Music Industry Vets Give Us Their Final Thoughts
[This transcript is excerpted from a special edition of Art of the Song entitled The State of the Music Biz. Click here to listen to the complete program as broadcast on Public Radio.]
Count: We need to have a collective voice. The people creating this songs, song lyrics, etc. have no collective voice, at least in the music business. Other industries have strong groups, advocacy groups. Now, love them or hate them, these organizations do have at least the ability to provide a collective voice for these creators. Music has not seen this yet. During the course of making this film, I ended up talking to a lot of people who felt the same way, that it was time for there to be a real artist organization, run by artists for artists. It formed during the making of this film–The Content Creators Coalition formed, and I would encourage everyone to be a part of that organization–if only for the point of there being a collective voice for musicians.
Janita: They can go to irespectmusic.org and, if they want to join the conversation, we’re on twitter with #Irespectmusic and we’ve had hundreds, thousands, of photographs of people–music lovers, and musicians, and artists and actresses and actors taking a photo-a selfie of themselves–holding a sign with #Irespectmusic. It’s just putting out some good energy towards the cause for artists and music and also music lovers everywhere. You never think about how many people musicians are employing through their music and artists are employing through their music. If there were no artists, if there were no musicians, it would be a real blow to concert places everywhere, event places everywhere, recording studios everywhere. So we got to keep this thing going.
Panos Panay: Technology has been part of music since the day there was music. I mean a violin is a wonderful piece of technology. An electric guitar is a wonderful piece of technology. A drum is a wonderful piece of technology. Technology has propelled music forward since the very first day. For me, it’s about developing a comfort level between two groups of people that, for any number of reasons, they often have found themselves on opposite sides of the table. I feel it’s about actually getting them together rather than finding ways to keep them apart. Let’s face it, there’s a heck of a lot of technologists that are musicians and there’s a heck of a lot of musicians that are technologists. So the two are not as far apart as we may be thinking.
Blake Morgan: They can speak up, they can take action at irespectmusic.org. They can sign the petition. Posting photos, telling your friends, raising awareness. This is a campaign about winning the hearts and minds of music makers and music lovers and we’ve been really successful in doing that. But we can’t stop. We have to keep the pressure on. The respectful, the loving, the joyous pressure to get this changed. There are 80% fewer songwriters in Nashville than there used to be. The department of labor has estimated that there are 46% fewer professional musicians in the United States than just ten years ago. That means one out of almost one out of every two musicians is now doing something else. We can’t have this. Music is such a huge part of our national identity. Speaking up, sharing the argument, winning hearts and minds, signing the petition, urging other people to do it, posting at the hashtag on twitter and facebook. The great thing about all of these thousands of photos I’ve seen and shared myself is I can’t think of a single one where people aren’t smiling. Everyone seems really overjoyed with this positive message and we really want to keep it that way. It’s I think what makes this campaign enduring and effective and ongoing.
David Israelite: There are a lot of people that are fans of music that want songwriters to be paid fairly and they just don’t know what to do. The first thing that I would say is to make sure that everybody understands that songwriting has value and music matters. While it might be really easy to listen toYouTube music or go to the free Pandora service and listen to music now, if you’re a music fan find a music streaming service that’s right for you and pay for it. There’s a big difference between people that pay for a Spotify account versus the people that take advantage of the free Spotify account and just have to put up with commercials. Secondly, there’s a lot of things going on in Washington right now that will affect these issues. Please, reach out to your member of Congress, your Senator, and let them know that you support songwriters and, in particular, there’s a piece of legislation known as The Songwriter Equity Act that’s been introduced into this Congress and we would love it if more music fans would reach out to their members of Congress and express support for The Songwriter Equity Act.
John: As you’ve heard, we have some serious challenges facing us in the music business. Grammy president Neil Portnow posed a question at this year’s Grammy award show: “What if we’re all watching the Grammys a few years from now and there’s no Best New Artist award because there aren’t enough talented artists and songwriters who are actually able to make a living from their craft?”
Viv: It’s also about the next generation of musicians. Rosanne Cash testified before Congress, “I see young musicians give up their dreams every single day because they cannot make a living. They cannot survive doing the thing they most love. The thing they might just be on the planet to do.”
John: If you’re at all concerned about the future of music, there are a number of ways to get involved. In addition to The Songwriter Equity Act, legislation has been introduced in Congress called the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015. According to Blake Morgan of IRespectMusic, this would fundamentallychange the lives of millions of hardworking American music makers. It would reverse our country’s century-old position on not paying artists when their work is played on the radio. It also guarantees songwriters won’t be penalized in the process. There are also provisions in the bill that would minimize the financial burden on small, public, and community stations. We at Art of the Song have been concerned for some time now. Over the last two years we’ve been developing and testing an alternate business model for music streaming. More than just a streaming service, the Standing “O” Project is a community of musicians and music lovers centered around roots, indie, folk, singer-songwriter music. At the Standing “O” Project, artists are rewarded for sharing their music and helping to build the community, not for how many streams their songs get. A full 50% of the revenue goes directly back to the musicians. The rest supports the site and keeps Art of the Song on the air. More information about the Standing “O” Project may be found at standingoproject.com.