What Songwriters Need To know About The DOJ's Review Of Consent Decrees

ASCAP President Paul Williams
Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage

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What Songwriters Need To know About The DOJ's Review Of Consent Decrees

The Recording Academy filed comments with the Department Of Justice on their ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees – here's what it means for putting money in songwriters' pockets

Advocacy/Aug 16, 2019 - 03:34 am

"The goal of the antitrust laws is to protect economic freedom and opportunity by promoting free and fair competition in the marketplace. The decades-old consent decrees now have the opposite effect." –from Comments of the Recording Academy on review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, Conversations In Advocacy #62

For more than 75 years (!),consent decrees have governed the process by which performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI license rights to publicly perform music. What does this mean, exactly? Despite seismic changes the music industry has undergone in seven-plus decades, musicians are compensated for public performance under the same constraints as they were when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. Does that make sense in an era dominated by large digital music services, and not record players?

That’s just what the Department Of Justice intends to figure out, announcing earlier this summer their Antitrust Division will review the consent decrees with ASCAP and BMI. In the spirit of urging the DOJ to update the policies to reflect the modern music and technology ecosystem, the Recording Academy has now officially filed comments expressing its views and concerns.

The extensive comments question the utility of the consent decrees in the 21st century, which now benefit the world’s largest and most profitable companies at the expense of fair market pay of individual songwriters. Basically, the evolution of the music ecosystem over the last 75 years has diminished the effectiveness of these consent decrees to help songwriters earn what they deserve.

The Academy worked closely with key stakeholders, including ASCAP and BMI, in drafting the comments to reflect the needs of its songwriter members. While comments from other key stakeholders were filed, the DOJ has yet to publically release any comments.  

In the meantime, the Recording Academy stands with the PROs and the music community in its optimism that the DOJ's Antitrust Division will recognize the need to bring the consent decrees into the 21st century and ensure musicians are properly compensated when their hard work is performed in public. Recently, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Makan Delrahim addressed exactly why the consent decrees require a fresh look.

"The ASCAP and BMI decrees have been in existence in some form for over seventy-five years and have effectively regulated how musicians are compensated for the public performance of their musical creations," said Delrahim. "There have been many changes in the music industry during this time, and the needs of music creators and music users have continued to evolve.  It is important for the Division to reassess periodically whether these decrees continue to serve the American consumer and whether they should be changed to achieve greater efficiency and enhance competition in light of innovations in the industry."

This issue will be a top conversation point at the upcoming District Advocate day on Oct. 2. Led by the first-ever District Advocate Ambassador, two-time GRAMMY winner Jason Mraz, the event marks the largest grassroots movement for music advocacy of the year. Recording Academy members will be connected with their member of Congress in hundreds of districts across the country to discuss key issues affecting music makers, including encouraging the DOJ to ensure fair compensation for songwriters during its review of consent decrees. Registration for members and non-members is now open.

By staying vigilant for causes like this that have very real bearing on how music makers are paid for their hard work and creation of intellectual property, the Recording Academy and its members lead the fight for creators' rights year-round in Washington and in local music communities across the nation. As the Antitrust Division reconsiders these long-outdated consent decrees, the Academy hopes its comments and the comments of those stakeholders affected by their decision are taken into the serious account they deserve. After all, a lot has changed in 75 years.

Be A District Advocate: Stand Up and Support Music Creators' Rights

The Recording Academy Announces 3rd Annual "Behind The Record" Initiative To Continue To #GiveCredit To Creators In Music

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The Recording Academy Announces 3rd Annual "Behind The Record" Initiative To Continue To #GiveCredit To Creators In Music

This year, the Recording Academy's "Behind The Record" initiative, a global social media activation aimed at spotlighting the many creators in music, introduces Behind The Record Advocacy, a new virtual program to discus creators' needs with Congress

Recording Academy/Oct 12, 2021 - 05:00 pm

The Recording Academy has announced that it will continue giving credit where credit is due with its 3rd annual "Behind The Record" initiative, a global social media activation aimed at spotlighting the many producers, engineers, songwriters, composers, mixers, instrumentalists, and other creators who contribute to the music recording process. Taking place Friday, Oct. 15, the industry-wide conversation encourages artists across all music genres to celebrate their collaborators' incredible behind-the-scenes work on the tracks, records and albums loved by music fans around the world. This year's campaign features a short film, narrated by Recording Academy Board of Trustees Secretary/Treasurer Om'Mas Keith, illustrating that behind every hit song is an intricate dance of creativity that builds and builds to the final product.

