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

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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.