Thursday, May 18, 2017

Spotify's Troy Carter calls for the industry to fix the "broken" value chain

By Emmanuel Legrand 

The entire music value chain is broken, and the music industry needs to rethink how to make it work, according to Troy Carter, the Global Head of Creator Services at Spotify. Asked by Music Week during his keynote Q&A at the Music Biz Convention in Nashville, Tennessee on May 17, if he thought that the current split of royalties between the various rights owners whose songs were streamed was fair, the former manager of Lady Gaga offered a resounding "No!" But, without being specific, he also immediately added that "the value chain is broken and we need to reconfigure it." 

During his one-hour keynote Q&A with The Tennessean's Nate Rau, Carter addressed a wide range of issues, from how to deliver a great experience for the consumers, to how Spotify can help artists not just through playlisting the songs but also through data. He said that Spotify is entering a new decade that its co-founder, Daniel Ek, wants to be creator-centric.  

"Daniel Ek was a great buddy and I was an investor on Spotify," Carter recalled. "He said that Spotify had focused around the consumer experience [in its first decade], but moving forward he wanted it to be focused on providing a creator-centric experience, so my job is to work with all creators, artists, songwriters, publishers, labels and build a global bridge."

Helping artists making better decisions 

Carter admitted that he had some adjustments to make before he fully understood the value proposition offered by Spotify. "I was an investor [in Spotify], and I thought I new everything about Spotify," he explained. "And when I got there I discovered how much of a black box it was and that I knew nothing. For the first three months, I was drinking out of a fire hose. I pretended I knew stuff and I knew shit." 

Now, he conceded that he had a team around him focusing on making a better experience for artists, and that it was only starting. He added that Spotify had the tools to help artists make better informed and more efficient decisions regarding their career by using Spotify data, in particular what Spotify for Artists could deliver, such as demographic information on listeners, their geographical location, gender information, playlist they've been on. "It is a treasure trove of info and lots of artists are using it," said Carter. He later added: "Data will help us become much more efficient in building artists' careers." 

Carter was adamant that exclusives were not the right way forward. He called the practice "bad for the artist, bad for the fan, and bad for the industry," and rejoiced that "the industry has started to come around to recognise that exclusives were a bad idea."

Spotify's model works 

He also addressed the issue of secondary ticketing that he said was "hard on the fans." He added, "We've done a ton of tours as a management company and one of the problem is that you are not filling the room with fans. You look at the secondary market and it's hard for the fans. The idea is how do we make it a better experience for an artist? When they see an audience they do not want to see the richest people in the room, they want to see the fans." 

Carter was asked if Spotify's business model was working. He declined to give specific figures about the streaming services' financial results, but stated: "Overall, at scale, the model works and if you look at the [current] growth of the platform, it will continue to grow."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

5 reasons to attend Music Biz 2017 in Nashville

By Emmanuel Legrand

The Music Business Association, known as Music Biz and formerly known as NARM, will hold its annual convention May 15-18 in Nashville at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. The organisation regroups physical and digital music retailers, from mom & pop stores to Pandora, one of the most recent new members. Here are five reasons why it's worth going to Nashville for Music Biz 2017.

1 – It's in Nashville!

Music Biz's James Donio
Previously, Music Biz has been held in cities such as New Orleans or San Francisco, but in 2015, the organisation settled in Nashville for the first time. And the marriage went well, as it should have, since Nashville is, with New York and Los Angeles, one of the three main music hubs in the USA. James Donio, President of Music Business Association, said the move to Nashville “has attracted more artists, managers, publishers, students, and many other industry professionals” to the event. He added, “The most significant factors have been the sheer growth in registrants, the increased diversification of the profile of attendees, and a new sense of energy and excitement that could only happen in Music City. Our first year in Nashville in 2015 was our biggest convention in nearly a decade, and last year’s was even bigger than that, with more than 1,500 attendees.”    

Donio added that the presence in Nashville has allowed to form “even stronger bonds with the fertile creative community in Nashville” and set up many partnerships with local trade groups such as the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), and the Country Music Association, which will be sponsoring the Awards Breakfast, featuring presentations to UMG Nashville’s Mike Dungan and Music Millennium’s Terry Currier and a performance by Music Biz 2016 Artist of the Year Award winner Little Big Town.   

2 – High level discussions   

Music Biz's Nicole Hennessey
Because of the nature of its membership, Music Biz tends to attract a knowledgeable crowd interested in debating the future of the music business. This usually leads to high level discussion with top executives. “This year is all about stretching out and providing essential programming for every segment of the music industry,” explained Nicole Hennessey, VP of Communications for Music Biz. One of the most attended session this year will most certainly be the keynote discussion between Spotify's Global Head of Creator Services Troy Carter and Nate Rau, Music Business Reporter of The Tennessean to discuss ways in which Spotify is supporting artists, delivering the best music experience to a global audience and contributing to the growth of the larger music industry ecosystem. Other keynoters include Atlantic RecordsJulie Greenwald, the Creative Artist Agency’s Jeff Krones and Hunter Williams, A2IM's Richard Burgess, Cracker Barrel’s Don Hoffman, and Universal Music Group’s Barak Moffitt.   