A day before the social media activation's launch, on Thursday, Oct. 14, the Recording Academy will introduce Behind The Record Advocacy, a new virtual advocacy program to inform lawmakers about issues affecting the creators behind their favorite records. Building off the success of the Recording Academy's "Behind The Record" initiative, Academy members will meet virtually with members of Congress nationwide to discuss legislation that would have a direct impact on America's recording artists, songwriters and studio professionals, such as the HITS Act and the American Music Fairness Act. With nearly 200 meetings with congressional offices anticipated for Behind The Record Advocacy, members will focus on ensuring that the individuals behind the record are able to earn fair compensation for their work.

"It takes a village to create a recording, and as an organization that serves to support all music creators, we invite our peers to join us in spotlighting the many music professionals behind our favorite songs," Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, said. "While we celebrate the music professionals behind the scenes, we also recognize the importance of fighting for fair treatment of creators. We're proud of the evolution of 'Behind The Record' to include an advocacy element this year as we continue our ongoing work to ensure all music creators flourish."

"Behind The Record" is supported by the Recording Academy's Advocacy Department, Producers & Engineers Wing and Songwriters & Composers Wing. Supporting all music creators—including the artists behind our favorite records—is an urgent initiative for the Recording Academy year-round. Within the past year alone, the Recording Academy established the Songwriters & Composers Wing to better represent the diverse community of music creators who provide the world with the gift of song. The Academy also reintroduced the HITS Act in the House and Senate, which would allow artists and record producers to deduct 100 percent of sound recording production expenses in the year they are incurred, and continued efforts to support women producers and engineers through its Women In The Mix initiative.

To help the Recording Academy further support creators working behind the scenes, artists can participate in "Behind The Record" by:

  • Emailing givecredit@recordingacademy.com to request an access code to the Credit Cover Generator Portal.
  • Posting your Credit Cover across social media channels and tagging those who worked on your project. Use hashtags #BehindTheRecord #GiveCredit #WeAreMusic.
  • Artists can create Credit Covers for a single track or album, and covers will live in a gallery on the "Behind The Record" website for music fans to view and discover the roles of creatives behind some of their favorite records.

For the third year, Jaxsta, the world's largest public-facing dedicated database of official music credits, provided credits for Warner Music, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and Merlin releases.

For more information, please visit the "Behind The Record" website. Follow and join the global conversation on social media using the hashtags #BehindTheRecord, #GiveCredit and #WeAreMusic.

Learn More About The Recording Academy's "Behind The Record" Initiative

Dionne Warwick, Donny Hathaway & More To Receive Special Merit Awards

Dionne Warwick

Photo: ABC Photo Archives/ABC/Getty Images

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Dionne Warwick, Donny Hathaway & More To Receive Special Merit Awards

The Recording Academy has announced this year's crop of Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award recipients

Recording Academy/Dec 19, 2018 - 07:31 pm

What do Black Sabbath, Sam & Dave and Julio Iglesias all have in common? They are among this year's Recording Academy Special Merit Awards recipients. Today, the Academy announced a prestigious crop of recipients for its Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award.

This year's Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are Black Sabbath, George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic, Billy Eckstine, Donny Hathaway, Julio Iglesias, Sam & Dave and Dionne Warwick. Lou Adler, Ashford & Simpson and Johnny Mandel are Trustees Award honorees; and Saul Walker is the Technical GRAMMY Award recipient.

From their power riffs to their dark, gothic imagery, Black Sabbath arguably invented the heavy-metal signposts and influenced every hard-rock band that followed.

Among the most sampled acts of the funk/R&B era, George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic’s spacey and masterfully played funk has laid the foundation for countless hip-hop hits.

Singer Billy Eckstine helped break ground for African-American artists in the '40s and '50s as a distinctive jazz singer and bandleader who crossed over to an equally dazzling career in pop.

Donny Hathaway was a versatile soul stylist who built his legend singing both urban protest songs as well as smooth, signature duets with the likes of Roberta Flack, despite his far-too-short career.

