Memphis Chapter Gov. Boo Mitchell Testifies As Recording Academy Supporter At House Judiciary Music Hearing

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Memphis Chapter Gov. Boo Mitchell Testifies As Recording Academy Supporter At House Judiciary Music Hearing

"I can't think of another industry in America where you are allowed to take someone else's property," Mitchell declared during the virtual meeting — and Gloria Estefan and Dave Pomeroy echoed his sentiment

Advocacy/Feb 5, 2022 - 02:25 am

Speaking during a virtual House Judiciary hearing on Feb. 2, Gloria Estefan extolled the transformative power of music.

"Each of the songs that are precious and meaningful to you was a labor of love for the songwriters, the artists, the musicians and producers that brought it to life," she said. "They poured their own hearts and souls into its creation."

The problem, though? "But when their music is played on the radio," Estefan continued, "Artists don't get paid, only the songwriters."

In the tableau of digital squares, the three-time GRAMMY winner and 12-time nominee wasn't alone in this assessment. Supporting her argument were Nashville musician Dave Pomeroy and Memphis Chapter Governor Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell — who testified with support from the Recording Academy’s Advocacy Team, and spoke from his experience as a producer, engineer, musician, and the co-owner of historic Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

"It's about the backbone — the people that make the music. I don't get promotion for 'Uptown Funk,'" Mitchell said in a follow-up Q&A, referring to the GRAMMY-winning hit Mark Ronson song — featuring Bruno Mars — that he co-produced. "It's not just about the featured artists, but the blue-collar people that go in to help make these great records."

Harvey Mason jr., the CEO of the Recording Academy, also chimed in with his own statement.

"Today's House Judiciary Committee hearing on the American Music Fairness Act gives lawmakers an opportunity to hear directly from music creators on the antiquated compensation practices by radio stations for their performances," he said.

"The work of artists like Boo Mitchell, Gloria Estefan and Dave Pomeroy should not be devalued to increase the bottom line of big radio conglomerates," Mason continued. "It's time for terrestrial radio to compensate creators fairly. Our hope is that listening to these musicians today will spur Congress toward action."

Read on for Mitchell's entire testimony exhorting for the passage of the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), click here to access the recorded hearing, and click here to take action to support the AMFA.

Dear Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Jordan, and members of the committee,

My name is Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell. I am a GRAMMY Award-winning Recording Engineer, Producer, Composer, Musician, and the co-owner of Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. I am also a member of the Board of Governors of the Memphis Chapter of the Recording Academy. Best known for the GRAMMY Awards, the Recording Academy represents thousands of songwriters, performers, musicians, producers, and engineers across the country. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify today.

In 2014, I was visited here at Royal Studios by songwriters and producers Mark Ronson and Jeff Bhasker. After visiting the studio, Mark told me that he wanted to record his album here, including a track with Bruno Mars. Over the next several weeks, Mark, Bruno, Jeff, myself, and some of the finest musical talents from Memphis and around the country teamed up to record the song "Uptown Funk." "Uptown Funk" was released in November of 2014, and immediately charted on Billboard. Eventually, it became the number one song of the year. And then it became the number one song of the decade. "Uptown Funk" is currently fourth on Billboard's All-Time Hot 100 charts. In 2016, it won the GRAMMY Award for Record of the Year, the first record made in Memphis to win this honor.

"Uptown Funk" was also a huge hit on the radio. In 2015, "Uptown Funk" finished the year as the number one song on the mainstream Top 40 radio chart. To this day, it is one of the twenty most played songs of all time on mainstream top 40 radio in America.

But despite this historic airplay on the radio, no one involved in the recording of "Uptown Funk" has ever been paid by the radio broadcasters who used and profited from their work.

Because of a loophole in the copyright law, radio broadcasters are allowed to play sound recordings without asking for permission from the artists who created it and without paying them any compensation. They can play records on the air for free, and they use our music to sell billions of dollars worth of advertising. I can't think of another industry in America where you are allowed to take someone else's property and use it without permission or compensation.

But this story gets crazier. "Uptown Funk" wasn't just a big radio hit in the United States, it was a hit around the world. The track reached number one in Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, and the U.K. In every single one of those countries, the broadcasters actually did pay royalties for playing the record. But I still didn't get paid.

You see, almost every other country in the world recognizes a public performance right for sound recordings on the radio, and they require broadcasters to pay royalties to artists and rights holders. But because we don't recognize a performance right here in the United States, foreign countries won't pay American artists the royalties we are due until the United States fixes the law and reciprocates. So, Mark Ronson, who was born in London and still lives there, can collect royalties from all the airplay that "Uptown Funk" has received around the world. But none of the American artists who collaborated with him can. Every year, American artists are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in international royalties that are owed to them.

More than two dozen individuals are credited on the recording of "Uptown Funk." While performance royalties from radio may not make a huge difference in the life of a super star like Bruno Mars, it would make all the difference in the world to me and to the other musicians, vocalists, and studio professionals that created this iconic track.

Fortunately, there is a reasonable, common-sense solution to fix this injustice. The American Music Fairness Act is a bipartisan bill introduced by Representatives Ted Deutch and Darrell Issa. This bill would establish a performance right for sound recordings played on AM/FM radio stations. Under the bill, artists, performers, vocalists, producers, and other music makers involved in the creation of a sound recording would receive fair market compensation for their music played on radio stations across the U.S., just like they currently receive on digital radio services.

