Photo: Leigh Vogel/WireImage for The Recording Academy
Yolanda Adams and Rep. Lois Frankel
Women's History Month: Meet Two Women Advocates Devoted To Creating Music — And Defending It
This Women's History Month, we're reflecting on the continual advocacy efforts of two women and what makes them stand out in the music industry. Ledisi and Yolanda Adams have both made waves in the music industry through their talent and dedication to cre
Women's History Month is here again, and we're opening up the conversation through the lens of advocacy for all music people.
To kick it off, why not meditate on the advocacy efforts of two women who stand tall in the often male-dominated music industry?
Meet Ledisi and Yolanda Adams, who have made waves in the music industry through their creative outpourings and tireless devotion to creator's rights.
Ledisi — A Towering Vocalist & Voice For Creators
As a GRAMMY Award winner — and a 2022 GRAMMY nominee for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album — Ledisi not only works hard on her music, but also for the entire music community.
She has participated in the GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards and Advocacy Day, works as the president of the Academy's L.A. Chapter, and remains outspoken on the importance of music education and using one's voice to help others.
In 2021, Ledisi discussed how she previously felt uncomfortable staking a claim in the advocacy space. But after participating in a GRAMMY U panel for the San Francisco Chapter, her perspective changed — and she realized there is far more to the Recording Academy than handing out awards.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ledisi. Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage for NARAS
"I can proudly say I am an Advocate for the Arts, and it started here with the Recording Academy. I have found so much joy in helping my beloved music community," she said. "In my first GRAMMYs On The Hill, I walked alongside my peers lobbying in the halls of Congress using my little voice — [one] that shocks sometimes, [but] still, people listened.
As Ledisi recalled, she left with the realization that the Recording Academy's essence is artists and artistry. "It's creators like me who advocate for artist rights and their legacy," she added, "for fair representation, diversity and the passion to preserve the history of all music creators."
In 2015, Ledisi came to D.C. to both perform at the GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards and participate in the Advocacy Day that followed.
When asked about her role as an advocate in an interview, Ledisi replied: "Nothing in music is free. Everything has a cost, and as long as we continue to have outdated laws that don't reflect the times and it affects creators, we will never be 'free.'"
In 2018, Ledisi spoke out for SB-933, or California's Arts for Every Student Act. While, unfortunately, it didn't make its way to law, the underlying message — and her sentiment in support of it — remain impactful.
Why did Ledisi stump for the bill? Because "children deserve the opportunity to nurture their love of the arts," she said.
Ledisi also touched on key qualities that arts education instills in students: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, and encouraging others to innovate and persevere.
On a collegiate level, in 2020, Ledisi partnered with former First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative and GRAMMY U to help students reach their goals in the music industry.
Oh, and as for SB-933? Granted, it may not have passed back in 2018. But this year, California has a fresh opportunity to drastically improve arts education statewide — if the California Arts and Music in Schools ballot initiative becomes law.
Yolanda Adams — A Gospel Great Demanding Fair Pay
In 2019, Yolanda Adams was honored at GRAMMYs On The Hill for her dedication to advocating for the rights of artists.
She's not only a gospel singer-songwriter and four-time GRAMMY winner — she's consistently been a champion for creator's rights. Through a variety of channels, Yolanda has demonstrated her commitment to music advocacy time and time again.
Adams has been the Co-Chair of the National Advocacy Committee since 2020. This committee works to determine specific policy positions of the Recording Academy and advance the interests of all music creators.
As chair, she has worked with the Academy's Advocacy team in Washington, D.C., to advocate for legislation that would enhance the rights of creators such as the HITS Act and American Music Fairness Act.
In 2020, Yolanda Adams testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property with the theme: "How Does The DMCA Contemplate Limitations and Exceptions Like Fair Use?"
Her testimony highlighted the importance of artists receiving compensation and giving permission for usage of their music — especially when the pandemic ground live music to a halt.
Adams also spoke about the need to pass legislation that would put an end to AM-FM radio being able to play music without giving compensation to artists. This is what the American Music Fairness Act — introduced in June of 2021 — would do.