But the event will also provide unique opportunities such as the full-day line-up of Digital Service Workshops, where executives from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, Soundcloud, Spotify, and YouTube/Google Play will all be on hand for what Hennessey called “a true industry first, in which attendees will learn how to leverage important tools and products from the companies themselves.” Other highlights include the Entertainment & Technology Law Conference, where experts will discuss music policies under the Trump administration, and the second annual Brand & Strategic Partnership Summit, which features brands including Cracker Barrel, Yeti Coolers. “Music Biz 2017 truly paints a diversified picture of the music industry that will be extremely valuable for artists, labels, managers, creators, and the industry at large,” said Hennessey.   

3 – It made “metadata” sexy!   

Music Biz's Bill Wilson
A few years back, Bill Wilson, VP of Digital Strategy & Business Development for Music Biz, gathered a few people in a room to talk about data, not the most attractive of all topics. But it worked so well that the following year, he expanded the stream, to a point that there is now a full Metadata Summit at the convention, now in its fifth year, and attracting several hundred professionals. “It has transformed these potentially dry discussions into lively dialogue between actively interested parties at all strata of the business,” said Wilson of the Summit. “Metadata is the foundation of the entire digital music industry. How content is delivered, displayed, organised, found, and paid for is completely dependent upon interoperability of the data between label, publisher, collecting society, and service provider stakeholders. Although critical to the very fabric of the business, the sizzle factor remains low. The Metadata Summit has transformed these potentially dry discussion into lively dialog between actively interested parties.”

This year's Summit will will hear from the likes of Barak Moffitt, EVP of Content Strategy and Operations at Universal Music Group, Jonathan Bender, Chief Operating Officer at SoundExchange, Mark Isherwood from the Secretariat of Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), Adam Parness, Head of Publisher Licensing & Relations at Pandora, Darryl Ballantyne, Founder & CEO of LyricFind, Ryan Redington, Director of Amazon Music, and Benji Rogers Co-Founder/CEO & Co-Founder of PledgeMusic/dotBlockchain Music, among others. “We’ll be raising the bar on the level of discussion and pushing into new areas where metadata will be a big concern, particularly the emerging area of voice search with Alexa, Google Home, and more,” said Wilson.   

4 – Ladies speak out!   

Among the recent new programme ideas that have been quite successful, Donio mentioned the “Music’s Leading Ladies Speak Out” event, which will return this year with Atlantic Records’ Chairman and COO, Julie Greenwald, as the Keynote Speaker. Donio said the event was developed to empower the next generation of female executives in the music business and discuss ideas to overcome and eliminate inequality. The session will feature some of the music industry’s most influential female executives, such as Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association (CMA), Jessica Sobhraj, CEO/President of Cosynd/Women In Music, and Tracy Gershon, Manager at Red Light Management, as well as Grammy Award-winning superstar Kelly Clarkson.   

5 – And it's entertaining!  

Because it is in Nashville, the proceedings tend to be very music-focused, with many musical events taking place during the convention or on the fringes (after all, the Renaissance is only a few blocks away from Broadway and its bars). This year, Music Biz has teamed with the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), which celebrates its 50th year, to host the NSAI Songwriters in the Round live performance event featuring country singer/songwriters Rhett Akins and Rivers Rutherford, who have written 34 chart-topping songs between them. The pair will play some of their biggest hits and explain the stories behind them.  Music Biz will also be presenting a Breakthrough Artist Award to Maren Morris, described by Donio as "one of Nashville’s most promising new talents" at the Awards Luncheon, during which several acts will be honoured, such as Adele (Artist of the Year), Paula Abdul (Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award), and Lukas Graham (Breakthrough Artist Award).  

The biggest draw is usually the famous Industry Jam (May 15) which features live music, special tributes, awards presentations, signed instrument raffles, giveaways, and more! Hosted by SiriusXM's Richard Blade the evening will include a rare reunion of the original Alice Cooper band with Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce, and Neal Smith; a tribute to Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s legacy with the last surviving band member Carl Palmer, a celebration of the Summer of Love’s 50th Anniversary featuring Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, Cathy Richardson of Jefferson Starship, and Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge, among others, and will end with a live performance from house band The R.A.T.S. (Rock Against Terrorism), featuring a lineup of top musicians and industry executives.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bill modifying the Register of Copyrights' selection process adopted by the House

By Emmanuel Legrand

The passing the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (H.R. 1695) by the House of Representatives with a 378-48 vote is expected to be the first of several copyright-led bills to be discussed in the coming months by US Congress.  

The bipartisan bill, which was introduced on March 23, 2017 by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), is the first meaningful piece of copyright legislation adopted by Congress since the DMCA in 1998. If adopted by the Senate, it would make the Register of Copyrights a Presidential appointee, subject to confirmation by the US Senate, and serving for a 10-year term. A selection panel made up of Members of Congress and the Librarian of Congress would be tasked with submitting a list of at least three qualified individuals to the President for his or her consideration.  

