now have a community being created around that space, so we're really proud of this development.
The new Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical GRAMMY category is a monumental development for the songwriter community.
The underpinning of what we do as an Academy is built on songs. I started out as a songwriter myself, so the idea of honoring someone who is truly a professional songwriter and craftsperson is special.
This award celebrates the songwriting aspect of the music industry, as opposed to artists who write some of their own songs. There was some back-and-forth on what was the fairest and best way to honor this community. As it stands now, we're really pleased with the way we set it up. The inaugural nominees are writing songs for other artists, and I think it's a chance for us to celebrate true songwriters, one of the main pillars of our industry.
This year, the Recording Academy is introducing a new Special Merit Award for Best Song For Social Change. What's notable about this development?
This Special Merit Award, which honors a song based on the impact and ability to make a difference in the world, is something that is a first for the Academy, and something I think we're all excited about and proud of.
This is one of the purposes of music: to make a difference in the world. And a social change impact award for a song highlights those songs, or that one song, that has a massive impact.
I don't want anybody to misconstrue this award as something that's just singling out one song of impact or importance. Because we know every year, there are a lot of songs that have so much value and impact. But this is a chance for us to celebrate a short list of songs, and ultimately one song, that we feel has made a big impact.
You went to Africa last year. What inspired this excursion, and what did you learn from your trip?
I would describe my trip to Africa as: Mind-bending. Game-changing. Eye-opening. There's so much music, so much creativity over there. Africa is the birthplace of, well, everything, but definitely music. It was a chance to learn about the history, heritage and beginnings of music and rhythm and dance and singing.
Also, given what's happening there today, it was a chance to hear from the people who are really having a huge impact on a genre that's on the rise around the world. Afrobeats and other genres from that region are definitely making their way into the international consciousness.
Things are so different now. Ten years ago, or even a few years ago, before streaming, an artist would release a song in Africa and we wouldn't necessarily know about it in America. It wouldn't travel so quickly from country to country, or continent to continent. Now, with streaming, somebody in any country in the world can release music, and we're listening to it in America.
If we're going to be an Academy that's evaluating and celebrating and uplifting music, I think it's incumbent on us to understand all the different genres. As I said, we're not all going to be experts. But we have to acknowledge them. We have to be aware that things are happening. We have to see around the corner.
For us as an Academy, we always want to be aware of the trends — what's happening now and what's coming next — so we can stay plugged into today's music scene and global music community and continue to honor the music that's being made around the world.
So for me, being in Africa was a profound learning trip. It was an opportunity to listen, see and interact — a chance to meet and talk to artists from that region. It also helped me learn how the Academy can be involved there and globally. How we can be helpful. Really, how do we make sure that we're furthering our mission in music — not just in the U.S., but around the world.
One of the driving themes for the Recording Academy is diversity. In 2022, nearly 2,000 music industry professionals and creatives joined the Recording Academy as members, with a significant percentage of that new class coming from traditionally underrepresented and gender-diverse communities. How does this reflect the Recording Academy's wider mission to create an inclusive and equitable music industry?
I think it directly correlates with our forward-looking mission, and that's to be more reflective, more accurate, more representative of the music ecosystem. As we know, the biggest percentage of music consumed is Black music. Also, achieving more gender equity is important. We know that there are so many important, influential creatives who are women. So, making sure our membership reflects that is really important to me and important to everyone at the Academy.
We have some very specific goals for what we want to accomplish with our membership in regards to diversity — for race diversity, but also gender diversity, regional diversity, genre diversity … There are a lot of goals for our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion group that we want to make sure we get right.
And it's in our Membership. It's in our Awards. It's in our staff. It's in our boards. It's in our committees. It's smart practice to be doing things in a more diverse way. I know the outcomes are better. We get better information; we get better collaboration. We get more nuanced and deeper thoughts about things, and we see things from different angles. Music is one of the most diverse endeavors in the world, and I think we have to represent that across the Recording Academy and the music industry at-large.
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. | Photo: Michael Kovac
The 2023 GRAMMYs are right around the corner. This year, the show returns to its home base at the Crypto.com Arena, formerly the Staples Center, in Los Angeles. What are you most excited about for the upcoming GRAMMYs?
I'm excited about being in L.A. I'm excited about having a full audience again. I'm excited about all the incredible music that we're celebrating this year. I'm looking forward to coming together to celebrate.
I look forward to the creative industry and the music industry coming together to celebrate each other and lift each other up. To shine a light on excellence and greatness and talk about the things we all have in common. To tell our stories and let the world see the great music that was created this year.GRAMMY Week, which takes place across L.A. in the days before GRAMMY night, is a fun time to celebrate music and celebrate each other. I think you see the full power of music during GRAMMY week, maybe more so than at any other time.
But the idea of music bringing about change — music being for good, music creating a better world — these are all big, overarching concepts. Those are the things I'm most excited about seeing.
