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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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Lauren Daigle and Tammy Hurt in a GOTH meeting with Congressman Moran

Photo: Leigh Vogel

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The House Of Representatives Has Passed The TICKET Act: Here's What You Need To Know

This legislative success for music fans comes just two short weeks after the Recording Academy's GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day, and passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote.

Advocacy/May 17, 2024 - 09:32 pm

In an exciting step forward for the music community, the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 3950, the Transparency In Charges for Key Events Ticketing (TICKET) Act, by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 388-24. This legislative success comes just two short weeks after the Recording Academy's GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day.

During the GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day, over sixty GRAMMY winners, nominees, and Recording Academy executives met with members of Congress to push for ticketing reform, including the House's TICKET Act and the Senate's Fans First Act. Throughout the day, the artist advocates told lawmakers how the broken ticket marketplace impacts their daily lives. Among the group was 2-time GRAMMY winner, Lauren Daigle, who detailed her experiences with bots and resellers driving up ticket prices, emphasizing the impact it has on the individuals hoping to purchase tickets to her shows. These conversations highlighted the importance of protecting the human connection that live music fosters between artists and fans and the clear need for ticket reforms to be passed by congress.

The House-passed TICKET Act brings transparency to the ticketing marketplace by implementing all-in pricing and takes major steps toward ending the harmful practices of speculative ticketing and deceptive websites. The bill, which also guarantees refunds for event cancellations, denotes serious progress in the fight to improve the ticketing marketplace.

The Recording Academy urges the Senate to seize this moment and pass S. 3457, the Fans First Act. The Fans First Act builds upon the House TICKET Act by strengthening its provisions against speculative ticketing and deceptive websites and improving price transparency by not only requiring all-in pricing, but mandating upfront itemization so fans know what they're paying for from the start. The Fans First Act also increases consumer protection by strengthening the BOTS Act and the FTC's ability to enforce any violations.

Upon its passage, Recording Academy CEO, Harvey Mason Jr. expressed gratitude for the bipartisan support and the swift movement of the TICKET Act through the House.

"Today's passage of the TICKET Act by the House of Representatives marks a significant step forward toward improving the concert ticket marketplace. The TICKET Act was a key focus of GRAMMYs on the Hill two weeks ago, and the Recording Academy thanks our Congressional leaders for bringing the bill to a vote shortly after meeting with Academy members.

We now urge the Senate to act quickly to incorporate the strong provisions contained in the Fans First Act and move a comprehensive ticket reform package that will provide transparency and protect artists and their fans. 

The passage of the TICKET Act represents a critical step toward dismantling the predatory practices that undermine this connection. It is a crucial step toward ensuring a more equitable and sustainable marketplace. The legislation not only benefits consumers but also safeguards the livelihoods of artists who depend on fair ticket sales. Its passage proves the power of advocacy and the importance of legislative action in preserving the special bond between artists and their audiences.

As we look forward to the Senate's taking further action on ticketing reform, the Recording Academy will continue to fight for a fairer, more equitable ticketing marketplace that ensures the connection between music makers and fans remains strong and untainted.   

Inside The New York Chapter's Advocacy For The Passage Of A. 127 — How It'd Help Protect Artistic Freedom

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Photo: Lauren Loverde

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Inside The New York Chapter’s Advocacy For The Passage Of A. 127 — How It’d Help Protect Artistic Freedom

At the heart of A.127 is the protection of artistic freedom during legal proceedings. The bill, which has already passed in the Senate, seeks to create standards for when an artist's creative work may be used in criminal trials.

Advocacy/May 15, 2024 - 03:30 pm

On Tuesday, May 7, members of the Recording Academy’s New York chapter took to the state capitol in Albany. Their mission? To advocate for the passage of A.127, a crucial piece of legislation designed to safeguard the creative works of artists across New York.

At the heart of A.127 is the protection of artistic freedom during legal proceedings. The bill, which has already passed in the Senate, seeks to create standards for when an artist's creative work may be used in criminal trials. If enacted into law, this measure would be a significant step towards ensuring that creators can express themselves freely without fear of their work being weaponized against them.

During the Albany Advocacy Day, Recording Academy advocates held meetings with the Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie, Codes Chairman, Jeffrey Dinowitz, Assembly sponsor, Catalina Cruz, along with key members of the Assembly Codes Committee including, Gary Pretlow, Andrew Hevesi, Linda B. Rosenthal, John Zaccaro, Jr., Kenneth Zebrowski. In addition to these meetings, Recording Academy members met with Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado, the powerful Assembly Black, Hispanic, and Puerto Rican Caucus, and the Assembly Codes Staff. Many key Senators stopped by meetings to reiterate their support for the legislation, including Senate sponsor and Codes Chair, Jamaal Bailey.