Importantly, the bill also safeguards the royalties received by songwriters for airplay on the radio, and it also contains key protections for small broadcasters to ensure that local and community radio stations can continue to thrive.

"Uptown Funk" is just one illustration of how this injustice has hurt recording artists throughout history. This year happens to be the fiftieth anniversary of Al Green's legendary album Let's Stay Together, which was recorded at Royal Studios and produced, recorded, and mixed by my dad, Willie Mitchell. The title track was a number one hit and has been added to the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress, but my dad, who passed away in 2010, never received a penny from radio for his work.

Fast-forward to today and we are still making hits in Memphis that you can hear on the radio. It was just about one year ago that I received another phone call, this time from Bruno Mars. He was working on a new project and wanted to add some of those grimy Memphis horns. Those horns can be heard on the new album Bruno recorded with Anderson .Paak under the name Silk Sonic. Their current single "Smokin Out The Window" is still on the charts and still on the radio, but the horn players I recorded with -- Kameron Whalum, Marc Franklin, Kirk Smothers, and Lannie McMillan – haven't received any compensation from broadcasters.

Some things have not changed from the time my dad opened Royal Studios to today. We still produce and record great music. And AM/FM radio stations still pay no royalties to performers. Time is running out to fix this injustice for the artists of my dad's generation, like the Rev. Al Green and the Rev. Charles Hodges. These artists aren't looking for free promotion to sell records or go on tour, they just want the compensation that they deserve but have long been denied. And a new generation is struggling to see if they can even make it in the music business.

The ongoing pandemic continues to disrupt touring and the live music sector, which makes it all the more important that artists are able to fully realize the value of their recorded music in order to make a living. The lost royalties from radio could make the difference in whether a musician can stay focused on their career or has to take a second or third job to get by. 

Royal Studios is one of the oldest recording studios in the world, but we've struggled during these uncertain times as well. If we had been able to collect my dad's royalties from radio over the past fifty years, my small business and my family would be in better shape today.

Those who create music answer to a unique calling. It is not just a profession you choose, it's one that also chooses you. But today I'm calling on Congress to help us keep the music playing by ensuring that American Music Creators are fully compensated the way other Music Creators around the world are, whenever their work is used or exploited.

Please pass the American Music Fairness Act. Thank you.

The House Small Business Committee Puts A Spotlight On The Creative Economy: Here's What We Learned

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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

Recording Academy/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Quincy Jones, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Marsha Blackburn to be saluted

GRAMMY.com

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.

For more information, please click here and here.

 

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Neil Portnow's 49th GRAMMYs Telecast Remarks

Recording Academy/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am
What if the GRAMMYs had to give up the Best New Artist category because there weren't any? Well, as long as The Recording Academy has anything to say about it, that's not going to happen! Tonight, we've already met some of this year's remarkable Best New Artist nominees, and in a few minutes, we'll see a fresh new face experience her "ultimate" GRAMMY Moment provided by The Academy.
 
When I was just 6 years old, I watched Elvis on TV, and knew what I wanted to do with my life. And thanks to my parents and the dedicated music teachers at school, I realized my dream of a career in music. Now, we need to make sure that others have that same chance.
 
Let me show you exactly what I'm talking about. Meet Anne Lee, a very talented 15-year-old public school music student, and Christian Sands, a 17 year old who won a spot in our GRAMMY Jazz Ensemble.
 
Our GRAMMY Foundation programs like GRAMMY in the Schools and GRAMMY Camp teach and encourage thousands of kids who love music, and whose lives are better for it. This underscores the most fundamental point — every child deserves exposure to music and the arts in school!
 
There are some encouraging signs out there. Just this year, The Recording Academy and the music community rallied their forces here in California to reverse the trend of reduced funding. The result: more than 100 million dollars for music education with millions more for instruments in schools.
 
The time is now to contact your elected leaders. Tell them that music is just as essential to the next generation's development as any other subject. We'll make it easy for you — go to GRAMMY.com. We'll connect you directly to your representatives so your voice can be heard.
 
You're here — or out there — because music is an important part of your life. Together let us all ensure that music stays just as vital and alive for generations still to come.

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Recording Academy President Neil Portnow's GRAMMYs On The Hill Remarks

Recording Academy/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Good evening.

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.

Thank you.

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Roll Call Commentary: "Turning Up The Volume On Music Issues"

Recording Academy/Jun 21, 2017 - 07:14 pm

When you think of the great music cities of America, what comes to mind? Los Angeles? Nashville? New York City? Brookside, Rhode Island?

If the last one was a surprise, it shouldn’t be. Nor should hearing about the great music being made in Shullsburg, Wisconsin; Park City, Utah; or Farmington Hills, Michigan. Because in all of those towns, people are making great music — and they’re expecting their elected leaders to protect their intellectual property. ...

You can read the rest of Daryl P. Friedman's commentary in Roll Call, "Turning Up The Volume on Music Issues," about the creators' rights issues championed by Academy members during GRAMMYs in My District here.