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Billboard: How The Recording Academy And Its Allies Scored Big Wins In COVID Relief Package
The COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted the livelihoods of many Recording Academy members. Since March, the creative community has been left without access to traditional income and tasked with searching for alternative sources of support, including engaging their fan bases differently, temporarily changing professions, and applying for grants from nonprofits, such as the Academy’s MusiCares. In addition to these options, federal, state, and local governments have appropriated resources to financially support displaced and unemployed workers.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Recording Academy has raised awareness of the music community’s struggles and lobbied for the inclusion of necessary financial assistance in legislative relief packages, including the landmark CARES Act. While the $2 trillion bill resulted in effective short-term relief at the beginning of the pandemic, many of the key provisions expired, or were set to sunset, by the end of the calendar year, setting up a potential nightmare scenario were struggling creators would be left without vital financial assistance.
To recap how the Academy and our members successfully intervened to stop these programs from expiring, Billboard recently published an in-depth analysis on the Academy’s advocacy in action, which resulted in Congress including additional creator-friendly provisions in the latest COVID-19 relief package. The article compartmentalized the Academy’s efforts into “four strategic pillars”: in-house lobbying, grassroots mobilization, celebrity influence, and coalition-building.
How the Recording Academy and its industry allies scored big wins in the pandemic relief bill https://t.co/cWEEaLu3Tv
— billboard (@billboard) January 15, 2021
The Academy’s in-house advocacy team spent hundreds of hours educating policy makers about the needs of struggling music creators and had a hand in shaping the final COVID relief package. While normal lobbying typically occurs in-person, the Advocacy team quickly adjusted their strategy to comply with both the Academy’s and Capitol Hill’s COVID-19 restrictions. Daryl Friedman, the Academy’s Chief Advocacy Officer, told Billboard that, "[It's] really kind of an unusual way to lobby because we’re used to being in people’s offices and going to receptions with the members of Congress and holding fundraisers and doing all sorts of things that couldn’t be done in a pandemic." While the pandemic presents a unique challenge of accessing key legislators, Friedman told Billboard that the virtual model allows for more “effective” lobbying since time is not lost commuting to Capitol Hill.
Next, the Academy enlisted its best advocates to help shape the latest COVID package: our membership. Standing 20,000+ strong, Recording Academy members continuously prove to be their own best advocate due to their ability to provide first-hand accounts of the experiences navigating the creative workforce. P.J. Morton, a GRAMMY winning singer/songwriter and Recording Academy Trustee, met with Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) during the virtual District Advocate day in August. Morton described his experience of meeting with the Congressional leader to Billboard. “To hear personally from someone that, hey man, this thing you love so much is really suffering, and the people that make it that you love are suffering, and if we don’t get some help you may not have access to that stuff that you love so much…it’s hard to just overlook that.”
The third strategic pillar used by the Academy is to host meetings between policymakers and musicians with high name recognition. Friedman argued that, “[Celebrities] can get attention in a way that sometimes even we can’t.” These notable musicians helped the Academy land meetings with Congressional leadership, a difficult task during the lengthy COVID negotiations.
Alongside our industry allies we successfully lobbied for #SaveOurStages, the #CASEAct, and more to be included in the final legislation, despite limitations introduced by the #pandemic. https://t.co/DYqG3PvKch
— GRAMMY Advocacy (@GRAMMYAdvocacy) January 16, 2021
Finally, the Recording Academy formed coalitions with other members of the music ecosystem to send a united call regarding the importance of music-friendly legislation. Keith Kupferschmid, President and CEO of the Copyright Alliance, also spoke with Billboard about the importance of coalition-building. "This crisis has brought us together in a way that I haven’t seen before…One bright spot of this very terrible pandemic is that it’s brought all of us together because we know this is about survival, and we only survive if we can all band together."
Without these four strategic pillars, the latest COVID relief package was at risk of leaving music creators behind. The Academy’s strategy proved to be effective in delivering much needed aid, but the team will continue the drum beat for creator-friendly legislation in the near future. As the Biden Administration and Congress begin outlining the next COVID relief package, the Academy plans to activate these strategic pillars to again give a voice to the needs of struggling creators, including a call to pass the HITS Act, strengthen unemployment insurance to better serve gig workers and mixed earners, and expand business grants, among others. On behalf of the Academy, thank you to our members who helped secure these much needed relief programs for the music community!
Read the full article in Billboard.