SONA (Songwriters of North America—the advocacy organization to which I proudly belong), hosted a Back To School Night last night. Little SONA…the one that filed a lawsuit against the DoJ a few weeks ago over its misguided music licensing rulings.
Invitees were songwriters of the younger variety—writers who never knew the business to be any different than it is today—which I guess is a good thing if you believe innocence is bliss. It is today for them as it always was for them (and might always be: hard to make a living even when your songs are starting to be recorded.
How would we (SONA), explain that not too long ago it was better? Not perfect, but at least songwriters didn’t have to work a day job after our foot was firmly in the door.
We wanted to tell them in a fun way, at a fun place, and let them know that they should absolutely stay connected to their joy while they’re doing what we’d suggest they do: make some noise. Like SONA did with the DoJ.
I was disappointed when Back To School Night was scheduled for an evening I couldn’t be there. I’ve been passionately involved in the SONA journey, why wouldn’t I want to be part of the event? That said, we are not an organization with a budget that allows for wide open spaces and catering and endless booze…and Pulse Recording was able to lend us their real estate on a certain date—for nada. So I couldn’t complain…(although I did a little). But when I thought about where I would be, it all made sense: I was scheduled to be on the East Coast to talk with music industry students at several Colleges and Universities about the challenges creators face. (You had to know about this if you're following me on Facebook…I’ve been posting incessantly.) So, perhaps I’d be poetically bookending the West Coast effort with one of my own. This symmetry made me happy.
The students I’ve been with this week have been open, curious, reasonable and interested. Most of all, they want a future in the music business! I’m assuming the same for the aspirers who showed up for Back To School Night. That's reason enough for us (SONA, myself) to jump in.
But what we're doing is not sexy.
We don’t want it to seem as if we are trying to get everyone to drink the Kool Aid. Or trying to educate—BO-ring. Or inform—Yawn. But what we are putting forth is for their own good. Yuck! Did I say that?
Look, we’re never going back to album sales and terrestrial radio royalty jubilation. But if we want to ensure that our profession isn’t downgraded to hobby, we can opt to put pressure on the government to relax regulations so that there can be a more even and fair distribution of income in the digital ecosystem. Just like we did in our lawsuit. (Did I mention our lawsuit?)
Taylor Swift has been a great spokesperson for the creator (especially in 2014 when she pulled her album 1989, from Spotify. As a result, it went Platinum (sold 1,000,000), in a week (because everyone who wanted to hear it had to buy it.) I’m not saying that’s why she pulled it (although it could have been one of the reasons)...but either way, at least she got the "songwriters are not being paid fairly from streaming" conversation started.
We've got problems. We need more than Taylor Swift to solve them.
So we'd like to get the young people umm, informed. How else can I put it? That’s what it is. We want to let them know what’s going on and what they can do to push back. Because I know they’ve been wondering. And they’re scared.
They can write to their representatives. Sign petitions. Become a SONA member—we'll let them know when something requires their attention. There’s strength in numbers and there are so many of them.
SONA's Kay Hanley reports: "Back To School Night was an unqualified smash. If we ever had a doubt about our community’s ability to grasp the complex challenges we face and engage with curiosity and passion, we can now dispense with that notion." Awesome. I was there in spirit while doing the same thing 3000 miles away. In a real classroom.
These are some of the faces of our future...and the future of our profession.
“Teach them well and let them lead the way.”
If you're a songwriter of any age, please consider signing up for SONA. Help us help you advocate for the protection of songwriters' intellectual property and livelihoods in a digital marketplace.