The Recording Academy’s Songwriters & Composers Wing Town Hall: Here Were The Insights About Songwriter Royalties & Justice For Music Makers

(L to R): Kevin Kadish, Harvey Mason jr., Robert Bell, Daryl Friedman, Kendra Foster, Evan Bogart, Jonathan Azu, Jim Lauderdale, and Anna Nalick.

Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImages

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The Recording Academy’s Songwriters & Composers Wing Town Hall: Here Were The Insights About Songwriter Royalties & Justice For Music Makers

The S&C Wing hosted an in-depth discussion about the state of songwriter royalties and changes on the horizon regarding how songwriters are compensated

Advocacy/Mar 25, 2022 - 10:55 pm

On Mar. 17, the Recording Academy’s Songwriters & Composer Wing held a town-hall meeting for its members to learn more about songwriter royalties and pending changes that will impact how much songwriters earn for their work.

This town hall comes at a crucial time as decisions are being made in Washington this year that will impact all songwriters for years to come. Not only are the Copyright Royalty Board Rate (CRB) Proceedings to decide royalty rates for the next five years occurring this spring, but there is also an ongoing appeal of the 2018 royalty rate decision.

The panelists included Todd Dupler, Acting Chief Advocacy & Public Policy Officer; Evan Bogart, Chair of the Songwriters & Composers Wing and Los Angeles Chapter Trustee; Colin Rushing, President of Duck Road Advisory and former Chief Legal Officer for SoundExchange, and Danielle Aguirre, Executive Vice President & General Counsel of the National Music Publishers’ Association. Together, they discussed the nuances of these court proceedings, how they affect songwriters, and what to expect moving forward.

Per the Copyright Act of 1909, individuals and companies that use music legally have the right to purchase the license to a song as long as they follow the terms of copyright law. This includes purchasing so-called "mechanical rights," or the right to make a copy and distribute somebody’s musical work or song. This is one of the licenses that companies such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music use when they stream a songwriter's music on their platforms.

That’s where the CRB comes in. As the panel explained, the board is made up of three judges who decide what that royalty rate is for companies to purchase these rights via a proceeding that takes place every five years. This year, the CRB will meet to decide the rates for the next five years —essentially deciding how much songwriters will get paid when their work is used.

In the last proceedings, which concluded in early 2018, the CRB decided that the royalty rate would increase from 10% to 15.1%-- a 44% increase covering 2018-2022. This time around, the songwriting and publisher community are requesting that the CRB raise the rate to 20% during the 2023 – 2027 period.

However, it is not that clean-cut. As Aguirre laid out, the last rate increase has yet to go into effect. Streaming services — all but Apple Music — have been in the process of appealing the last decision since 2019. As a result, songwriters have been stuck with the 10% royalty rate established nearly a decade ago, which has had an unfair and harmful impact on songwriters whose source of income heavily relies on these royalties.

Bogart, himself an acclaimed songwriter, detailed how tough this appeal has been on songwriters around the country who thought they had secured a pay increase, only to be stuck with an outdated rate for their work. "It feels like — and I think a lot of songwriters feel this way — it feels like we’re pushing a boulder up the hill and then the boulder comes back down again," Bogart said.

As the town hall wrapped up, there was some hope for optimism in the immediate future. The appeal brought on by streaming services is set to come to a decision in the coming months. If a favorable decision is reached, songwriters will get the compensation they missed out on over the last five years.

This would be a silver lining to the fact that they missed out on this pay increase during critical times in our country. Additionally, the CRB is set to hold hearings this summer and could decide on higher royalty rates by the end of this year with those taking effect in 2023.

Once the dates for the CRB proceedings are set, you can find them here. The Academy and its Songwriters & Composers Wing will always fight for fair compensation for all songwriters. Visit the S&C Wing page to learn more about the Wing, and the Advocacy page to learn how to support all music people.

What Songwriters Need To Know About The Next Royalty Rate Decision​

 

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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.