Speaking to this writer after delivering the closing remarks at the World IP Day event organised by the USPTO, Chairman Goodlatte said that he hoped H.R. 1695 would be adopted "quickly" by the Senate and then signed into law by the President of the USA. "It's not a new idea, we've been working on this for a while," said Goodlatte, who declined to discuss any other specific piece of legislation that could follow H.R. 1695 other than saying it would have to be policy proposals for which it is possible to "reach a consensus."  

Bills that could be considered include the Far Play Fair Pay Act that would introduce performance rights for sound recordings on terrestrial radio; the Songwriters Equity Act, that would simplify the way music is licensed by performance rights organisations; or the PROMOTE Act, which would allow performing artists to opt out of having their music played on the radio if they are not being paid an agreed-upon performance royalty.

A majority of Yeas

Creative industry professionals in Washington, DC welcomed the passing of H.R. 1695 on IP Day. Observers noted that the wide majority of Yeas to only 48 Nays illustrates the bipartisanship of the issue and bodes well for future policy proposals. Observers suspect that many Nays from Democrats are linked to the notion that they objected to having the Register becoming yet another Trump appointee.  

Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers said in a statement that the bill was "one product of the House Judiciary Committee’s multi-year comprehensive review of our copyright laws. This bipartisan review, which began under the tenure of the former Librarian of Congress in April 2013, has been focused on ensuring our copyright laws keep pace in the digital age and has included much discussion on the merits of giving the Copyright Office more autonomy with respect to the Library of Congress." 

They added, “While this legislation represents an important first step in the Committee’s efforts to update our nation’s copyright laws, we remain committed to working with all members and stakeholders to take additional steps to ensure the US Copyright Office is modernised so that it functions efficiently and effectively for all Americans.” 

An important piece of legislation

NMPA President & CEO David Israelite commented, “At a time when creators constantly must defend their rights, it is critical that the Register of Copyrights is chosen carefully and vetted properly. Making this a presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed position not only adds the oversight needed to ensure this critical role is filled by someone up to the challenge, it also elevates the position to where it always should have been – amongst the ranks of the top officials within the administration. Additionally, the 10-year term will assist in maintaining continuity in the role across administrations."

Daryl Friedman, Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer of The Recording Academy, stated: “The nation’s foremost copyright expert just moved a step closer from ‘government employee’ to  ‘Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation.’ This important development in updating copyright laws illustrates Congress’ renewed priority of the issue.”
Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid commended "all who demonstrated backing for this important piece of legislation, enabling it to be passed through the House with tremendous bipartisan support, on the momentous occasion of World IP Day. Making the Register a presidential appointee as provided in H.R. 1695 will not only ensure that the selection process is more neutral, balanced, and transparent but it’s also critical to the continued modernization of the US Copyright Office. We look forward to continued support for this issue in the Senate."  

Politicising the Copyright Office

Dissenting voices came from the American Library Association who opposed the Bill.  ALA president-elect Jim Neal "urges all Senators to take special note of what the bill isn’t. Despite the arguments of its proponents, it isn’t related to modernisation of the Copyright Office, which it will impede. It isn’t about protecting or advancing the long-term interests of all Copy­right Office stakeholders, just its most powerful ones. And, by oddly out­sourc­ing appointment of the Legislative Branch’s own copyright advisor to the Executive Branch, it isn’t the way for Congress to get the nonpoliticised counsel about fairly balanced copyright law on which the economy and public interest depend."

Consumer group the Electronic Frontier Foundation also criticised the Bill, claiming that it will "effectively strip the Librarian of Congress of oversight over the Register, and is likely to increase industry influence over an already highly politicised office. The bill does nothing to improve the functioning of the Copyright Office, nor to fix any of the serious problems with copyright law, including its excessive and unpredictable penalties. We’re disappointed that so many in Congress chose to put the interests of powerful media and entertainment industries above those of the public as a whole, but the fight isn’t over yet. We’re urging the Senate to oppose the bill, and to push back against industry calls for an even more partisan Copyright Office."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Five takeaways from ASCAP 'I Create Music' Expo

By Emmanuel Legrand

US rights society ASCAP held its annual ASCAP 'I Create Music' Expo April 13-15 in Los Angeles, where some 3,000 established and aspiring songwriters focused on the art of songwriting, and were asked to make their voices heard. And a genius named Stevie Wonder thrilled with a two-hour masterclass. Here are a few highlights from the Expo.