"When we can't perform, we try to make part of our living from our recordings. In the digital landscape, where streams only bring fractions of a penny to the creators, we hope to monetize every use," Adams said during the hearing. "This is where fair use comes in."
"When you hear a debate about fair use, it's typically about monetization. And that's important to me and my fellow Recording Academy members," she continued. "If someone's claim of fair use reduces the artists' ability to earn a living, it should be treated as infringement, plain and simple."
Adams not only advocated at a national level, but statewide as well. In 2018 she joined the Recording Academy in Texas for the Texas Chapter Advocacy Day where she and other Academy members met with state lawmakers to highlight the importance of artists' rights within their state.
She also participated in the 7th annual District Advocate Day in August of 2020. Although this day was filled with virtual meetings rather than in person, it nonetheless was crucial in getting Members of Congress aware of the issues at hand—including providing relief for shuttered venues and artists who were impacted by the pandemic.
Adams also participated in the Academy's 7th annual District Advocate Day on Aug. 12 , advocating alongside nearly 2,000 music professionals for critical support for the music community as it continues dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're going to keep on fighting so we can make sure terrestrial radio gives us what we rightfully earned," she said, "and make sure the next generations of artists don't feel that they have to play their music underground."
Keep checking RecordingAcademy.com and GRAMMY.com throughout Women's History Month to learn how women artists and advocates have fought for all music creators throughout the years — and how they're just getting started.
Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
How District Advocate Day 2023 Uplifted Music People And Expanded With Its First Ever GRAMMY Advocacy Conference
The first-ever GRAMMY Advocacy Conference — just in time for District Advocate Day 2023 — was an effective and inspiring digest of the most pressing issues facing the music community.
Year round, the Recording Academy works tirelessly to advocate for all music people — but one day is especially important. That's District Advocate Day, whose 2023 iteration rolled around on Oct. 5. Held annually in the fall, this is the largest grassroots advocacy movement for music and its makers.
As with every year, Recording Academy members from across the country visited the local district offices of their elected representatives in Congress to discuss issues affecting the livelihoods of songwriters, performers, and studio professionals.
The key issues for District Advocate Day 2023 were AI (artificial intelligence), protecting free expression, protecting the live music experience for artists and fans, incentivizing new music via tax fairness, and providing a solution for artists' rights on radio.
These were front of mind across nearly 100 meetings throughout the U.S. — from Long Beach, California to Coral Springs, Florida; from Omaha to San Antonio; from Philadelphia to Tupelo. And that just scratches the surface of how the Academy sprung into action nationwide for all music people.
At the Recording Academy's New York Chapter Office in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, District Advocate Day kicked off much as it did in 2022. Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, swung by said office to meet up with the New York Chapter.
In the boardroom, Academy members — in a mix of formal and casual getup — got down to brass tacks, and made heartfelt expressions before Nadler.
The discussion of free expression was framed by the Academy-endorsed Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act. As for ticketing, bots were evoked as a major concern.
And regarding AI, guarding name, image, likeness, and intellectual property was of paramount concern. Nadler was receptive to these concerns from the New York Chapter, and offered co-signage to Academy-sponsored bills.
After an all-smiles group photo session in front of the New York Chapter Office — which sported some nifty new Academy-logoed flags — a group reconvened in the boardroom to watch the first-ever GRAMMY Advocacy Conference. This was just one of many such gatherings across the country. As uncertainty in Washington prevented many congressional offices from scheduling meetings, the virtual conference provided another opportunity for Academy members to connect with each other and engage with the issues no matter where they live.
Across the following hour, viewers heard directly from policymakers, industry stakeholders and fellow Academy members about the organization's crucial work in Washington.
The video included a conversation about AI between Todd Dupler, the Chief Advocacy & Public Policy Officer at the Recording Academy, and Mitch Glazier, the CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America.
After a message from U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) about the need to overhaul the current ticketing system, Shay M. Lawson, Governor of the Atlanta Chapter of the Recording Academy, introduced U.S. Representative Sydney Kamlager-Dove (Calif.-37) and Torae, the President of the New York Chapter of the Recording Academy.
