As the year draws to an end and music fans start to speculate on which artists will and should be honoured with Grammy nominations, the Recording Academy, the organization in charge of the Grammy Awards, will undoubtedly garner a lot of attention for its always controversial choices. However, most fans are unaware of the Academy’s influential role in the past decade as a lobby group for musicians and creators. Billboard reports that October 26 marks the third annual “Grammys in My District,” an initiative started by the Academy to organize musicians and music professionals to voice their concerns directly to elected officials in the hopes of affecting change in music-related legislative reform. Over 2000 musicians and creators will visit more than 315 Congressional district offices, making this “the largest grassroots movement for music in history.” Notable artists involved include Cyndi Lauper, Eddie Money and Rodney Jerkins, but most of those in the movement are regular working music professionals who demonstrate the far-reaching effects of music-related legislation on not just elite musicians and celebrities, but non-famous, everyday creators.
“Grammys in My District” focuses on three main issues: fairness for performers, fairness for songwriters, and fairness for studio professionals such as producers and engineers. As the nature of the music industry changes from digital downloads to streaming, many of the existing payment structures do not adequately compensate creators for their work, and drastic changes to music licensing and copyright laws are necessary. Daryl Friedman, one of the Academy’s chief officers, notes that “a number of things [are already] happening” because of the Academy’s efforts: three bills introduced by this Congress and a music licensing study by the Copyright Office. Nonetheless, he admits that much still needs to be accomplished, and with Congress in the final two years of a six-year review process of the Copyright Act, the “stage [is set] now for action.”
Prudence Ng is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).