1 - Getting involved is now part of the business of songwriters
ASCAP's Paul Williams
ASCAP 'I Create Music' Expo always had an advocacy component but this year, more than in previous years, participants were asked to bring their voices to the discussion about the future of rights societies in the American context. An energetic ASCAP Chairman and President Paul Williams reminded attendants in his "State of the Nation" speech that "what we do for a living is a holy mission," but that songwriters "deserved to make a living" from their craft. His message was addressed at digital services as well as policy-makers. "Pandora, Spotify, and all who play our music, we love that you play our music, but just give us fair payment for that," he said (in a separate session, songwriter Priscilla Renea, whose songs have been performed by Mary J. Blige and Miranda Lambert, said that for one million streams, the songwriter's royalty is about $170). And to policy-makers, he asked to put an end to a system that is "over-regulated and that under-values music," claiming that US songwriters were "the heaviest regulated small businesses in the world." He appealed to "our friends on both sides of the aisles" in Washington to reform the system, especially the consent decrees that have been ruling ASCAP and competitor BMI for 76 years. "We need a system close to a free market with a free buyer and a free seller," said Williams, adding to the benefit of the audience: "How can you make a difference? Advocacy!" He asked them to reach out to policy-makers to urge them to support the reform of copyright legislation. "This is a fight for the livelihoods of the future generations," he concluded.
2 - Build momentum!
The session 'Music Licensing Reform: The Fight for Your Rights' at ASCAP 'I Create Music' EXPO (l-to-r): ASCAP Chairman/President Paul Williams, Congressman Doug Collins, Congresswoman Karen Bass, songwriter Priscilla Renea, and ASCAP General Counsel Clara Kim.
The doxa "you must do your part" was embraced too, in a bipartisan manner, by two members of US Congress who attended ASCAP Expo -- Doug Collins (R-G) and Karen Bass (D-CA) during the session "Music Licensing Reform: The Fight for Your Rights". The Representatives from Georgia and California agreed that they tend to disagree on a lot of policies, but they find common ground on music-related issues. "This is an issue that is a bi-partisan issue but when we work in a by-partisan way it does not get any coverage," said Bass. Her message to the audience was simple: "Call your Representative, we do pay attention." She added, "Congress can be slow but can also can move overnight, if there is momentum. So you have to create a momentum by bringing it to our attention." Collins, who was labelled "a friend" by Williams, concurred: "Get to know your elected officials. We pay attention." Collins reminded the audience that "there are competing voices so the issue is how you make your voices hear." On the issues at stake -- modernising the consent decrees, reforming music licensing -- Collins commented: "These are reasonable requests from songwriters. It is not only do-able but also fair." 
3 - ASCAP is in good shape and preparing for the future
ASCAP CEO Beth Matthews was as buoyant as Williams in her address, with the clear message that ASCAP has made -- and is continuing to make -- structural changes to adapt one of the world's largest PRO to the realities of the digital era. ASCAP collected a record $1.059 billion in 2016, up 5% year on year, with $918m going back to songwriters and publishers (for every dollar in, 88 cents go back to rights holders). Meanwhile, the number of registered performances has been doubling year after year, from 250bn in 2013, to 500bn in 2015, and 1 trillion in 2016. Matthews said ASCAP will continue to build partnerships to access modern tools such as data through a deal with Nielsen, and will experiment blockchain technology with the UK's PRS for Music and France's SACEM. "We have to innovate and experiment," she said, "and we have to push the industry towards greater accountability and transparency." Matthews also offered a method for the music industry to deal with, and secure, changes in Washington. "Our recommendation is to increase the value of music and grow the whole pie," she said. "We get distracted [with cross-industry bickering] and we confuse the guys in Washington. We should agree on increasing the value of music and figure out how to divide the money after." 
4 - Give credit where it's due 
A new front has opened with songwriters getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of information offered by streaming services about songs in general, and songwriters/producers' credits in particular. “Little by little our names are being erased from existence," said Desmond Child, whose credits include 'Living on a Prayer' for Bon Jovi and 'Livin' la Vida Loca' for Ricky Martin. "When you buy a Twinkie are you going to read the credits? No. But they have to be there by law. So why is our music not as important as a Twinkie?,” asked Child. Fellow songwriter Aloe Blacc stepped in to lament the lack of response from digital services on this issue. “I’ve sent messages to Spotify and Apple and there’s been no real response," said Blacc. "We -- as songwriters, performers, engineers and mixers -- deserve our credits into the system." Child presented some empirical research outlining how the various streaming services were listing song's credits, from those who do provide some sort of credits (Apple Music, Shazam, Tidal, iTunes and Amazon Music) to those (YouTube, Pandora, Vevo, Spotify) that feature "no credit at all." Which led to an interesting conversation with a representative from Pandora, Adam Parness, who explained that credits were there on the platforms' new services. Accepting the explanation, Child said he would remove Pandora from the list of "bad guys." 
5 - Signed, Sealed, Delivered!

Paul Williams, Stevie Wonder and Janelle Monae
Stevie Wonder was in the house. And he mesmerised his audience with tales about songs in the key of life, which, quite appropriately, was the name of the Award he received from the hands of ASCAP President Paul Williams and Janelle Monae, who conducted the interview. The Key of Life Award will be bestowed annually upon songwriters who, like Stevie Wonder, "inspires and elevates the world through his songs, his spirit and his boundless heart’," in the words of Williams. This generosity was felt throughout the two hours Stevie Wonder spend at the Dolby Ballroom on Hollywood Boulevard.

Wonder turned the pages of a life dedicated to music and songwriting, from his arrival at Motown at 11 ("
I was just taking it all in"), playing the harmonica ("I wanted to play it as a small saxophone"), and meeting deadlines (“I wish I could do that. Everyone at Motown wished I could have done that. I try to do that but I don’t lock my self into It. If it’s doesn’t feel right, it’s just not done.”