Last June, you celebrated your first anniversary as CEO of the Recording Academy. Any words or reflections about the Recording Academy’s accomplishments last year?
Last year, we made a lot of progress. We've implemented a lot of change. It was a year of rebuilding, investing and laying groundwork for the road ahead.
I believe we still have a lot of work to do, so I don't, by any means, think 2022 was the be-all, end-all. 2022 was a great setup year. It got us to a point where we're in a better position, and now we can really start to do some of the important work that I know the Academy can do.
In my role as CEO of the Recording Academy, it's the coolest job in the world. I grew up as a creator — as a songwriter and producer. I continue to write and produce. So, I feel like I'm of the community that we serve.
You've heard me say it before, but the music community is so important to evolving our society and changing the world. The privilege to serve the music community is an honor and makes me very excited every day to wake up and do the work.
What are you most looking forward to regarding the Recording Academy's growth and evolution in 2023 and beyond?
I'm really looking forward to celebrating more music, and more types of music from different places around the world. I'm really looking forward to serving more music people, in more ways.
I'm excited about the ongoing evolution of where we go as an Academy and continuing to build on new ideas so that we can accomplish all of our goals while creating new goals along the way. I'm excited about, obviously, the GRAMMYs show, and getting back to the other 364 days of the year when we're giving back to the music community that we serve and support each and every day.
Graphic: The Recording Academy
How The Recording Academy's 2022 New Membership Class Reflects Its Ongoing Commitment To Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Composed of nearly 2,000 diverse music creators and professionals, the 2022 New Member Class signals the organization's continued progress toward cultivating a community that embodies the ethnicities, genres and crafts that power the music industry.
Like never before, the Recording Academy is committed to cultivating a community that embodies the ethnicities, genres and crafts that power the music industry. And this continued progress is beautifully reflected in the Recording Academy's 2022 New Member Class, which is composed of nearly 2,000 diverse music creators and professionals.
Of the invitees who accepted their Recording Academy membership invitation, sent to more than 2,700 music professionals in June, 44% are from traditionally underrepresented communities; 47% are under the age of 40; 32% are women; and 52% are male. The remaining 16% are composed of individuals who identify as non-binary and those who opted not to disclose.
The complete statistics surrounding the demographics of the Recording Academy's 2022 New Member Class can be found here and below.
The 2022 New Member Class marks four years since the Recording Academy transitioned to a community-driven and peer-reviewed annual cycle. This was in an effort to create a more diverse and engaged membership base representative of the ever-evolving musical landscape.
Since implementing the new model in 2019, the number of women members has increased by 19%, and membership among traditionally underrepresented communities has increased by 38% — now accounting for 31% and 33% of the Recording Academy's current membership, respectively.
Furthermore, the Recording Academy has added 1,913 women to its Voting Membership since 2019 and is now 77% of the way to reaching its goal of adding 2,500 women Voting Members by 2025.
In an annual address to the organization's membership body, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. highlighted the significance of Academy membership and each constituent's unique opportunity to create a lasting impact on the music community. In the address, Mason also highlighted key initiatives and milestones for the Academy and welcomed the organization's 2022 New Member Class.
"After years of listening, learning and putting in the work, we're beginning to see results of our efforts to diversify the Academy's membership come to life," Mason stated in his address. "Our members are the lifeblood of this organization, powering everything we do from the inside out. When we have diverse people representing all corners of the industry contributing unique perspectives, progress is achieved at a rapid pace.
"The journey is just beginning," he continued, "and I can't wait to work alongside our new and existing members to build on the Academy's commitment to effecting real, meaningful change."
The annual member address also underlined a series of further milestones, including the five new GRAMMY Awards categories created in June and to be awarded at the upcoming 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards: Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical; Best Alternative Music Performance; Best Americana Performance; Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media; and Best Spoken Word Poetry Album.
Just as monumental is the newly announced Best Song For Social Change award, a Special Merit Award curated by a Blue Ribbon Committee, which is now accepting submissions through Friday, Oct. 7.
Mason's address also underscored the Recording Academy's efforts in leading the fight for the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act in California and the RAP (Restoring Artistic Protection) Act on the federal level that would restrict the use of rap lyrics and other creative works in court. (Today is the deadline for Recording Academy members to register for District Advocate Day 2022, taking place on Thursday, Oct. 6. Learn more about and register for District Advocate Day here.)
Aside from submitting product for GRAMMY Awards consideration and voting during the GRAMMY Awards process, Recording Academy members can propose amendments to GRAMMY Awards rules; run for a Recording Academy Board position or Committee; vote in Chapter elections; support fellow musicians through Advocacy efforts and MusiCares initiatives; engage with the Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing and Songwriters & Composers Wing; and much more.
Learn more about the Recording Academy's membership process and requirements. And keep checking RecordingAcademy.com for more information and news about exciting developments regarding our Recording Academy membership initiatives and members, the beating heart of this society of music people.
(L-R) Panos A. Panay, Harvey Mason jr. and Valeisha Butterfield Jones
Photo Courtesy of the Recording Academy®/photo by Matt Winkelmeyer by Getty Images © 2021
The Recording Academy Turns 65: A Nod To Its Beginnings And A Commitment To A New Era
This weekend brings a happy milestone: The Recording Academy will turn 65. Together, let’s remind ourselves of the organization’s beginnings and redouble our commitment to all music people going forward.
Over the weekend, the Recording Academy will hit a quiet yet significant milestone: 65 years will have passed since its inception. How does one even come to terms with the enormity of this legacy?
No online post could encapsulate everything that’s happened with the Recording Academy since 1957 — a year Eisenhower was president, Elvis reigned in the charts, and the Space Race heated up.
Still, it’s worth pausing and considering how the seeds were sown all those years ago and how the Recording Academy is flourishing as a renewed organization in 2022.
1955: The First Seeds
In response to a request from the Hollywood Beautification Committee, five top L.A.-based record executives met on April 28 to determine names of artists worthy of their own star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.
In attendance were Paul Weston of Columbia, Lloyd Dunn of Capitol, Sonny Burke of Decca, Jesse Kaye of MGM, and Dennis Farnon of RCA Victor. The focus was to develop criteria to use as a "yardstick" to determine which names should be submitted.
This meeting also illustrated the growing importance of having a "proper means for rewarding people on an artistic level" — similar to the motion picture and TV groups. This group later became known as the Founder's Committee.
On May 20, Paul Weston presented criteria on how to best determine which artists should receive a star to the other members of the Founder's Committee. The total number of record sales was the primary benchmark used to select artists for this project.
1957: The Academy’s Beginning
On May 28, The Founder's Committee met again: "A Group to Form a Record Award Society" convened at the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood.
The meeting opened with a general discussion of the classifications for which awards should be given and current procedures. The name agreed upon for this new organization? The Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Mr. Dunn made the motion that "James Conkling become temporary chairman of the committee for the formation of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences." The motion was seconded by Mr. Weston and carried unanimously.
Questions and concerns regarding the criteria to be used as a benchmark for the Hollywood Beautification Committee were discussed — and in attendance with the Founder's Committee was former Columbia Records president James B. Conkling.
Flash Forward To 2022
When asked about the incredible strides the Recording Academy has made in recent years, CEO Harvey Mason Jr. offered a rejoinder.
“That'll take up the whole interview — we don't have time for all the positive developments!” he told RecordingAcademy.com with a smile. “The great work that MusiCares has been doing over the last however many months during COVID. The way we're changing our membership. The way we're inviting members. The way we're constituting our boardroom. The way we're working in education initiatives. Our internship program; the Black Music Collective; our advocacy work at the GRAMMY Museum.”
Mason went on to touch on a crucial tentpole of the Recording Academy: diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). This commitment to giving all music people a fair shake manifests in communications, artist outreach, leadership, and so many other avenues.
For more information on the Recording Academy’s astounding developments in service to the global music community, check out the article “New Vision, New Era, One Academy” in the 2022 GRAMMYs program book on page 130.
And this weekend, let’s ring in the Recording Academy’s 65th birthday — both with a nod to the past, but a renewed commitment to render service to all music people in the years to come.
Harvey Mason jr.
Photo courtesy of the Milken Institute
Watch Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. Appear On "Drop The Mic: The Business Of Music" Panel
Comprising more than 180 public and private sessions, Milken Institute Global Conference 2022 featured a captivating panel called "Drop The Mic: The Business Of Music" — featuring Mason alongside other music business leaders.
The Recording Academy's very own CEO, Harvey Mason Jr., just got deep on the mechanics of the music biz. On May 4, Mason participated in the Milken Institute Global Conference 2022, appearing on the panel "Drop the Mic: The Business of Music."
Moderated by Shirley Halperin and featuring additional speakers Marc Cimino (Chief Operating Officer, Universal Music Publishing Group), Sherrese Clarke Soares (Founder and CEO, HarbourView Equity Partners) and Scott Pascucci (Chief Executive Officer, Concord), "Drop The Mic" explored how the music business has expanded beyond playing records and attending live concerts.
In 2022 and beyond, the industry encompasses downloads, catalog buys, creative NFTs that serve as souvenirs, virtual experiences, and a whole lot more. In the below video, captivating speakers detail how we can follow these developments into a brave new world for music and music people.
Comprising more than 180 public and private sessions, Milken Institute Global Conference 2022 featured nearly 2,000 attendees participating in-person — along with thousands more viewing the livestream from around the world.
Enjoy the video, which clocks in at more than an hour, and keep checking RecordingAcademy.com for updates on how the music business continues to evolve, flourish and thrive as a nurturer of the world.