Perhaps the most successful Latin crossover artist of his time, Julio Iglesias became an enduring star on the world stage and Latin music’s most popular ambassador of his era.

Soul duo Sam & Dave (Sam Moore and Dave Prater) were one of the primary chart stars at the Stax and Atlantic labels in the '60s, bringing the passion of gospel to their wailing soul sides.

Singing the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the ’60s, and then scoring hits that bridged pop and R&B in the '70s and '80s, Dionne Warwick has carved out a unique and stellar career among pop/soul singers.

From the Monterey Pop Festival to L.A.’s iconic Roxy Theatre to the careers of the Mamas And The Papas, Carole King and Cheech & Chong, among others, Lou Adler is one of music’s most noted impresarios.

Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson were among the elite songwriting teams at Motown Records, penning modern classics such as "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" and "You’re All I Need To Get By."

A versatile composer, arranger and jazz musician, Johnny Mandel’s credits include playing in the bands of Jimmy Dorsey and Count Basie and composing immortal movie and television music such as the MAS*H theme "Suicide Is Painless."

Saul Walker was a career-long audio innovator, teacher and mentor. From his early work in rocket telemetry to founding API in 1969, his designs continue to influence the music recording industry.

A special award presentation ceremony and concert celebrating the honorees will be held on May 11, 2019, in Los Angeles. Additional details regarding the ceremony will be announced in the coming weeks.

Emilio And Gloria Estefan $200,000 Music Scholarship Announced

Linda Perry Talks Craft, Creativity & Her Biggest Hits In Nashville

Linda Perry

Photo: Courtesy of Linda Perry

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Linda Perry Talks Craft, Creativity & Her Biggest Hits In Nashville

The GRAMMY-nominated musical force of nature opens up to an intimate audience about artistry, authenticity and her illustrious career in music

Recording Academy/Jul 18, 2018 - 12:44 am

Finding success as a songwriter, artist or producer/engineer is a one-in-a-million shot at best in today's super-saturated music industry, but to succeed at all three takes a remarkable individual. Linda Perry is just that special talent. For a lucky audience at the Recording Academy Nashville Chapter's Craft Session event on June 14 at The Tracking Room, the GRAMMY nominee took a candid look at her remarkable career, her instinctual creative process and the stories behind some of her biggest hits.

Born to a father who loved Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, old time country, and jazz, a Brazilian mother with a penchant for Sergio Mendes, and growing up around siblings who loved pop and rock music, Perry's first love was musicals. She cites listening to "The Jungle Book" as the magical moment for her when storytelling and music collided. Later, she discovered the encompassing power of her own voice, the beginning of a career full of music coming naturally to her.

"One day, literally, in San Francisco, I was playing guitar … and then I just started singing," said Perry. "And this huge voice came out of me. … It just took over my whole body and I started crying and my roommate came running down. She was like, 'What was that?' And I'm like, 'It was me!' … Then that's when I said, 'I'm gonna be a rockstar.'"

From there, Perry stumbled into playing music, a self-taught multi-instrumentalist picking up guitar and piano by ear without any trouble at all. These instincts as a musician still guide her in the studio, where Perry let's her ears take over.

"I'm different because I don't know what I'm doing, I just feel it," said Perry. "I pride myself on my drum sounds, and when I get drum sounds they're fat, they're awesome, they're gorgeous, but I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just turning things, moving microphones until it sounds good to my ear. I don't need to know that I'm boosting 2K or bringing down 15K. Who cares about that? I just want to know I'm getting a good sound. … I don't look at meters, I just move microphones."

Every way Perry interacts with music seems to carry this natural, instinctual movement. As a songwriter, there may be ways of forcing ideas to come out, but she admitted that's not how she works. In fact, the question she gets asked most often by songwriters is about dealing with writer's block. Her answer is an enlightening one.

"I don't get songwriter's block because I'm not thinking," said Perry. "Only people who are thinking about writing music get songwriter's block, I just do it. And if it's not there to do, I don't do it."

During the conversation, Perry walked the audience through her journey in the San Francisco music scene in the '90s where she earned a write-up in SF Weekly for her brief but memorable first performance after playing just two songs then breaking a string. and formed her band 4 Non Blondes, whose original name was Lesbian Snake Charmers. She kept her solo career pursuits going while joining the band before combining the two and finding a record deal post haste.