Politics and today's climate were not omitted. He talked about how "heartbroken" he was at today's situation, lamenting "
all the negativity, the people that felt they wanted to make America great again when America already is great.” He added, "Citizens have to be accountable, artists have to be accountable, leaders have to be accountable as well. Stop saying, ‘Can you believe what he said?’ ‘Can you believe what she said?’ Believe it! And say it’s unacceptable.”

But the best part was, of course, the music. He regaled the audience with a harmonica solo and played 'Tears of a Clown' (for which he wrote the melody from lyrics penned by Smokey Robinson), 'Superstition' (the top line came while he was drumming), 'Girl Blue' (from Music of My Mind, which he rarely plays) and 'Golden Lady', among others. He also came with a surprise gift: the rendition of 'Where’s Our Love Song', a new track for which he had the melody since 1971. He concluded by offering young songwriters, selected by ASCAP, to work with him on four songs, an invitation he also extended to Janelle Monae (who did a good job as an interviewer) and Paul Williams

Friday, April 7, 2017

Grammys bring artists' agenda to the Hill

By Emmanuel Legrand
Keith Urban
The best advocates for music rights are usually the creators themselves, and nowhere do they express themselves more eloquently than during the Grammys on The Hill initiative. This Advocacy Day, put together by the Recording Academy, home to the Grammys, has become over the years one of the most efficient ways to "educate" policy-makers about the situation faced by songwriters, composers and performers. 
And this year was no different. A squadron of artists ascended the Hill April 6, with good humour and a sense of duty, ready to discuss their issues on behalf of fellow creators with their elected representatives.

The day before, some 60 members of Congress were serenaded at the Hamilton by Keith Urban, Wynonna Judd and John Popper of Blues Traveler, while mingling with the likes of Four Tops' Duke Fakir, country star Martina McBride, British producer Peter Asher, R&B artist William Bell, blues legend Bobby Rush, or Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick.
Urban, who received the Recording Artists' Coalition Award for his musical achievements and commitment to numerous music education programs, praised his music teachers, and invited policy-makers to continue to support music education and arts. Wynonna got policy-makers to sing her song 'No One Else on Earth' and tease them for not knowing the lyrics.

 Reforming copyright laws
But as Daryl Friedman, the Washington-DC-based chief advocacy and industry relations officer for the Recording Academy, reminded the audience that artists were also in DC to talk about the need to reform antiquated laws. Friedman listed many of the issues on the table, from performance rights for sound recordings on terrestrial radio (Fair Play Fair Pay Act)  the modernisation of the consent decrees ruling rights societies ASCAP and BMI (Songwriters' Equity Act), and the Allocation for Music Producers Act (AMP Act), which would give for the first time a royalty to music producers.

One unexpected issues also made it on the list: The threat faced by arts agencies National Endowment for the Arts and for the Humanities (NEA and NEH) to see public funding fully disappear in the Trump administration's budget for 2018. Two of the Academy's honorees -- Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) -- made references to this situation, as did the CEO of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow.

Congressman Udall explained that one in ten jobs in his state of New Mexico is related to the arts. "Arts enrich our lives, make us more humans and connect us," he said. "The purpose of government if to provide for public good and art is a public good." He pledged to fight for an NEA "under attack" and ensure that its budget stayed on, calling it "a good investment."

 A hindrance for artists
The Recording Academy's Neil Portnow
Speaking before the event, The Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow told me that the funding for the arts has become "a big issue," calling it "a mistake to eliminate funding for something that is key to American culture." Portnow said Grammys on the Hill has become "enormously successful," and this year is particular in that there is a real momentum on the Hill for music-related legislation.
"We've seen some bills coming in the past three or four weeks," said Portnow. "Music is usually a bipartisan issue, there are no party lines, and we have a lot of supporters in Congress. There are also a lot of newly elected representatives so there is a lot of education to do."

He added, "Some parts of the music industry are regulated by laws from 50 years ago, if not more, based on the circumstances from times, but that do not apply any more today. They have become a hindrance to our creative community."

Artists I spoke to before the event said they were ready to play their part. Cheap Trick's Nielsen was in DC for his second time. He joked that the first time, he went into a Senator's office to be greeted by the Congressman saying "I have all your albums." "They [the Academy] asked me and I came," he said with his raspy voice. "I have never been involved in politics, but arts are very important and people in the music industry must be treated fairly. I am one of the lucky ones. A lot of people struggle. A lot of our laws are archaic and they [legislators] know it. Time for some common sense." 

Help fix policies
Songwriter/performer Joy Uecke, of Jesse&Joy, is for the first time at Grammys on the Hill, but she enlisted and she hoped to "talk about music and politics in an amicable way." For her, the most important message for policy-makers is that creators have to be "treated fairly."

Singer, songwriter and producer Mario was on the same wavelength, as a first timer too. "When we go into a project, we put all out energy and efforts into it, and we hope to reap the benefits, but because copyright laws are not up to date we are fighting over a small piece of the pie," he said. "Music affects every body's lives, but [the system] is not fair for artists."

