Star power combined with powerful live performances and a compelling appeal for immediate action on music legislation reform marked this year’s GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards, April 13, 2016, in Washington, D.C.
GRAMMY winners Zac Brown Band, Congressmen Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) , and representatives of the Charyl Stockwell Preparatory Academy of Brighton, Mich., all gave heartfelt speeches about the true value of music as they were honored by The Recording Academy for their contributions. The event was hosted by GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale and featured performances by GRAMMY winner Yolanda Adams, Ed Roland of Collective Soul, Lauderdale, Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, and honorees Zac Brown Band. The event also included surprise performances by Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy, performing on bass with Academy leaders Brandon Bush, Dan Warner, and Lee Levin, and honoree Crowley singing lead and playing guitar on The Band’s classic song “The Weight” as members of Congress sang along on stage.
The celebration was attended by such music luminaries as Josh Abbott of Josh Abbot Band, songwriter/producer Evan Bogart, GRAMMY winner Robert “Kool” Bell of Kool & the Gang; songwriter/producer Noel "Detail" Fisher; songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins, songwriter/producer Kevin Kadish, GRAMMY winner Ramsey Lewis, songwriter/producer and The Academy's National Advocacy Committee co-chair Harvey Mason Jr., singer/songwriter Eddie Money, GRAMMY winner Smokey Robinson; GRAMMY winner Jon Secada; Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge; Dee Snider of Twisted Sister,;hip-hop artist and Texas Chapter Trustee Paul Wall; and rap artist Wale, not to mention more than 30 members of Congress. The event offered all present a powerful reminder that the need for music law reforms has reached critical mass.
“Today, the music community stands together to call for comprehensive reform that helps ALL creators,” said Portnow in remarks to the lawmakers in attendance, later adding, “Your constituents are calling for your help more loudly and clearly than ever before. Will you answer their call?”
The following day, April 14, 200 members of The Recording Academy were briefed for a day of lobbying, with a keynote address by Danny Marti, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, from the Executive Office of the President, and a live performance by Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider. Advocates then traveled to Capitol Hill to participate in more than 90 individual meetings with their elected representatives, asking congressional support for the Fair Play Fair Pay Act and the Allocation for Music Producers Act and discussing the need for reform for songwriters. Additionally, GRAMMY Advocates delivered a letter of unity signed by The Recording Academy and over a dozen music trade organizations, showing cohesive support for music reforms.
GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day closed with a first-ever outdoor demonstration and busking session at Upper Senate Park, where advocates wrapped a day of lobbying by singing “We Are Family” with Sister Sledge’s Kathy Sledge, backed by Academy members Mindi Abair on saxophone and Jim Lauderdale and Dan Warner of guitars. Advocates held up picket signs saying “Radio earns $$$billions, Nothing to Artists,” “Fair Play Fair Pay,” and “#SupportMusic” during the rally, which inspired singer-songwriter-actor Tyrese Gibson, to give an impromptu speech. “Our careers will continue to be compromised if we don’t start profiting and benefiting from our craft,” he said.
GRAMMYs on the Hill 2016 was marked by an elevated social media campaign on Twitter and other platforms. Additionally, a number of Academy leaders and members placed editorials and commentaries focused on music creator rights in local press, among them Carlos Alvarez, President of the Texas Chapter; KEM, Chicago Chapter Board Member; Lenny Marcus, a member based in Roanoke, Va.; and Harvey Mason Jr., co-chair of The Academy’s Advocacy Committee. Daryl P. Friedman, Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer for The Recording Academy, penned an op-ed that appeared April 14 in The Hill that urges Congress to take action now to level the playing field for music creators.
Individuals can still add their voice to GRAMMYs on the Hill by using The Academy’s online advocacy tool to write their representatives in Congress and ask them to support pro-music legislation.