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Smokey Robinson, Justin Roberts Testify At MMA Senate Judiciary Hearing
Recording Academy members made their case for the Music Modernization Act in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 15
On May 15 members of the Recording Academy joined executives from across the music industry to testify on Capitol Hill in support of music copyright reform. Their target audience, the Senate Judiciary Committee, heard about how current copyright law has hampered the music community and urged the committee to pass S. 2823, the Senate version of the Music Modernization Act.
The companion bill to H.R. 5447, which unanimously passed the House of Representatives less than a month ago, S. 2823 provides the first major reform to music copyright law in decades. On hand to hear how the new bill, which also has unprecedented backing across the music industry, would benefit those responsible for the music we love were 16 bipartisan committee members, including Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) , Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the bill's sponsor, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
Among the witnesses at the hearing were Recording Academy Trustee and GRAMMY-nominated children's music artist Justin Roberts, who testified on behalf of the Academy, and GRAMMY-winning Motown legend Smokey Robinson and GRAMMY-winning country songwriter Josh Kear, both Academy members.
"Many [Recording Academy] members — in fact most of America's music makers — are just like me: middle-class Americans and songwriters who are not household names," Roberts testified. "These middle-class artists use their training and talent to bring music to the world. Perhaps the least recognized among us are the music producers."
Roberts continued to describe the impact producers have had on his musical career, including Liam Davis, the producer who was instrumental in persuading him to pursue music as a professional career. He also acknowledged that while it would be easy for producers to simply ask for passage of the Allocation for Music Producers Act, a producer-focused music bill with wide support, it would be a "fundamental misunderstanding of the heart of a producer" for them to do so.
"As an artist, I can tell you most of us rely on the structure, steady hand and technical talent of a producer," Roberts continued. "The producer works with artists, but also songwriters, engineers, record labels, studio owners, and nearly everyone associated with the creation of a record. The producer takes care of all of us. So, it's no wonder that they want to see the AMP Act passed as part of the broader [Music Modernization Act] so that songwriters and legacy artists receive their fair share."
Robinson talked about how the provisions for recordings made pre-1972 were a crucial piece of the MMA. As the lead singer of the Miracles, hits under his name include classics such as "Shop Around," "I Second That Emotion" and "Tears Of A Clown." Yet Robinson isn't entitled to proper compensation from those hits because of the current copyright laws.
"Those happen to be some of the biggest records I've ever been associated with and to not be paid because they were prior to 1972 is ludicrous as far as I'm concerned," Robinson testified. "A lot of work went into making those songs, not just from the artists, but from the musicians, the writers, the producers, and people who were involved in making them and they deserve to be compensated."
Robinson also emphasized that current music copyright law impacts not only modern working musicians, but those who came before the current generation, including Dionne Warwick, the Supremes' Mary Wilson and Darlene Love, who were in the audience to support those testifying .
"The records of the '50s and '60s aren't called classics because of their age, they're called classics because of their greatness," Robinson said. "They still resonate today. They define the American sound."
This year has been a landmark for music copyright reform. In January, coinciding with GRAMMY Week, the House Judiciary Committee held a music-focused field hearing in New York, focusing on music copyright issues. Citing how current copyright law affects music creators, witnesses urged the committee to work to update copyright standards. Following the hearing, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced the MMA to the full House of Representatives, which was unanimously passed on April 25.
"The Academy is pleased with the increased interest and dedication Congress has shown toward fixing outdated music copyright laws," said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "Music creators have long felt the impact of these outdated laws. Today's hearing demonstrates that Congress stands with them in recognizing the importance and urgency of creating a licensing framework that reflects our 21st-century marketplace."
Now under consideration in the Senate, the MMA represents a victory for all music creators. Harmonizing the music industry with one comprehensive piece of legislation, it aligns copyright law with the new music ecosystem, a position advocated by the Recording Academy since 2014, when Portnow testified before Congress.
This latest hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee marks another positive step forward for music creators country-wide, and it's clear the bill has some great advocates in the Senate, which we hope will help this bill pass its final hurdles to becoming law.
"The exclusive rights and protections that our copyright laws grant are the foundation upon which America's creators and artists stand and thrive," Grassley said. "It's important that singers, songwriters, musicians, technical engineers, producers, and all the men and women who support the creativity and artistry behind American music be rewarded for their efforts and incentivized to continue producing their invaluable work."
"For too long our licensing laws have disadvantaged content creators and sowed uncertainty," said Hatch. "Our bill will bring our music licensing laws into the 21st century to ensure that songwriters are compensated fairly for their work, and that digital music services are able to operate without constant legal uncertainty."
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
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