The three had a frank discussion about the need to safeguard free expression through the Restoring Artistic Protection Act, and Rep. Kamlager-Dove's historic resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
On screen, what followed was a conversation between Dupler and Nicole Elkon, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of State. This interchange had to do with music diplomacy, a crucial tool in the department's arsenal, and came fresh off the State Department's launch of the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative that the Recording Academy played an instrumental role in developing.
The final major portion of GRAMMY Advocacy Conference 2023 reflected the Academy's hardworking Songwriters & Composers Wing. The Wing's very own Sr. Managing Director, Susan Stewart, led a conversation with singer-songwriter Alex Hall, and Evan Bogart, the Chair of the S&C Wing.
After a pragmatic and necessary talk about the importance of fair compensation in the streaming age — and navigating the labyrinth of an increasingly complex music landscape — it was clear to all involved that we do this because we love the music, first and foremost. And with that, members of the New York Chapter filed out into the autumn air, ready to put that shared love into action.
Photos: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
The Recording Academy Partners With U.S. Secretary Of State Antony J. Blinken To Launch The Global Music Diplomacy Initiative; Quincy Jones Awarded Inaugural Peace Through Music Award
The global initiative will promote diplomacy through music worldwide and will also feature the American Music Mentorship Program, which will see Recording Academy professionals and members provide mentorship opportunities to international participants.
Continuing its mission to ensure that music remains an indelible part of our culture around the world, the Recording Academy has partnered with the U.S. Department of State and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to help launch the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative, an international initiative that will promote peace, diplomacy and democracy through music worldwide. Using music as a diplomatic tool globally, the initiative will leverage public-private partnerships to create a music ecosystem that expands economic equity and elevates the creative economy, ensures societal opportunity and inclusion, and increases access to education. The Global Music Diplomacy Initiative will also build on existing public diplomacy music programs to create partnerships with American companies and nonprofits to convey American leadership globally and create connections with people worldwide.
The Global Music Diplomacy Initiative also includes the American Music Mentorship Program, a partnership between the State Department and the Recording Academy, which will bring international mid-career music industry professionals and musical artists to the United States for mentorship and networking opportunities. The program will invite Recording Academy professionals and members to provide international participants with mentorship opportunities and professional development.
See a full outline of the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative below.
Secretary Blinken announced the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative Sept. 27 during a lively celebration at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. He signaled the start of the inaugural event by highlighting its attendees. "We have a few dignitaries come through this building, but it is a special treat to have so many members of music royalty here tonight," he said excitedly.
The evening engendered a melodic blend of music, peace and policy. The private event featured breathtaking performances from Dave Grohl, Herbie Hancock, Mickey Guyton, Armani White, and many other leading American and international artists. U2's Bono shared a special video message from Las Vegas as well.
Singer/songwriter Aimee Mann performed her 1999 song "Save Me" with the admission that she was "deeply honored but also a bit freaked out to be here."
Perhaps less nervous, Secretary Blinken added that he couldn't "pass up" the one-in-a-lifetime chance to "combine music and diplomacy," as he performed Muddy Water's 1954 classic, "Hoochie Coochie Man."
"If this doesn't clear the house, I don't know what will," Blinken said playfully ahead of his performance.
A collaboration between the Department and the Recording Academy, the award recognizes and honors an American music industry professional, artist, or group that has played an invaluable role in cross-cultural exchanges and whose music work advances peace and mutual understanding globally.
"His work, his actions continue to advance peace through music, and I am sure they will for generations to come," Mason jr. said. "It's my true honor to recognize my friend and mentor, Mr. Quincy Jones, as the first-ever recipient of what will now and into the future be known as the Quincy Jones Peace Through Music Award."
The Global Music Diplomacy Initiative was developed pursuant to the bipartisan Promoting Peace, Education, And Cultural Exchange (PEACE) Through Music Diplomacy Act, which was championed by the Recording Academy and its members in 2022 at GRAMMYs On The Hill and during the annual grassroots District Advocate Day. The legislation, introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in December 2022.
