Photo: Rick Diamond/WireImage
Celebrating Mary Wilson: A Strong Advocate For Music Creators
Mary Wilson, a GRAMMY-nominated singer and beloved Recording Academy member, passed away Monday at age 76. As co-founder of the Supremes, Wilson spent her life sharing her gift with the world, while earning twelve number-one singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart along the way.
Beyond being a talented songstress, Wilson’s storied legacy will include her time serving as an advocate on behalf of music creators. In 2009, Wilson inspired a room of 300 music community members inspired to use their platform as part of an Academy town hall. The event also featured now-Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the late former Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Jimmy Jam, and Josh Groban, among others.
Around a decade later, Wilson and her co-panelist Rep. Issa reunited behind a different call: fixing a loophole to fairly compensate legacy artists. Wilson put her legendary voice to use in support of the Congressman’s bill aimed at correcting this injustice, which was titled the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act. Prior to the introduction of the CLASSICS Act, sounds recordings created before 1972 did not enjoy the same copyright protection as more recent material, costing legacy artists like The Supremes millions in royalties.
Wilson argued the importance of educating policymakers on how to better serve the music ecosystem, telling Variety that, “People assume when your music is played on the radio that you are being paid, and it is not true, we are not. So that means people are using your own music, your own recordings, and getting their own revenue.” Due to Wilson’s enduring advocacy, the “pre-1972 loophole” exploited by the digital services was closed as part of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) in 2018.
Wilson chose to spend her limited spare time fighting for a more equitable music ecosystem that prioritized creators over radio magnates. The Recording Academy and our members will continue Wilson’s call to reshape the music ecosystem into a more creator-friendly sector. Congress has the opportunity to directly build on Wilson’s legacy by establishing a public performance right for artist on terrestrial (AM/FM) radio, requiring AM/FM broadcasters to rightfully compensate and obtain permission from all copyright holders. Wilson, like generations of artists before her, was denied compensation for her work on radio. Now Congress has a right to fix this wrong and ensure that all artists can earn a fair living for their work.
The creative community is more fair and just because of Mary Wilson’s years of advocacy, a music icon who will be truly missed by the entire Recording Academy family.