Last month I stood onstage at a venue in Washington, D.C., and performed “I Am a Song” for a distinguished audience that included nearly 50 members of Congress. They seemed to enjoy my performance, as well as those of the other performers, including the Zac Brown Band, Yolanda Adams, Ed Roland and Warren Haynes. Now, Congress has the chance to show it appreciates not just music, but music makers as well.
Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle, like Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen, have been steadfast champions for music creators because they understand the important role of music in our state and in our nation. With a review of copyright underway in Congress, it’s time for all legislators to support music’s role in our culture and economy.
A 2013 report from the Music City Music Council stated that the Nashville area has more music industry jobs than any other U.S. city in relation to total population and employment numbers. This comes as no surprise to us. Everyone in Nashville reading this is either in the music industry or knows someone who is — whether they be a songwriter, studio professional or publisher. And everyone reading this is likely a music fan.
As a leader in the global music industry and with more than 56,000 music industry-related jobs in the Nashville area alone, Americans look to Nashville to pave the way for the music industry. Nashville is the safe haven where creative professionals can gather, collaborate and find a home in one of the many local venues that span the city — from the Gulch to SoBro and the central business district — and with an increasing amount of welcomed music genres.
While Nashville is the leader in the music industry, this leadership is not being adequately reflected in our nation’s capital.
The day after I performed that song for legislators, we met with Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., to discuss the issues facing the music community. What are we asking for? Reform of our music licensing laws.
Today, music licensing is controlled by a confusing patchwork of laws and regulations that have not kept up with the changes in the digital music marketplace. The result is that these outdated laws prevent music creators getting paid fairly for the music they make. Songwriters are regulated by the Department of Justice. Recording artists aren’t compensated when the billion-dollar radio industry uses their music. And producers and studio professionals aren’t protected in copyright law at all.
The reality is that Tennessee and the Nashville economy depend on copyright. The music community has been operating off of copyright rules that were last revised more than 40 years ago — long before today’s Top 100 songs, and back when I was first learning to play the guitar. Modernizing today’s copyright laws will only continue to benefit our city and our state.
Reps. Blackburn and Cohen have shown their support for all music creators by co-sponsoring the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, the Allocation for Music Producers Act (AMP Act) and the Songwriter Equity Act. But we need every member of Tennessee’s congressional delegation to come together and support the music community by co-sponsoring these bills. It should be easy for our representatives to support this legislation. which will improve the lives of the creators who are the backbone of the music industry.
Music professionals should not be overlooked, nor should their valuable contributions be diminished. No place understands this more than Nashville. Music is integral to who we are as Americans. It’s not only part of our soul, but our livelihood and national culture. We need more voices. We need harmony. Use the hashtag #SupportMusic when you are online to let everyone know that you love music and support music makers. And let your local representative know how important music is to you. Visit grammy.com/action to get involved.
Jim Lauderdale is a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter. He is the musical host of Music City Roots and co-hosts “The Buddy and Jim Show” on SiriusXM Radio.
Courtesy of The Tennessean. Musik and Film believes this is long overdue