Heard on the Hill

Music's Best Share the Stage, Then Take to the Hill

Artists highlight D.C. awards show, then lobby for updated laws on licensing of their work

Warren Haynes and Rep. Joe Crowley perform with members of Congress during 2016 Grammys On The Hill Awards. (Kris Connor/Getty Images)

“Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me,” New York Rep. Joseph Crowley belted into a microphone with guitar in hand on a crowded stage of about 20 lawmakers. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Whip Steny Hoyer and Texas Republican Michael McCaul embraced while singing and clapping along.  

The Recording Academy’s annual GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards was the hottest ticket in Washington on Wednesday night when the 2016 winner, Zac Brown Band, took the stage to perform ‘Free.’ Pelosi stood front and center taking photographs with her iPhone.  

The academy also honored Crowley and Florida Republican Rep. Thomas J. Rooney for their co-sponsorship of the Allocation for Music Producers Act, which would make it easier for producers to receive performance royalties.  

“I have always been proud to consider myself a music person,” Rooney said in his acceptance speech. He said he played the drums in High School and in the Army.  

“We have a long history in this country of protecting property rights for individuals who make something,” he said. “I've always believed that the words and the scores behind the music and the innovative minds that help create them in the first place should be rewarded.”  

Crowley, a Democrat, told the crowd how he explained to his mother that he was getting a Grammy award, but not a Grammy. Then, he joked about Rooney, “A guy like that who likes all those kinds of music can't be a Republican.”  

Zac Brown, the front man for Zac Brown Band, said in an interview with Roll Call that the honor was amazing but Washington needed to bring things up to speed.  

“While everything has changed, the law still kind of remains around the old model and as everything has gotten new. It needs to kind of follow suit in the way that artists and producers and engineers are being taken care of,” Brown said. “It’s important that we stay important and relevant to those things because those people are important, the music wouldn’t be made without them.”  

Producers and songwriters lobbied the Hill on Thursday for the AMP Act, as well as the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which would change music licensing for sound recordings, and the Songwriter Equity Act, which would also update licensing for songwriters and composers.  

“In general, we’re going to talk about music creators and really make sure lawmakers pay attention to people creating content for the country to enjoy and make sure we’re paid fairly,” six-time Grammy winning songwriter and producer Harvey Mason, Jr., said in an interview.  

Mason worked on the songs for “Dreamgirls,” “The Help,” “Pitch Perfect 2” and “The Wiz, Live!” among others. Mason said he has met with legislators for meetings in the past.  

“You can make more money working as a barista then writing a hit song and that’s just not fair,” he said.  

Music producer Evan Bogart, who co-wrote Beyonce’s “Halo,” Rihanna’s “SOS,” and MKTO’s “Classic,” was on the Hill.

“I represent artists and artists aren’t getting paid terrestrial radio royalty,” he said. “As a producer, [I support] the AMP Act, which would ensure that we get paid directly from sound exchange as oppose to having to chase down artists and their managers to tell labels to pay us.”

D.C. native rapper Wale, who was at the event but was not planning to lobby, said in an interview that he was there "because this is my last leg of trying to do right by the people who can make or break my career in some aspects.”  

Wale performed in January at the State of the Union viewing party in the White House as the first rapper to open a SOTU.  

There, he announced his new album to come out this year. “Hopefully, it’s going to be the soundtrack of all of 2016, I designed it that way,” he said.  

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