Music Makers To Congress: We Are Family
Author: Nile Rodgers
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill on June 9, 2016.
Last month, 200 music creators gathered outside The Capitol for a song and demonstration asking for fair pay. Kathy Sledge led the group, singing the 1979 hit “We are Family,” a song I had the privilege to co-write and produce for Sister Sledge. At the time, it seemed like just a fun conclusion to GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day.
But given recent developments in Congress, “We are Family” now feels like a policy statement.
Less than two weeks after The Recording Academy’s GRAMMYs on the Hill, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, gave a brief policy speech to commemorate World Intellectual Property Day. As a member of The Recording Academy’s National Board and Advocacy Committee, I paid particular attention to the remarks.
Chairman Goodlatte noted that in the coming months the Judiciary Committee will focus on areas of consensus with stakeholders to formulate proposals on a number of copyright issues. The first of a long list of questions Chairman Goodlatte said the Committee had debated was “In what ways can consensus be achieved in copyright policy?”
Speaking for more than 20,000 members of The Recording Academy who create those copyrights, I can sum up our consensus in a few words: Fair market pay for all music creators across all platforms.
On GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day, 200 artists, songwriters and producers, along with executives from every aspect of the music industry, lobbied for bills that would fix a broken music licensing system. Songwriters advocated for justice for artists on radio. Producers lobbied for a fair rate standard for songwriters. Artists supported the AMP Act for record producers. Creators united for creators.
Yes, the music industry is family, and there is no better example than the new slate of members of The Recording Academy’s National Advocacy Committee, to which I was elected this year. As the group of working music makers that set advocacy policies for The Recording Academy, the only D.C.-based association by, for and of only music makers, we are professionally diverse, but united in our goal for fairness for all creators.
The Advocacy Committee is co-chaired by musician Brandon Bush (Train, Sugarland) and producer-songwriter Harvey Mason Jr. (Jennifer Hudson, Whitney Houston, JustinTimberlake). The committee also includes Peter Asher, a former folk-pop performer who has produced an avalanche of pop and rock artists (Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell); Ann Mincieli, a state-of-the-art engineer who is GRAMMY winner Alicia Keys’ studio collaborator; and Dan Warner, a GRAMMY-winning musician whose studio and stage credits span top-charting Latin, pop, and rock artists. I bring my own background as a songwriter, guitarist, and producer who’s been lucky enough to work with some of the industry’s most prominent artists in dance, R&B, rock and pop. And we’re joined by our National Chair, John Poppo, a songwriter, producer and engineer whose work spans dance, pop, R&B, and rock.
All of us are real, dyed-in-the-wool, give-it-their-all music people, and together we are collaborating on ways to move the needle forward on issues that will benefit future generations of music professionals. We represent a microcosm of the unity that exists across the music ecosystem.
With the House Judiciary Committee moving closer to making decisions on updating our nation’s copyright laws, we, the music creators, are united and ready to roll up our sleeves and help build consensus for meaningful copyright reform. So Congress, please take note: We are family. I’ve got all my sisters – and brothers – with me. Together we can move copyright law into the digital age.
Nile Rodgers is a GRAMMY-winning songwriter, producer, and musician whose career spans four decades. He is a National Trustee of The Recording Academy and a member of its Advocacy Committee.