For Blues Traveler's John Popper, who also came for the first time, it's also about the next generation of artists. "I am hear to help fix policies that affect people," he said. "We have a lot of obstacles to overcome, and the next generation will be dealing with even more. I hope things will happen and that we'll get moving."

Congressman Darrell Issa introduces the PROMOTE Act

By Emmanuel Legrand
Congressman Darrell Issa

More copyright-related bills have popped up in the past few days in Washington, DC than in the prior two years. "It's a great time for people in the music industry," enthused a lobbyist from the music community that we spoke to at the Grammy on the Hill event in DC on April 5. Indeed there is the feeling that after over two years of hearings, consultations, reports, the times they are a-changin' on the Hill.

First, we had the initiative from Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary at the House of Representatives, with the the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (H.R. 1695), requiring the Register of Copyrights to be nominated by the President of the United States and subject to confirmation by the US Senate.

Then came the re-introduction of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which calls for performance rights on sound recordings for terrestrial radio stations. And now there's the PROMOTE Act of 2017 (H.R 1914), which very much looks like a mirror to the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, since it would allow performing artists to opt out of having their music played on the radio if the performing artist is not being paid an agreed-upon performance royalty.

Fixing inequities

PROMOTE was introduced by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee for Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet along with Subcommittee member Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and is described as a "bipartisan legislation that would fix a decades-old inequity in copyright law that allows terrestrial radio stations to play music without compensating performers." It would grant grant owners of copyright in sound recordings the exclusive right to prohibit the broadcast transmission of the sound recordings by means of terrestrial radio stations."

One observer called it "the nuclear option" for broadcasters. If the Fair Play Fair Pay Act fails to pass but PROMOTE does, radio stations could face the risk of having performers withdrawing their works from broadcasting consideration. Certainly not the best scenario.

As Congressman Issa puts it, the PROMOTE Act "calls the bluff of both sides in the debate over performance rights." He added, "The terrestrial stations playing these works without compensating the artists argue that airtime provides exposure and promotional value, while the artists argue the status-quo allows radio stations to profit on artists' performances without providing any due compensation.Our bill puts forward a workable solution that would allow those who would otherwise be paid a performance right to opt out of allowing broadcasters to play their music if they feel they’re not being appropriately compensated. This is a win-win that helps solve this decades' long problem in a way that’s fair to both parties."  

“We have been told for years that AM/FM radio provides valuable promotion to recording artists, but those artists have never been given the opportunity to decide for themselves," said Congressman Deutch. "It should be the artist’s choice whether to offer their music for free in exchange for promotional play, or to instead opt out of the unpaid use of their music."

Calling the bluff

The proposed legislation receive some positive responses from the music industry. “Kudos to Chairman Issa and Rep. Deutch, who are calling the broadcasters’ bluff on this bogus claim that ‘promotion’ somehow justifies taking music for free," said RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman. "All of radio’s competitors — who also arguably ‘promote’ — pay music creators for their work. The PROMOTE Act gets back to the basic notion of consent before property is taken. We look forward to working with the Chairman, Rep. Deutch, and their colleagues on finally resolving the performance rights loophole.”

The Executive Director of the musicFIRST coalition, Chris Israel, said: "Music creators rightly expect to be fairly compensated for their work, regardless of whether their songs are played on satellite radio services like Sirius XM, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube or AM/FM radio. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The US is the only developed country where music creators have no say when it comes to traditional AM/FM radio stations playing and profiting from their hard work, but without receiving a dime. Congressman Issa’s PROMOTE Act addresses this glaring inequity by empowering music creators to seek fair compensation when their works are played on terrestrial radio."

The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents some 10,000 radio stations in the USA, has opposed the bill, as it did for the Fair Play Fair Pay Act. “NAB has significant concerns with this legislation that would upend the music licensing framework that currently enables broadcasters to serve local communities across the country, and would result in less music being played on the radio to the detriment of listeners and artists," said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton, who said that the NAB will continue to push for the Local Radio Freedom Act, which is supported by close to 200 Members of Congress, and "recognises the tremendous benefits of free, promotional airplay for musicians and labels."

The PROMOTE Act can be found here.

Bipartisan bill calls for US radio stations to pay for sound recordings

By Emmanuel Legrand

The American copyright agenda is accelerating. On the same week that the House Judiciary Committee passed 27-1 the new bill aimed at making the Register of Copyrights a Presidential appointee, another bill that has been eagerly anticipated by the recorded music industry and performers has been pushed forward.

A bipartisan group of members of Congress have re-introduced a bill known as the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which calls for terrestrial AM/FM radio stations to pay royalties on sound recordings. Currently, only non--interactive streaming services such as Pandora and Sirius XM pay these rights to record labels and performers through rights society SoundExchange.

The bill is a joint effort from Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, and Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, along with Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Judiciary Committee Member Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL).
Addressing unfair rules

“Our current music licensing laws are antiquated and unfair, which is why we need a system that ensures all radio services play by the same rules and all artists are fairly compensated,” said Representatives Nadler, Blackburn, Conyers, Issa, Deutch and Rooney. “Our laws should reward innovation, spur economic diversity and uphold the constitutional rights of creators. That is what the Fair Play Fair Pay Act sets out to accomplish: fixing a system that for too long has disadvantaged music creators and pitted technologies against each other by allowing certain services to get away with paying little or nothing to artists.” 

