In this divisive political season, one thing is clear: no one is against music. This was the message that Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee brought to NYU Steinhardt at a special meeting for members of The Recording Academy and students of NYU Steinhardt’s Music Business Program.
Held in the historic Provincetown Playhouse on November 1st, the event was part of “District Advocate Day,” an opportunity for recording artists, songwriters, producers, and music executives from around the U.S. to meet with their Senators and Congressional Representatives to discuss legislative issues relative to their communities. Befitting its musical theme, the program featured performances by New York artists Willie Nile, James Maddock, and Richard Barone.
Judy Tint, a member of the Board of Governors of The Recording Academy’s New York Chapter, led the conversation, which focused on the Music Modernization Act (MMA), which Congressman Nadler helped champion into law. The MMA addresses many 21st century music industry issues, including the establishment of a collective to distribute mechanical royalties, simplification of payments to record producers, and a long-overdue provision which ensures that pre-1972 sound recordings are treated the same way as later releases.
Commenting on the bill’s unprecedented bi-partisan support from the Senate and House, Congressman Nadler noted that when it comes to music, “politicians do not divide among party lines.”
Among the issues that still need to be addressed in the bill is the creation of a performance royalty for the use of sound recordings on AM-FM radio. Tint, an entertainment lawyer, musician, and NYU faculty member, noted that under the current law, “neither Aretha Franklin nor her record label have ever been compensated for the countless times that Respect has been played on terrestrial radio.”
Congressman Nadler said that aside from the United States, North Korea and Iran are the only other countries that do not pay performance rights to artists. Tint added that this “has also become a trade issue, as many millions of dollars are withheld from American artists each year, because there is no reciprocity with the nations that do pay performance royalties.”
The congressman took questions from the audience about arts funding, and described his own efforts to preserve funding of the National Endowment of the Arts throughout his tenure in the House.
When asked what his prediction was for next week’s midterm elections, he shared the latest polling, but declined to interpret a possible outcome.
“When I was 21 years old, I lost the Democratic primary by 18 votes. I learned then to be careful of predictions,” Congressman Nadler said.