Perry talked about writing "What's Up," the band's 1992 smash hit, and the subsequent struggle to maintain her artistic vision for the song. The album's producer suggested lyric rewrites and production choices that forced Perry to decide between being a team player and standing up for her artistry.

Thankfully, she was able to cut the tune on her last reel of tape and rush it to mastering just in time. Shockingly, it was Perry's first time touching a microphone and crafting sounds in a studio. The raw brilliance of the recording came together in a hurry and created something lasting.

"That recording was my first actual recording, and it's flawed all over the place. I can't stand my voice on that," Perry said. "Everything about it when I hear it sounds amateurish. All those flaws and all those mistakes are what made that song what it was. So the moral of the story is just trust your instincts because we're not here to be perfect. We're here to create an emotion and to create a moment."

Ever since, Perry has tapped into this magic throughout her career in her own music and collaborating with other artists. During the Craft Session, she recounted how she patched together Pink's "Get This Party Started," taking her first crack as sequencing, the arc of her collaboration with James Blunt, her love/hate relationship with the "beyond talented" Christina Aguilera, for whom she penned the 2002 smash hit "Beautiful," and more.

In an industry with so many facets, Perry has grown her career on the foundation of true artistry, tapping into inspiration and authenticity at every stage of the process. Her vision — or the vision of the artist she's working with — always comes first. From there, Perry says it's about craft and creativity, no matter who you are or what your process is.

"It's very important to really understand your craft," Perry said. "There's kids doing amazing albums on GarageBand because they're being creative. You can record on anything if you're creative, you have a good song and you get the emotion."

Catching Up On Music News Powered By The Recording Academy Just Got Easier. Have A Google Home Device? "Talk To GRAMMYs"

10 Vocal Tips From Lalah Hathaway, Anthony Hamilton & More

Issachah Savage, Lalah Hathaway, Anthony Hamilton, and Nazaneen Grant, MD
Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

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10 Vocal Tips From Lalah Hathaway, Anthony Hamilton & More

What we learned about how to sing your best from MusiCares and the Recording Academy Washington, D.C. Chapter's all-star vocal clinic

Recording Academy/May 25, 2018 - 08:15 pm

Washington, D.C.'s National Union Building was the place to be on May 16 for anyone interested in maximizing the musical use of the world's first instrument: the voice. Singers from various genres and backgrounds attended to learn more about caring for, resting and protecting their instrument at this vocal health clinic presented by MusiCares and the Recording Academy's Washington D.C. Chapter.

The clinic featured a conversation on vocal health moderated by singer/songwriter Tracy Hamlin with Associate Professor of Otolaryngology Dr. Nazaneen Grant, tenor vocalist Issachah Savage, and GRAMMY-winning gospel/R&B artists Lalah Hathaway and Anthony Hamilton. The all-star panel delivered a discussion that was anything but clinical, igniting the room into laughter, awe and epiphany as they shared their vocal habits, techniques, secrets, and insights.

For all you vocalists out there, here are 10 amazing insights, tips and tricks directly from the experts' lips.

1. Find What Works For You

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the clinic was that every vocalist needs to find out what works best for them, regardless of the wide variety of techniques out there. As Hamlin pointed out, "What works for one singer may be completely different for another." Savage added, "I cannot stress it enough, it is so super-duper important to really find out what works for you, and the only way you can do that is to know your instrument, and the only way to know your instrument, of course, is to spend a lot of time with it. Practice, practice, practice."

2. What To Eat On Day Of Show

Believe it or not, Hathaway confessed to not eating anything on the day of a concert, saying, "It makes me super sleepy and my reaction time is slow." Hamilton admitted he doesn't do dairy at all anymore, but he needs to eat something before taking the stage, saying, "I don't like to sing on an empty stomach, it just feels hollow." Savage added that he drops half a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water the morning of the show. All three singers revealed they'll have a cup of coffee from time to time, but alcohol before a show is a no-no.

