On May 11th, I co-hosted a reception, along with SONA (Songwriters of N. America), for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Minority Member of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees copyright and intellectual property issues. Congressman Nadler has been a great supporter of songwriters’ interests over the years.
He opened the discussion by saying we were in the middle of a constitutional crisis. I thought he was talking about songwriters…and then I realized he was talking about something much bigger than us. Imagine that. That said, it feels like songwriters are in the middle of a constitutional crisis.
For those of you who have missed the memo(s):
1- Songwriting is the only profession in the country that is regulated to the extent that it is by the government (75%).
2- Record labels have money grabbed the lion’s share of digital royalties because unlike us, they are not governed by the same regulation.
3- Google and Big Tech companies are trying to keep rates low because they license so much content and they'd rather not pay for it.
4- The streaming media companies are not necessarily breaking the law when they agreed to all these digital rates, but they could have said, umm, no. But they didn’t because without catalog, they wouldn’t have a business.
There's more. But you get the gist.
So here we are.
Congressman Nadler feels he's making progress. There are other Representatives who I’ve visited in DC—Tony Cardenas, Doug Collins, Grace Meng—who are also fighting the good fight on our behalf. Funny though, I don’t even plead my case any more when I'm in their office. They know what's up. It’s way more fun to just play a song. Because when/if they recognize it and realize that the fire started long before they heard it from the recording artist who made it famous, they usually want to help us even more. As John Titta said at the ASCAP Awards last week, “Songs change minds.” It's true.
SONA, the co-host at Nadler's reception, is a grassroots organization of which I am a founding member. We've grown to a passionate 15 on the steering committee and a membership of over 200. Along with regular visits to DC, we're educating music students and young songwriters, (older ones too—this stuff is complicated), and filing lawsuits. We are joining forces with the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and the NSAI yet still keeping a pure voice that represents our personal interests. There is much work to do and it’s not going to be easy, but if we don’t try we can forget the idea of a next generation being able to make music and earn a living like many of us did. And then music is gonna start to umm…suck. It will be written by amateurs, imposters, and the uninspired.
If you’re reading this, you might be a songwriter. Or a friend of one. So you may be interested in knowing that SONA is having their Third Annual Summit in Los Angeles on June 28th. If you’d like to join up and come see what we’re all about—or, if you’re not local and simply want to lend your support :)—click here. We need you...whether it's another voice in DC or a signature on a future petition. There is strength in numbers.
On a lighter note, I’ve often put forth that what would really change things is a POTUS in the White House whose kid wants to be a Rock Star. Watch how fast laws would be updated. Similarly, the other day Michelle Lewis and I were were chatting—trying to figure out who would take over if Trump happened to be ousted…(which we don’t anticipate happening, but it is possible). Next in line of course is Pence...but if Pence were shown the door as well it would be Paul Ryan. But then if Ryan were to be implicated in any way it would be Utah Senator (and Senate president "pro tempore"), Orrin Hatch. And guess what else Orrin Hatch is. A SONGWRITER!!! I kid you not. A President who moonlights as a songwriter? Guess what folks…all our problems would be solved.
Careful what we wish for.
"A tribute to my good friend, Senator Ted Kennedy called 'Headed Home.'" by Orrin Hatch