Advocates included New York Chapter President Torae Carr, iconic rap artist and producer Papoose, producer and composer Ray Angry, and CEO of 300 Entertainment Kevin Liles. Additionally, Granville Mullins, GRAMMY Nominated Songwriter/Musician, Nathaniel Reichman, GRAMMY Nominated Producer/Mixer, Cassandra Kubinski, Singer/Songwriter, William Derella, Artist Manager and Lynn Gonzalez, Partner, Granderson Des Rochers, LLP were in attendance.

While leaving Albany, Papoose shared an impassioned plea to his followers on Instagram to support the effort.

Just one week later, on May 14, the Assembly Codes Committee advanced the bill out of committee to the Rules Committee, Chaired by the Speaker, priming it for full consideration by the Assembly in the coming weeks.

One of the key issues Academy advocates highlighted in their meetings regarding A.127 is the disproportionate impact that the current practices have on certain communities, particularly Black and Brown artists, who often find their work unfairly scrutinized and misinterpreted in legal settings. While the legislation is not genre-specific, it acknowledges the historical targeting of hip hop and rap artists and seeks to rectify this by requiring prosecutors to show the relevance and admissibility of creative works in court.

The significance of A.127 cannot be overstated, particularly in a state as culturally rich and economically influential as New York. The music industry is a large part of the state's economy, providing over 200,000 jobs and contributing close to $20 billion to its GDP. With a vibrant community of 129,000 songwriters, New York needs to enact this critical legislation that will protect the state's music community.

The Recording Academy’s continued advocacy for A.127 only further highlights the Academy’s dedication to protecting the rights of music creators and upholding the fundamental principles of free expression. As the bill moves forward, it is essential for lawmakers to recognize the importance of protecting creative freedom and ensure that New York remains a beacon of artistic expression.

Inside The Inaugural GRAMMYs On The Hill Future Forum, Exploring The Impact Of AI On The Music Community

Future Forum Advocacy
(L-R) Todd Dupler, Carl "Kokayi Walker, Dani Deahl

Photo: Paul Morigi

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Inside The Inaugural GRAMMYs On The Hill Future Forum, Exploring The Impact Of AI On The Music Community

Designed to provide a space to explore the most pressing issues facing music, this momentous occasion served as a pivotal platform to delve into the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the music community.

Advocacy/May 10, 2024 - 01:48 pm

On Friday, May 3, an innovative event unfolded in the heart of Washington, D.C., as the Recording Academy in collaboration with the Human Artistry CampAIgn orchestrated the inaugural GRAMMYs on the Hill Future Forum. Designed to provide a space to explore the most pressing issues facing music, this momentous occasion served as a pivotal platform to delve into the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the music community.

The afternoon commenced with a series of captivating panel discussions, each curated to explore both the promise and the peril that AI presents to music makers. Moderated by Todd Dupler, the Chief Advocacy & Public Policy Officer at the Recording Academy, the first panel featured esteemed industry figures including Dani Deahl, a distinguished DJ, producer, Governor for the Recording Academy's Chicago Chapter, and Head of Communications and Creator Insights for BandLab, alongside Kokayi, a GRAMMY-nominated artist renowned for his prowess as a producer, emcee, vocalist, and thought leader.

Insights flowed as panelists dissected the relationship between AI and human creativity, shedding light on the transformative potential of AI-driven tools in music production, composition, and distribution. Dani Deahl demonstrated live how she ethically uses AI as a tool to enhance her music, including stem separation, voice or tone replacement, and song generation. One demonstration used tone-altering AI to record Kokayi and make him sound like a female pop artist.

Deahl explained how this AI technology represented an ethical, pro-artist approach to AI because the artist whose voice was used entered into a licensing agreement with the platform, the voice recording was pulled from works specifically created for the platform, and the artist is compensated every time her tone is used — including during the demonstration. The panel went on to discuss how artists embraced new technology in the past and how present technology changes the way we create music.

Following this illuminating discussion, the stage was set for the second panel, moderated by Michael Lewan, the Managing Director of Advocacy & Public Policy at the Academy. Dr. Moiya McTier, a Senior Advisor at the Human Artistry Campaign, joined with Juan Winans, a three-time GRAMMY nominated artist and songwriter, and Michael Hendrix, the Policy Director for Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee. Diving deeper into the threats that AI poses to artists and creators, the panelists discussed policymaking when it comes to AI—including the ELVIS Act, which recently became law in Tennessee and is the first law of its kind to protect individuals from AI models misusing their name, image, and likeness.

The Future Forum is one of many ways the Recording Academy has been engaged in the conversations surrounding AI. Last year, the Recording Academy also teamed up with members of the music community for the Human Artistry CampAIgn which launched in March of 2023. This Campaign is a coalition focused on protecting human art and creativity as artificial intelligence continues to develop. In addition to joining this coalition, the Recording Academy has played a significant role in safeguarding human creativity and helping creators navigate artificial intelligence.

Days prior during the GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day, the Recording Academy brought together 60+ GRAMMY winners and nominees along with Academy executives to advocate for legislation such as No AI FRAUD Act in the House of Representatives and the Senate's No FAKES Act discussion draft, which protects artists image and likeness.

As the Future Forum panels ended, the convivial atmosphere transitioned seamlessly into a vibrant reception, where Recording Academy members from the DMV, Philadelphia, and New York convened. Against the backdrop of stimulating conversations and shared insights, attendees exchanged ideas, forged connections, and celebrated the perfect ending to an eventful GRAMMYs on the Hill week.

The Recording Academy will continue to advocate and hold discussions surrounding fostering human connection and artistic excellence in the age of AI and the GRAMMYs on the Hill Future Forum served as a testament to this commitment. As music's biggest week in Washington, D.C. reached its crescendo, the inaugural Future Forum reinstated the importance of a future where AI augments — rather than deters — human creativity.

Here's What Went Down At Advocacy Day 2024: The Fight For AI Safeguards And Ticketing Reform Hit Capitol Hill

Artists attend the GRAMMYs on the Hill x White House Advocacy Day at the White House
Artists attend the GRAMMYs on the Hill x White House Advocacy Day at the White House on May 01, 2024 in Washington, DC

Photo: Shannon Finney/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Here's What Went Down At Advocacy Day 2024: The Fight For AI Safeguards And Ticketing Reform Hit Capitol Hill

At Advocacy Day 2024 the centerpiece of the annual GRAMMYs On The Hill, music advocates took to Capitol Hill to fight for music peoples' rights — chiefly involving AI and ticketing.

Advocacy/May 8, 2024 - 01:15 am

"We have a short window of time this morning, where we're going to download a lot of information into your brain." So told Todd Dupler, the Recording Academy's Chief Advocacy & Public Policy Officer, early in the morning of May Day, to a small, still-waking-up, but attentive crowd at the Hamilton Live in Washington, D.C.

After Michael Lewan — the Recording Academy's Managing Director of State and Federal Advocacy — laid down some logistical ground rules, the throng set forth into the pre-summer mugginess to advocate for two crucial policy needs.

The first is calling on Congress to protect the image, likeness and voice of individual creators from AI fakes through legislative measures such as the No AI FRAUD Act in the House of Representatives and the Senate's No FAKES Act discussion draft. 

The second is reforming the live event ticket marketplace to better protect artists and fans through legislation including the Fans First Act and a similar House bill, the TICKET Act.

After the morning briefing, groups with advocates went to the U.S. Capitol for dozens of meetings with bipartisan and bicameral legislators to seek their support for these important issues and bills. Throughout the morning, Academy members met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Peter Welch (D-VT), along with multiple House Chairs and Ranking Members, and other influential leaders.

After these initial meetings, the GRAMMYs On The Hill 2024 advocates stopped by the historic Nancy Pelosi Cannon Caucus Room to park, dine on lunch, and meet with more key champions.

After introductory remarks from Lewan, the No AI Fraud Act's lead sponsor, Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) — who Lewan praised as "the brains behind it" — took the podium. "Your identity is in danger because of artificial intelligence," Salazar asserted.

And she drilled down into why — which involved portents far afield from music peoples' rights.

"Did you know that right now, someone with not very good intentions, can grab the image and voice and likeness of your daughter or so, and transfer that information to make pornography?" Salazar said. "Someone produces your voice and likeness and insults a boss, and you may be fired."

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Salazar's lead co-sponsor of the No AI Fraud Act, echoed the congresswoman's sentiment. "It's not just about the use of your likeness," she said. "You have the right to ask permission to get compensated for it.

Following the lunch briefing, the 60 plus advocates headed back across the nation's capital to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for a special roundtable discussion with senior members of the Biden-Harris Administration. While at the White House, advocates were briefed on AI policy, ticket reforms, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the president's work on gun violence, before a special conversation with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. 

And with that, with another successful Advocacy Day in the bag, music advocates went home assured that they'd made a phenomenal difference in the music landscape.

To those who would abuse the ticketing system — meet the true music fans. And, to those who'd leverage artificial intelligence against real peoples' autonomies — meet human power.

The 2024 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards were sponsored by City National Bank and benefited the GRAMMY Museum.

How The House's No AI FRAUD Act And Tenn.'s ELVIS Act Will Protect Human Creativity