Photo: Courtesy of RIAA
RIAA Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman, A Music Champion, To Retire
On Dec. 31 a major change of the guard at The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will see former President and current Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman retire, with his responsibilities taken over by current President Mitch Glazier as of January 2019. While the Recording Academy represents all music creators, the RIAA represents the major music labels. Sherman's leadership steered a steady course through challenges including internet piracy and intellectual-property legal developments that led to today's successful digital ecosystem.
"Business models change, and shifts in policy positions follow," Sherman said in his speech at MIDEM on June 8, 2018. "Be alert for changes in business, and then look for the opportunity to find common ground, even with, in fact especially with, those who once were adversaries."
Sherman made the point that changing developments have forced artists to learn more about the music business and be prepared to shift position as the high-tech landscape continues to evolve. This has been just one of many areas where the Recording Academy and the RIAA found their own common ground. At the Academy's District Advocate day on Oct. 24, more than 1,500 of our members lobbied for constructive intellectual property policy changes — a powerful grassroots mobilization that was inconceivable in the days before digital changed the music business.
Accepting The Music Business Association (Music Biz) Presidential Award for Outstanding Executive Achievement on May 16, 2018, Sherman expressed pride in being the first attorney to achieve that honor. He described his first intellectual property assignment as a young lawyer in 1974. "I knew nothing about copyright or legislative work," he said about his first three weeks researching the potential establishment of a broadcast performance right for sound recordings. This is a struggle that continues to this day as broadcasters consolidate power without paying fair royalties to performers.
"For those of you who think that music policy and government regulation are not relevant to you, think again," he said in his acceptance speech. "Whether you're an artist, label, a songwriter, a publisher, a digital music service or a start-up, governmental policy will determine how you can operate and how you can earn money — or not."
On Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C. Sherman's retirement bash hosted a high-powered crowd of 300, including CEOs and lawmakers, filled with memories and gratitude for his steady leadership as digital ate half of the music industry's revenues and the music business struggled to successfully respond. His final day on the job will be Dec. 31 and his future plans include returning to "taking piano lessons." He described the signing of the Music Modernization Act into law — another area of mutual Recording Academy and RIAA support — as "the icing on the cake" of his storied career as the major labels' leading representative.
With major copyright litigation and multiple updates of copyright legislation behind him, Sherman's biggest regret is that radio still does not pay broadcast performance royalties — the assignment that first started his career in intellectual property in 1974. "That's the most gaping hole in our rights," he concluded. Sherman will be happy to note the quest to close this loophole will continue in his absence, and his many years of hard work toward a fair payment system for performers will not be in vain.