April 3, 2014
by Tierney Sneed
The 2014 Grammys on the Hill – an annual gathering of legislatures, artists and music industry types – featured intimate performances by Hanson and Lady Antebellum, as politicians gushed about meeting musicians, and musicians gushed about meeting politicians.
However, amid all the revelry at the Hamilton Live music venue in Washington, D.C., Wednesday evening, there was one issue being highlighted that the music industry takes seriously: copyright protections.
Neil Portnow, the president and CEO of the Recording Academy announced a new legislative initiative he and other reps from the music industries will be campaigning for during their advocacy day at the Capitol Thursday. Portnow proposed “a music omnibus bill” or a “MusicBus,” as he coined it during the event’s keynote speech. The bill he hopes to craft with lawmakers would strengthen the copyright laws across the music industry – unifying the interests of labels, publishers, performing rights organizations and others – in addition to piecemeal proposals that have been met by pushback from the National Association of Broadcasters.
“For all the complexities of the MusicBus concept, its goal is actually so simple it could fit on a bumper sticker,” Portnow said. “’Fair market pay to all music creators across all platforms.’”
Zac Hanson – of the pop group Hanson, who was there to sing the national anthem – voiced his support for stronger protections intellectual property, particularly in the music industry.
“We own our own record label, we write our own songs, we’ve been at it for 22 years, and I think this country’s greatest export is [its] ideas,” the MMBop-er told Whispers. “We just feel like in general a lot of digital mediums are amazing for fans, but in a lot of cases we see artists losing out. It’s not that people need a get-rich-quick scheme but there needs to be some compensation.”
Also stumping for stronger copyright laws were the event’s marquee guests, Grammy-winning country-pop group Lady Antebellum, who were among the night’s special honorees along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and music teacher Kent Knappenberger.
“We want to protect that art. As music becomes a little bit more diminished in its value, I think you have to protect some of these songwriters – this is how they make a living,” the band’s male vocalist Charlie Kelley told Whispers.
Added Hillary Scott, the female lead, “We just support the art of songwriting, the occupation of songwriting and as artists, just want to be compensated fairly.”
When asked about other political issues the band would be willing to lend their support to, they were more coy.
“We don’t know everything about all the little ins and outs from a political standpoint, obviously we have our opinions and stuff but we don’t ever want that to cloud the music,” Kelley explained.
The band said they have been approached by politicians to join their campaigns before – Lady Antebellum was reportedly on a list of musicians President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign sought to recruit – but for now would be staying away making any political statements.
“Not to sound selfish, but there’s so much of our life that’s public,” Scott said. “There’s only a handful of things that we can keep personal between us, our spouses, our families, and that’s not because we are hiding what we believe, or what we stand for, it’s more just – it’s about the music.”
They did, however cop to being big fans of the political television dramas “House of Cards” and “Scandal.”