According to the sponsors of the bill, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act would:
- Create a terrestrial performance right so that AM/FM radio competes on equal footing with its Internet and satellite competitors who already pay performance royalties. For the first time, music creators would have the right to fair pay when their performances are broadcast on AM/FM radio.    
- Bring true platform parity to radio so that all forms of radio, regardless of the technology they use, pay fair market value for music performances. This levels the playing field and ends the unfair and illogical distortions caused by the different royalty standards that exist today.    
- Ensure terrestrial royalties are affordable capping royalties for stations with less than $1 million in annual revenue at $500 per year (and at $100 a year for non-commercial stations), while protecting religious and incidental uses of music from having to pay any royalties at all.    
- Make a clear statement that pre-1972 recordings have value and those who are profiting from them must pay appropriate royalties for their use, while we closely monitor the litigation developments on this issue.    
- Protect songwriters and publishers by clearly stating that nothing in this bill can be used to lower songwriting royalties.    
- Codify industry practises streamlining the allocation of royalty payments to music producers.     
- Ensure that artists receive their fair share from direct licensing of all performances eligible for the statutory license.

Transparent measures

The last three points would also create a new level playing field in the music industry. For the moment, pre-1972 recordings do not have a copyright at a federal level and this has been a bone of contention between performers and labels and streaming services. There are a series of legal procedures centered on pre-1972 recordings, especially the lawsuits filed by Flo & Eddie (formerly of The Turtles) against satellite service Sirius XM.
The point about protecting songwriters and publishers is also important as there was serious concern among publishers and songwriters that if a performance royalty on sound recoding was introduced, it could be at the detriment of the current royalties on compositions. The law would ensure that the level of royalties paid to songwriters and publishers would not be affected.
And the third point refers to the sticky notion of transparency in the streaming world. Performers have voiced their worry that if labels were to make direct deals to collect these performance rights, they would also collect the performers' share and redistribute it to performers (at the moment, SoundExchange distributes directly to performers). The law would ensure that performers get their "fair share."

The passing of the bill is not guaranteed. The music community will find strong opposition from the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents the vast majority of the country's radio groups, and has constantly used its might to prevent performance rights from becoming a reality. The organisation has been pushing for its own legislation, the Local Radio Freedom Act, which has been sponsored by 165 House Representatives and opposes "any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge" on local broadcast radio stations.

A 'job-killing' royalty

In response to the introduction of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said that NAB "respectfully opposes the legislation reintroduced by Rep. Nadler that would impose a job-killing performance royalty on America's hometown radio stations. NAB remains committed to working with Congress on balanced music licensing proposals that help grow the entire music ecosystem, promote innovation, and recognise the benefit of our free locally-focused platform to both artists and listeners" Smith added that the Local Radio Freedom Act "acknowledges broadcast radio's indispensable role in breaking new artists and promoting record sales."
Music industry representatives were quick to lend their support to the Fair Play Fair Pay act. Daryl Friedman, Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer of The Recording Academy, which organises the Grammy Awards, said, “As momentum builds for congressional copyright reform, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act is a core issue. Radio is the only business in America that can use another’s property without permission or compensation. The bill protects small stations and only asks corporate radio to do what internet and satellite radio already do: compensate the creators who record the music that drives their business."

“This bipartisan legislation, together with recent developments that demonstrate strong support for the performance rights of artists, shows clear momentum for reaching a solution to copyright reform that establishes free market pay for all music creators and technology-neutral rules for music services," commented Chris Israel, Executive Director of musicFIRST, a coalition of music industry groups.

Melvin Gibbs, President of the Content Creators Coalition (c3), and Jeffrey Boxer, Executive Director/General Counsel of c3, said: "This bill sets the stage for the AM/FM performance right to be included in any copyright licensing reform. Big corporate radio’s hollow arguments and Potemkin resolutions have worn thin – and failed to stem the tide of progress."

The text of the bill can be found here.

House Judiciary Committee approves 27-1 the Register of Copyrights bill

By Emmanuel Legrand

The Judiciary Committee in the US House of Representatives has approved on March 29 by a vote of 27-1 the bipartisan Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (H.R. 1695), introduced the week before by Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. This legislative step paves the way for the bill to be discussed and voted by the House.

The bill would require for the President of the United States to appoint the Register of Copyrights, who runs the Copyright Office (USCO), and for the Senate to ratify the presidential choice. At the moment, the USCO sits within the Library of Congress and the Register is appointed by the Librarian of Congress.

In prepared remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of bill H.R. 1695, Goodlatte said that with the enactment of this legislation, both the head of the Patent and Trademark Office and Copyright Office would be subject to a nomination and consent process. He added, "The lack of a nomination and consent process for the Register has led to repeated litigation that this legislation would finally resolve. The legislation also creates matching 10-year terms of the Register of Copyrights and the Librarian of Congress. 

