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US artists form new lobbying group

By | Published on Wednesday 31 July 2019

Meghan Trainor

Artists including Don Henley, Dave Matthews, Anderson .Paak and Meghan Trainor have signed up to a new American lobbying group that says it will speak up for music makers in Washington and across the US.

There are parallels between the new Music Artists Coalition and the UK’s Featured Artists Coalition, although the American group will also have artist representatives on its board, including managers Irving Azoff and Coran Capshaw and lawyer Jordan Bromley.

As in many countries, in America there are an assortment of trade groups, unions, professional bodies and collecting societies that all speak up for the music community in political circles.

That includes organisations representing labels, publishers and other music companies, as well as songwriters and record producers. And while many of those will say they speak for artists, and some have artists as members, Azoff argues that – at the moment – the artists themselves “don’t really have a seat at any table”.

Of course, last year there was unprecedented collaboration between those various music industry groups as the Music Modernization Act went through the motions.

That legislation instigated what were sometimes referred to as “once in a generation” copyright reforms. Though it has to be said that there remain plenty of other changes to copyright and other laws that the music community would still like to see. And presumably the new MAC is hoping to part of the conversation around those further reforms.

It’s not the first time Azoff has been involved in setting up a lobbying group for artists, his previous effort, the Recording Artists Coalition, being subsequently merged into the Recording Academy.

It’s not clear what issues the new group will prioritise. Many of the big talking points in the American music industry at the moment relate primarily to songwriters, including the setting up of the new mechanical rights society initiated by the MMA; the dispute at the Copyright Royalty Board about what monies streaming services should pay; and the latest review of the consent decrees that regulate existing societies BMI and ASCAP.

But there are other issues too that are not specific to song rights. Not least the pesky copyright safe harbour that has just been reformed in Europe. And, of course, the never-ending campaign to force American AM and FM radio stations to pay royalties to labels and artists, in the same way their counterparts do in most other countries.

Launching the new Coalition, Henley said in a statement: “Artists decide their musical fate every time they write a song or step on stage. Their true fate – the ability to protect their music – is being decided by others … bureaucrats, government legislators, and the powerful digital gatekeepers. We are forming the Music Artists Coalition to ensure that there is an organisation whose sole mission is to protect the rights of music artists performers and songwriters”.