Photo: Recording Academy
Celebrating District Advocate Day Engagement & Looking Ahead
District Advocate day 2018 on Oct. 24 was an unprecedented coast-to-coast gathering for more than 1,500 Recording Academy members, their lawmakers and Congressional staff sharing ideas about the recent unanimous passage of the Music Modernization Act, now signed into law, as well as what issues matter most to the music community, looking ahead.
With coverage in Billboard and MusicRow, record-setting social activity on Instagram and Twitter, and many special messages for the day delivered via online video or on television, the level of engagement by the music community and elected representatives alike heralds an exciting future for what can be accomplished, thanks to the Recording Academy's political activism.
Local news interviews added another dimension of outreach by letting the public know that Recording Academy members are active and involved in creators' rights. "It's really about getting the support that we need to keep making great stuff," said producer Matt Squire to Washington, D.C.'s local news team on WUSA-TV 9.
Among issues affecting music creators includes efforts to negotiate and establish a terrestrial radio performance right for performers and artists. The U.S. is alone among major nations in its legal stance that radio play is so automatically valuable for performers that no financial compensation whatsoever is necessary. Foreign artists receiving compensation abroad are also cut out from receiving royalties by this, and reciprocally, foreign royalties that are collected for the recorded performances of U.S. artists remain in special accounts instead of being distributed to Americans.
Modernization of the U.S. Copyright Office for the 21st century is another lively issue with tremendous implications for the years ahead. While federal computing infrastructure is due for an upgrade in many agencies, the Copyright Office is midway along this challenging learning curve. The Office has special needs, and so do the creators who rely on it, so progress must be spurred to create systems worthy of the innovations in America's new music marketplace and ecosystem. Our livelihoods rest on the foundation of copyright law and ultimately the Office's infrastructure must bear the load of its vital responsibilities. Being aware of this issue is the first step in fighting for overdue upgrades, and our elected officials need to know that we care.
A conversation connected to U.S. Copyright Office modernization has long been the goal of allowing independent creators to protect their copyrights by means of some form of small claims process. Artists with major labels can assume aspects of protection are handled by professionals within the company, but indies don't have that luxury. Although this comes up with filing notices of infringement, it can also arise in much more straightforward examples of infringing uses. Just because a creator lacks access to thousands of dollars for attorneys or specialized music-law staff shouldn't leave them helpless to protect their work. Years of thought have gone into investigating this need and a practical answer should be put in place.
One of the outstanding benefits of the unity on display through our District Advocate day is the ability to work together to enact meaningful change. There are other issues growing become hot-ticket items. Trade deals and negotiations are one area where this can come up at unexpected times and the creator community always needs to be informed and active when their voices are needed to make a critical push.
Another recurring issue that comes up on schedule with the federal budget is arts funding and particularly for the National Endowment of the Arts and music education programs. We've made a difference in preventing damaging reductions in funding, but this battle continues. Too many times, hoping to cut costs, lawmakers lose track of or do not realize the differences funding for the arts achieves in our national life.
On these issues and other matters ahead, we will build together on the unity and engagement of District Advocate day 2018 to make a real difference. Kudos and thanks to all who participated.
"Conversations in Advocacy" is your weekend digital tip sheet on music advocacy and the policies that affect music makers and their craft. New installments post every Friday.