"A 10-year term is sufficient for the next Register and all that follow to make major changes on Copyright Office operations without worrying about a short timespan to make those changes. Since the Copyright Office is part of the Legislative Branch, I understand that an amendment will be offered to ensure that Members of Congress pick the slate of candidates from which the President must chose a nominee."

Filling a critical gap

The position of Register has been vacant since the summer of 2016, when Maria Pallante resigned amid a conflict with the Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, who seeked to reassign Pallante to other tasks within the LoC. Hayden is currently in the process of shortlisting candidates for the position. Goodlatte said that The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 "fills a critical gap that currently exists in the selection process for all future Registers of Copyright."

He continued: "The current vacancy within the Register’s Office is a timely one as we consider the Copyright Office of the future. But we should not hold up replacement of the Register to resolve the other issues that will take more time to address. So I and 29 of my colleagues introduced this legislation as a way to speed up consideration of this key component before other changes to the Copyright Office are made. We have also worked in tandem with the Senate Judiciary Committee whose bipartisan leaders share our concern that we need to act while the Register position is vacant."

Modernising the USCO

Cross-industry organisation the Copyright Alliance applauded the "prompt and decisive" and near-unanimous passage of the bill. Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid commented: “The Register of Copyrights is an extremely important position to the US economy, creativity and culture, which should be acknowledged by making the role a presidential appointee subject to Senate confirmation – just as the head of the Patent and Trademark Office and so many other senior government officials are. 

"Making the Register a presidential appointee as provided in H.R.1695 will not only make the selection process more effective and transparent but it’s also critical to the continued modernisation of the US Copyright Office. The bill enjoys widespread bipartisan support and little opposition because of the narrow and modest approach taken and the tremendous support for a more transparent process for selecting the next Register of Copyrights."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dualtone prepares for Chuck Berry's last "vintage" album

By Emmanuel Legrand  

Chuck Berry, who died on March 18, 2017  at the age of 90, had not released new material since 1979's 'Rock It,' but Dualtone Records President Paul Roper has confidence that 'Chuck,' his last recording, due out June 16, will come as a reminder that the late rock icon's was "one of the founding fathers of not just rock and roll but of contemporary music."  

Roper says the album sounds like “vintage Berry," with party songs, rockers, love songs. “He had the songs,” he added. “He recorded some parts in his home studio. The recordings needed some work and we did our best to get a proper mix."   

'Big Boys,' a teaser for the album, was released digitally on March 21 by Nashville-based Dualtone, in agreement with Berry's family. Chuck, which is dedicated to Berry's wife of 68 years, Themetta Berry, is comprised of ten new songs, eight of which were written by Berry. Plans for the release were well underway before the death of Berry, Roper said, and Berry's death did not alter the plans, except speeding up the release of 'Big Boys.'  

“Working to prepare the release of this record in recent months and in fact over the last several years brought him a great sense of joy and satisfaction,” the Berry family said in a statement posted on Facebook. “While our hearts are very heavy at this time, we know that he had no greater wish than to see this album released to the world, and we know of no better way to celebrate and remember his 90 years of life than through his music.”  

Berry has been recording and producing the songs in various studios around St. Louis, Missouri, between 1994 and 2014. The recordings involved his regular backing group at the Blueberry Hill, the St Louis venue where he's held a monthly residency until 2014. Musicians on the album include his children Charles Berry Jr. (guitar) and Ingrid Berry (vocals, harmonica), plus Jimmy Marsala (Berry’s bassist for forty years), Robert Lohr (piano), and Keith Robinson (drums). The album also includes guest performances from Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello and Nathaniel Rateliff.  

Roper explains that Nashville-based Dualtone was approached by Berry's lawyer, Gary Pierson, in 2015. "We had a decent reputation for working with artist at the tail of their careers, like June Carter Cash and Guy Clark, and treat with respect and dignity. We have that reputation for doing good work," explained Roper. Eventually, after shopping the album, Pierson and the Berry family settled with Dualtone.  

“We knew from the get go that we wanted to be involved with this project and with an artist who is a piece of art and cultural history,” said Roper. “It was also important to tell the narrative of the album and include the family on these recordings."  

The album features three generations of Berrys: Charles Junior and Ingrid, son and daughter of Chuck Berry, who often performed with their father, play on the album, and so is twenty-year-old son of Charles Junior, Charles Berry III, on 'Lady B. Goode.' “We knew he dabbled with guitar,”said Roper, “and thought it would be great to have three generations of Berrys, so we took him to Nashville and after a few rehearsals he was getting more comfortable, and when we recorded, he just did it! All those in the studio jumped. We all understood the gravity of this moment – he was playing with his dad on his grand father's record. It was a big moment to deliver on that scale.”  

Roper said working on this project was "career-defining moment" but he only had one regret: throughout the process, he only dealt with Pierson and one of Berry's daughter, Melody Exes Berry-Eskridge. "I never got a chance to meet him," said Roper.     

Chuck's track List:      
Wonderful Woman     
Big Boys     
You Go To My Head     
3/4 Time (Enchiladas)     
Lady B. Goode     
She Still Loves You     
Jamaica Moon     
Eyes of Man  

'Big Boys' can be streamed on YouTube: