Photo: Paul Morigi / Getty Images
(L-R) Jimmy Jam, Rep. Ted Deutch, Sofia Carson, Rep. Michael McCaul, and Terry Lewis
How The 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards Brought Joy, Healing & Reverence For Music People
Featuring key congresspeople and leading lights in the music community, the 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards was in equal parts celebratory and impactful toward the fight for creators' rights for all music people.
Just before a performance where Jimmy Jam played an enormous keytar and Sen. Amy Klobuchar playfully shook a maraca, Jam laid down his stone-cold genuine feelings about his chosen artform. "Music is the divine art," he told the crowd at the packed GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 27, as they munched on dinner and dessert and enjoyed an open bar. And he meant it.
"Imagine a life without music," the five-time GRAMMY-winning producer continued. "It would be like breathing without oxygen. It would be like thirst without water. It would be life without the aural sustenance in our souls." Fellow five-time GRAMMY winner Terry Lewis, his decades-long partner who together form the legendary duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who were this year's artist honorees at the GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards, concurred: "This is the thing that God gave us to pull us together."
This balance between tireless work and divine play — a bunch of musicians jamming out a few blocks away from the hub of U.S. democracy — epitomized the vision of the GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards, Washington, D.C.'s premier annual celebration of music and advocacy. On the surface, it seemed to simply be musicians having a ball with lawmakers, connecting the spheres of music and politics. But there was nothing at all frivolous or superficial about the intent, as encapsulated in Ledisi's passionate question in her performance: "What can be higher than this?"
Much like MusiCares, the Advocacy division of the Recording Academy is predicated on helping music people in need — in this case, creators and artists who aren't fairly compensated for their labor. This happens to songwriters and music creators, who are regularly financially neglected, too often.
At this year's GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week, this urgent issue was front and center.
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. is one of music's most vocal advocates for fair compensation for creators. A GRAMMY-nominated songwriter and producer by trade, he knows the inner workings of the music business.
"You have to remember, I'm a songwriter," Mason jr. said in an interview on the red carpet at the 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards. In his experience, he's been paid for his songwriting work. But the landscape is increasingly tilting toward exploitation of his peers. "To get paid $7,000 or $10,000 is not acceptable," he continued. "So that's something I'm very passionate about — in my experience, but also knowing what it takes to be successful."
Other songwriters at the event also echoed this sentiment: Whitney Phillips, Lupita Infante, Emily Warren, Nnenna Freelon, Gramps Morgan, Autumn Rowe, and Emily Bear, the latter three of whom have won GRAMMYs. Although they spoke individually, they came together for a collective higher purpose: a path toward fair treatment and fair compensation for music people, especially after a detrimental pandemic, that can no longer wait. (Gospel singer Yolanda Adams, rappers Bun B and Cordae, gospel group Take 6, and singer/actress Sofia Carson also performed at and/or attended the event.)
"They asked for me to come out here and speak and advocate, and it was a no-brainer for me," Phillips said. "I think what's most frustrating about the songwriter experience is that nobody has known what to do, what to say, who to talk to — what's going to be the most effective way to get this message across that we need to be fairly compensated."
DJs Amira and Kayla performing at the 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards. Photo: Paul Morigi / Getty Images
Infante, the granddaughter of Mexican ranchera legend Pedro Infante, agrees — and this reality compelled her to become a brand-new Advocacy participant. "I think my music genre is a little bit incoming; I do Mexican music, and there's a big community out there," she says. "I think it's important to have that music protected."
Warren, who co-wrote Dua Lipa's GRAMMY-nominated hit "Don't Start Now," initially tried to highlight advocacy for music people via online posts, but she hit a wall. "I think people don't understand what the [pay] rate is for [music] streaming — why it is that way, what the history of that is, and why it's so hard to change," she says. "I think just making it simple and educating people so they know what to ask for and what they deserve [is important]."
Jazz luminary Nnenna Freelon, who was most recently nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Jazz Vocal Album at the 2022 GRAMMYs, boils it down to eternal family lessons. "What did grandma say? 'Actions speak louder than words,'" she says. "Often, people don't think of the material value of the creation as anything that should be compensated," she added, speaking of the often-invisible role of the songwriter.
Reggae master Gramps Morgan articulates the problem less in terms of dollar signs than of sheer visibility. "If you're not acknowledged, it makes you feel bad," he says. And when he does discuss financial compensation, it's more in terms of the overall system than of applying Band-Aids: "The last time these laws were changed was in the '40s. Now it's time to, as the music has changed and moved forward."
Sofia Carson performing at the 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards. Photo: Paul Morigi / Getty Images
As singer/songwriter, DJ and activist Rowe puts it, "I got involved with Advocacy, because how can I not? If not, I'm just sitting at home complaining about why things are the way they are." She connects this to our era of no-skin-in-the-game online activism: "You can post all day, you can tweet all day, but you've got to really get out there and get with the people that can actually change your life."
Bear, a pianist straddling the spheres of classical and jazz, says she feels like she regularly gets "the short end of the stick" when it comes to compensation. "I've seen and felt firsthand in the streaming industry era how we can't make a living right now." What of her talented friends? "They have to go back and move in with their parents," Bear laments, "because all of a sudden, touring was gone."
How did these sentiments bear out at the actual GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards ceremony? Through passionate performances and gripping speeches. The 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards celebrated artist honorees Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for their decades of creating iconic songs from artists like Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, and Boyz II Men, as well as Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) for their leadership in supporting the rights of music creators. Despite political party lines, a fierce devotion to music binded them all as friends and colleagues last night.
Rep. Deutch, who spoke first, is the lead Democratic sponsor for the American Music Fairness Act, which, if passed, would pay royalties to artists and producers when their music is played on the radio. (If you didn't know this is a problem, read about it — you'll never listen to the radio the same way again.)
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. speaking at the 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards. Photo: Leigh Vogel / Getty Images for The Recording Academy
"Our nation must nourish the songwriters struggling to make a living and support the producer and artist working in studios with the next potential hit," Deutch said in his riveting acceptance speech. And we do this, he declared, by making sure technology operates equitably to properly compensate creators. Proving his passion is on the line, he proclaimed his decades-long love for Bruce Springsteen, Faith Hill, and the greats of Motown, among other artists.
McCaul has co-sponsored key legislation like the Help Independent Tracks Succeed Act (HITS Act), which updates the federal tax code to bring in line music production with other industries and create parity. He noted that his big-band-loving parents were confused by his love of AC/DC and the Who — and he now feels the same about his kids' obsession with hip-hop. But it's all music, Rep. McCaul said in his acceptance speech — and it adds up to an intergenerational mode of expression.
The night also featured speeches from Todd Dupler, Acting Chief Advocacy & Public Policy Officer at the Recording Academy, as well as Recording Academy Board Of Trustees Chair Tammy Hurt, GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter Jon Secada, and others.
But what ultimately bridged the music and congressional universes at the GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards? The music, of course: an opening performance of the national anthem with mind-bending harmonies by Take 6 and spectacular performances by Ledisi and Co-Chair of the Recording Academy's National Advocacy Committee and four-time GRAMMY winner Yolanda Adams. And to boot, the house band for the night was composed of Recording Academy members from various Chapters across the country.
By the time everyone in the house got on their feet and the stage erupted into a dance party while Adams performed "Open My Heart," the message of the 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards was abundantly clear: material change beats big talk any day. It's exactly what GRAMMYs on the Hill has advocated and accomplished: Over the past 20 years, the annual event has led to several major legislative wins for the music industry, most notably the Music Modernization Act in 2018.
And as long as that change is charged with a genuine love of music and music people, nothing can stop that righteous tide.
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
Recording Academy President Neil Portnow's GRAMMYs On The Hill Remarks
Exactly one year ago, we gathered here for GRAMMYs on the Hill in this same ballroom, but in a very different environment. While we honored Natalie Cole for her artistry and Sen. Clinton and Congresswoman Bono for their protection of intellectual property, we were also anxiously waiting to see if the Senate would pass the Induce Act. In fact, many of my remarks that evening were about The Recording Academy's support of this act and its simple premise: business models based on active inducement of copyright infringement should not be allowed to flourish.
Well, what a difference a year makes.
While we would have welcomed a 100-0 victory in the Senate, a 9-0 victory in the Supreme Court will do just fine.
But tonight, my intention is not to discuss the Grokster case — pundits, lawyers and all of us have had plenty to say since the June 30 decision — but instead, I would like to address a more subtle yet equally important achievement that took place behind the scenes. For while the victory in Grokster can be traced to many dedicated and exceptional individuals and organizations, I believe the most important factor was a unified music community, working in a coordinated fashion toward a common goal.
And Grokster was not the only example of our unified approach during the past year.
In June, for the first time, the CEOs and presidents of virtually every music association gathered together for two days of discussion, debate, and a determination to address our industry's challenges. I thank my co-hosts Rick Carnes, from the Songwriters Guild, and Mitch Bainwol, from the RIAA, as well as the more than 20 leaders who joined us for those productive days.
And we need only to look at today's activities for another example. The first-ever Recording Arts Day on Capitol Hill brought together a wide range of interests from the industry — groups representing songwriters, artists, labels, publishers, producers, engineers, and digital services all participated in this important grassroots activity, bringing a sharper focus to Congress about our industry's contributions to our culture and economy.
We know what we can achieve together, so now it is time to redouble our combined efforts toward solving perhaps the most important issue before us and before the 109th Congress: modernization of music licensing for the digital age.
I'd like to share with you some thoughts on this subject from one of our advisors. No, I'm not talking about our lawyers and accountants — great though they are. I'm speaking about a young adult from our What's The Download Interactive Advisory Board — a panel of young music consumers that we've assembled to educate us and the industry.
Twenty-year-old Joy Mitchell of Hawthorne, Calif., told us, "There are songs you just can't find on digital music services, and until these services can offer everything Kazaa or old-school Napster had, they're not going to compete. They're losing business by not having every artist and every type of song available. That's huge. It's so frustrating when you are trying to do the right thing."
While previous conventional wisdom held, "you can't compete with free," today it would be more accurate to say, "you can't compete with all," for it is the attribute of all music — more than price — that makes the illegal services most attractive. Digital music companies are providing services today that allow their entire catalogue to be available on a portable music player for as little as $6 a month, without the concerns of spyware, viruses, lawsuits and other risks of P2P. It's a great deal, but the reality is their catalogues are far too small. Licensing reform can level the playing field for the legal services.
The Academy is grateful to Sens. Hatch and Leahy, Rep. Berman, and of course Rep. Smith, who has personally convened numerous meetings designed to solve this issue. Many other legislators have also raised the profile of this debate and offered support. We also thank the numerous organizations, nearly all represented here tonight, that have engaged in negotiations to develop a workable solution. That effort must be expedited, as the Grokster verdict did not completely solve our problem for us, but it did give us some breathing room to solve it ourselves. If we take too long arguing over how to split the pie, we may be surprised to find the pie has already been eaten by the pirates.
To make progress now, we might put ourselves in the shoes of Joy Mitchell and the millions of music consumers just like her. Joy doesn't think about multiple rights and royalties when she buys music. To her, the sound recording and the composition are a perfectly unified whole, and maybe we have something to learn from her. After all, it was an historic accord between the labels and the publishers that allowed for the subscription services to be launched in the first place four years ago. That was a great step, indicative of the kind of inter-community cooperation that now must continue. But more recently, separate negotiations between digital retailers and publishers and between digital retailers and labels have not produced the solution. So perhaps it is time for the guardians of both the recordings and compositions to come together again to find a way to sell the entire music package at a price that satisfies the needs of each link in the chain, from songwriter to consumer. For while the songwriter must approach his task with a blank page, the consumer does not approach the online store with a blank check. Only by continuing to develop a strategy together can we create a model that the music lover will accept, and that will turn pirates into customers.
The Recording Academy stands ready to help. Our membership is comprised of music professionals from every aspect of our community. While it is not for us to establish the solution, we believe we can serve as an honest broker in creating a framework for productive dialogue between those who control the interests of the sound recordings and the compositions. As industry leaders, you all have the intellect, passion and desire to find a workable resolution. Now, applying the cooperative spirit that proved so successful in solving other problems, we can surely solve this one as well.
Decades from now, when an entire new cast of music executives and music fans have taken our place, let them remember the people in this room as visionaries. Let them remember us as leaders who looked at the long view, and ensured a healthy music industry that respects consumers, the companies that deliver music, and most of all, the creators who make those enterprises possible — and who add so much to our lives.