Here's a complete breakdown of the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative:
- American Music Mentorship Program
The American Music Mentorship Program, a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the Recording Academy, will bring international mid-career music industry professionals, which may include musical artists, to the United States for mentorship and networking opportunities, with an aim to cultivate a professional music industry ecosystem locally and globally, to support creative talent, and to strengthen the creative economy globally. It will leverage the networks and experience of Recording Academy professionals and members to provide international participants mentorship opportunities, boost their technical skills, and build the foundation for professional networks. The first American Music Mentorship Program will be held in the fall of 2024.
- Fulbright-Kennedy Center Visiting Scholar Award in Arts and Science
The Fulbright Program, the United States' flagship international academic exchange program, will collaborate with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to create a new fellowship opportunity for foreign scholars. The new Fulbright-Kennedy Center Visiting Scholar Award in Arts and Science will focus on the intersections of the arts (music, dance, theater, etc.) and science, including how the arts can contribute to individual and global health and well-being, and the environment. An award competition will be announced in fall 2023, and the Kennedy Center will host the first scholar in academic year 2024-25.
- Boosting English-Language Learning Through Music
Recognizing the strategic importance of English-language learning overseas, especially for youth and underserved communities, the Department will incorporate music into its existing $40 million investment in English-language learning worldwide, including through exchanges, curriculum, and scholarships to provide access to English-learning classes for promising students between the ages of 13 and 20.
The Department will augment broader global English-language learning by supporting Sing Out Loud, a program that provides resources for teaching English through music in collaboration with American Music Abroad (AMA), bringing music and lyrics into classrooms across the world.
In addition to the Secretary's announcements, the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative will include vast programming around the world, including:
- Arts Envoys to Travel to the Middle East, People's Republic of China
Herbie Hancock, along with Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Ensemble at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), will be performing in Jordan in October to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 1963 Jazz Ambassador tour of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
The Herbie Hancock tour will then travel to Saudi Arabia for a four-day Arts Envoy program – the first of its kind between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
From November 9-18, 2023, The Philadelphia Orchestra is slated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its historic 1973 tour of the People's Republic of China (PRC) with Ensemble Performances and Residency Activities in multiple cities in the PRC.
- Ten American Bands to Travel to 30 Countries Starting in October Through American Music Abroad; AMA Academy Cleveland to Host Young Professional Musicians from Ukrainian Diaspora
Beginning in October 2023 and representing multiple genres, Birckhead, The Beatbox House, The Invisibles, Marielle Kraft, Matthew Whitaker, Pipeline Vocal Project, Raining Jane, Sihasin, Sub-Radio, and Tap Music Project will travel to 30 countries from October 2023 through June 2024.
In November 2023, the 2023 American Music Abroad Academy Cleveland will bring together young professional musicians from the Ukrainian diaspora and around the world for collaboration and mentorship opportunities from American instructors with a focus on cultural preservation through music. Learn more about AMA here.
- Next Level to Use Hip Hop in Nigeria, Bring International Artists to the U.S. to Focus on Conflict Transformation
In September 2023, four U.S. hip hop artists focusing on conflict transformation will travel to Lagos for a two-week Next Level Academy. In addition, 10 international participants will travel to Washington, D.C. and New York, New York for a two-week professional development program on conflict transformation through hip hop. Learn more about Next Level here.
- Scaling Social Entrepreneurship Projects, Strengthening Creative Economy Through OneBeat
From November 6-20, 2023, musicians from Ghana and Nigeria will come together to collaboratively create and discuss how music can bring people together through social entrepreneurship projects, as part of the OneBeat program. Learn more about OneBeat here.
- Harmundi International Music Summit to Welcome Students from Every Continent in November 2023
Virtually connecting more than 60 international students from every continent through music, the Harmundi Summit will provide intense music training, cross-cultural collaboration, studio recording, and live performances under the mentorship of world-class musicians and producers. The Summit, which will take place November 3-5, 2023, will be led by alumni of the Department's exchanges, and is part of the Department's Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund. This fund provides grants of up to $10,000 for public service projects that utilize the skills, knowledge, and networks exchange alumni gained through their exchange experiences.
Learn more about the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative.