3. The Truth About Hydration

Hydration is always a good idea, especially for the voice. Staying hydrated allows the vocal folds to stay limber and maintains the protective mucosal lining that coats the vocal folds and protects them from the natural friction that occurs during vocalization. "Drinking water is good to hydrate your whole body, but when you swallow, there's this thing called the epiglottis that flips over and makes it so the water doesn't go in your voice box — that's what happens when you choke," said Grant. "So [the water is] not hitting the vocal chords directly. Even when we gargle, it doesn't hit the vocal chords directly. Steam is actually what makes [the moisture] touch [the vocal chords]." She added that avoiding dehydrating substances — such as caffeine, decongestants and allergy medicines — is also helpful.

4. Hamilton's Secret Rider Item

"I chew really, really strong Mentos gum, two pieces right before I go on stage, always. It's on my rider," said Hamilton. When asked if he worries about accidentally swallowing it while singing, the GRAMMY winner said, "I've been holding gum in my mouth since I was a poor little boy who didn't have money for new gum. I can sleep with it," a response that drew a laugh from the room.

5. What Harms The Voice

After running through an explanation of the physical components that make up the voice, including visuals from a scope of the vocal chords, Grant outlined five main things that can harm your voice: misuse/overuse, dehydration, cigarette smoke/pollutants, acid reflux (more on that later), and allergies. She pointed out that one common way singers overuse their voice is when talking on their cell phone. Most people strain their voice and speak unnecessarily loud because they don't have any visual feedback from the person on the other line letting them know they're being heard. "Pretend like the person you're speaking to is right in front of you," said Grant. "[That technique helps] you speak a lot softer and not strain, so that's the trick."

6. Rest, Rest, Rest

How much rest does a singer need? It depends on the person and how they like to unwind. Hathaway, who has been on the road for the past two years, enjoys hanging out with her friends, family and dogs and playing video games to let her body recharge. She also pointed out that singing itself is so natural and fulfilling for her that it hardly feels like work. For Hamilton, cooking a meal, going for a drive, taking a nap, and walking for miles and miles outdoors helps him recuperate. Savage prefers to unplug from the world, especially social media, to rebuild his strength between shows, and he stressed that refraining from speaking is the best rest a singer can get.

7. How To Cool Down

For some singers, taking a moment to ramp down after a big show can make a big difference. "Years ago, when we were in school and we had physical education or gym, after exercise you always did some kind of cooldown, It's healthy to do," said Hamlin. "Just doing a five-note scale on a hum or 'oohs' really softly and it massages the vocal chords." While Hathaway and Savage admitted they don't have any routine, Hamilton joked, "I like to pour a little Jamieson on it."

8. Hoarseness Remedies

Defying convention, Hathaway says ice-cold water helps her voice when she feels hoarse. "It doesn't work for me to drink room temperature water during the show," she said. "Whatever it is that works for you, you have to find that, because your instrument is so unique, and once you find out what it can do, you're on your path." She also said that speaking on the day of a show works well for her as a warm-up, and shared tips on battling hoarseness she's learned along the way. Apparently, the singers in Take 6 wrap a towel full of ice around their neck to draw out the swelling, which helps with hoarseness, while Al Jarreau once told her to always work out on a show day to get the blood flowing.

Issachah Savage and Anthony Hamilton
Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

9. The Secret To Avoid Acid Reflux

Grant explained how acid reflux occurs and how to identify it: Heartburn is a tell-tale sign, but even a bitter taste in the back of the throat or compulsive throat clearing can be signs. She recommended avoiding coffee and alcohol, not laying down for two to three hours after eating, and staying away from certain acidic foods, such as vinegar and spicy sauces. Hamilton also shared an insider's tip on how to use gravity to help with acid reflux. "It's important to lay on your left side because your stomach hangs that way, and it helps to keep the acid down — head elevated and laying on your left, because I've been dealing with that for 20-something years."

10. At The End Of The Day, It's "God's Business"

"Music is a ladder for the soul," Grant said to the singers onstage and in the audience, quoting the writings of the Baha’i Faith. "You guys are the ladder makers." While all singers are looking for the key to unlock a great voice, the panelists all agreed that, when it's all said and done, it comes down to an intangible "it" factor. "I don't believe that having an amazing sound or an amazing voice is something that can be taught," said Savage. "You can train … but the difference in having a great voice is God's business."

Catching Up On Music News Powered By The Recording Academy Just Got Easier. Have A Google Home Device? "Talk To GRAMMYs"