All Aboard the Music Bus | Commentary

Harmony. Unity. Parity.

Those three words make up the motto for today’s Grammys on the Hill Advocacy Day.

Harmony is the exquisite blending of musical ideas, but it’s also working together to find common ground.

Unity means we’re all in this together. Instead of working just for our own interests, we join forces for the greater good.

Parity means equitable treatment. No matter what role we play, we should expect to be treated with basic fairness.

But these concepts go beyond our lobby day, and in fact, have great relevance to the music industry and to the legislators currently reviewing the Copyright Act.

The current session of Congress has produced important legislation that addresses key segments of our musical family. In February of this year, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., along with Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., introduced the Songwriter Equity Act. The Recording Academy was proud to stand with our fellow songwriter representatives in support of this legislation. It corrects longstanding hurdles that keep rates artificially low for songwriters both in their mechanical and performance royalties.

Earlier this year, before he left Congress, Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., introduced the Fair Market Royalty Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. The Fair Market Royalty Act answers the broadcasters feigned desire for the marketplace to resolve the longstanding performance royalty issue. Watt and Chu understand that the marketplace can only work when both sides of a transaction have rights to their property. When confronted with the level playing field proposed by the legislation, the National Association of Broadcasters quickly objected and proved that their pro-marketplace rhetoric was hollow.

These and future expected individual bills are important in that they shine a light on key constituents in the music industry and help educate Members of Congress and the public on specific and important interests.

But “harmony, unity and parity” means that we take this one step further.

With the House Judiciary Committee under Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte’s leadership engaged in a forward-thinking, comprehensive copyright review, now is the time for our community to be just as forward-thinking with a comprehensive music legislative proposal that addresses the needs of those who write the songs, those who perform them, and those who produce those recordings to create the music we love. We should make the case that a comprehensive music bill need not wait for the entire Copyright Act to be revised. As Congress’s own adviser on copyrights — Register Maria Pallante — noted, “Congress already has had more than a decade of debate on the public performance right for sound recordings, and has given serious consideration to improving the way in which musical works are licensed in the marketplace. These issues are ripe for resolution.”

It is time for our industry to take the lead and craft a unified proposal for a music omnibus bill, or if you’ll indulge me, the MusicBus proposal.

Imagine the political impact of a united music industry — with artists, composers, producers and engineers all seeing their interests advance in one piece of legislation. We are an industry of the greatest communicators on the planet and together we can drive the MusicBus to its ultimate destination — harmony, unity and parity for all of our constituents.

For those who doubt the will of music people to create monumental achievements, I invite you to meet me at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. I’ll personally walk you through the exhibits noting the great visionaries of our industry who built great companies, developed amazing musical talents, and created new and innovative ways of bringing music to the public.

For all the complexities of the MusicBus concept, its goal is actually so simple it could fit on a bumper sticker: “Fair market pay to all music creators across all platforms.”

Like all great movements, this one must start at the grass-roots level. So in the coming months, we will give our 22,000 members of The Recording Academy the tools they will need to move the concept forward from the ground up. We will take our successful Grammys on the Hill initiative to the local level with a day of “Grammys in my district,” during which local advocates in diverse communities across the nation will bring music to their legislators’ local offices and make the case for fairness for music creators.

Today, let us begin to work together for a comprehensive music omnibus proposal. We at The Recording Academy will commit to using all of the resources at our disposal. We hope others will join us — and get on board the MusicBus. The journey and the destination will be that much more rewarding if we all take this ride together.

Neil Portnow is President and CEO of The Recording Academy.

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