Photo: LEON BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES FOR THE RECORDING ACADEMY
The Copyright Royalty Board Has Published Their Determination On Phonorecords III — Here’s What That Means For Songwriters
This determination means songwriters will start to receive back pay on royalties they were owed from 2018-2022.
After a yearslong process, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has officially published their determination on Phonorecords III — meaning songwriters will start to receive back pay on royalties they were owed from 2018-2022.
As the Recording Academy covered earlier this year, the CRB announced a confirmation of the mechanical royalty rate increase from 10.5% to 15.1% for the Phonorecords III period (that covers 2018-2022). Despite that ruling occurring earlier this year, the process was not officially complete until the determination was published this month.
This is a monumental win for songwriters and composers, who will soon begin to receive the additional owed royalties. To help break down some common questions, the Recording Academy put together a brief FAQ on what this means for songwriters:
How much will songwriters receive?
While the final calculation is not publicly known, some reports estimate that digital streaming services will owe as much as $200 million to songwriters and publishers from Phonorecords III.
When will songwriters begin to receive the backpay?
Songwriters can expect to begin to receive their share of the owed royalties no later than February 2024 — streaming services have six months from August 10 to make arrangements and payments for the mechanical royalty rates they owe songwriters from 2018 to 2022.
How will songwriters collect the backpay?
The Mechanical Licensing Collective is expected to pay any owed royalties that were incurred in 2021 or 2022, which is when it was operational following the passage of the Music Modernization Act.
For royalties owed from 2018 to 2020, the digital platforms will be responsible for making proper payments and may contract with a third-party vendor for processing.
Will there be any oversight to this process?
The U.S. Copyright Office and Congress are monitoring this important process. In addition, stakeholders including the Recording Academy and its Songwriters & Composers Wing will work to ensure that payments are paid properly and timely.
The Recording Academy has been vocal in advocating for songwriters and composers throughout this entire process and has continually pushed for these artists to receive a fairer royalty rate for their works.
Now that the determination has been publicly released, payments to songwriters and composers must be done in an efficient and accurate manner.
The Academy intends to continue following the process and advocating for these artists to receive the payments they have earned.
Image courtesy of the Recording Academy
District Advocate Day Is Back On Oct. 5: How The Annual Advocacy Day Will Benefit Music People Worldwide
Year over year, District Advocate Day has directly led to positive change for the music community. Here’s how to get involved on Oct. 5.
The Recording Academy's District Advocate Day is returning on Thursday, October 5th.
District Advocate Day, the largest grassroots advocacy movement for music and its makers, gives Recording Academy members an opportunity to visit the local district offices of their elected members of Congress and discuss the pressing issues facing the music community.
Last year, almost 2,000 Recording Academy members participated in District Advocate Day — making it one of the largest District Advocate Days to date. Over the course of the activation, Academy members reached 75 percent of Congress by meeting with nearly 200 congressional offices across 45 states.
Year over year, District Advocate Day has directly led to positive change for the music community. In 2022, Recording Academy members advocated for the passage of the PEACE Through Music Diplomacy Act, a bill designed to use music and music-related global exchange programs as a tool to build cross-cultural understanding and advance peace abroad. Just two months later, Congress passed the PEACE Through Music Diplomacy Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2023.
In 2020, Recording Academy members successfully urged Congress to provide billions in COVID relief for music makers and music small businesses when they needed it the most. And in 2019, the House of Representatives passed the CASE (Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement) Act just weeks after we advocated for it during District Advocate.
This bill, which passed the House of Representatives 410-6 before getting signed into law, created a small claims court for copyright cases — a huge win for artists who otherwise did not have the means to protect their work from infringement or theft.
This October, Recording Academy members will continue these efforts as they advocate for key issues facing the music community such as artificial intelligence and decriminalizing artistic expression.
Registration is open now until September 8th for all active members of the Recording Academy including Voting, Professional, and Student members. Members interested in and registering, or to learn more, can click here.
Even if you are not a member of the Recording Academy, you can still fight for creator’s rights by contacting lawmakers in support of music makers. We also encourage you to continue checking out our Advocacy page for additional ways to stay involved!