Neil Portnow tackles digital royalties at the Grammys, unveils Creators Alliance

Neil Portnow tackles digital royalties at the Grammys, unveils Creators Alliance

The digital royalties debate took centre stage at the Grammys last night as the President of the Recording Academy Neil Portnow highlighted the issue together with Jennifer Hudson and Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic.

The annual speech - which usually involves some sort of appeal against piracy - took a different turn with the introduction of the GRAMMY Creators Alliance, established to give musicians “an amplified voice” in shaping the music industry’s future. The Creators Alliance has amongst its founding members diverse acts like Alicia Keys, deadmau5, Steven Tyler, Lady Antebellum and Ryan Tedder.

Even though the speech was not against piracy, Portnow put forward the tried and tested “disaster movie” scenario of a Grammy Awards ceremony devoid of new artists and songwriters because they can no longer make a living from their craft. He stated that music matters in people’s lives and as a consequence new technologies should pay artists fairly.

Jennifer Hudson remarked that thousands of artists and songwriters have travelled to Washington DC to speak out for their rights, and this remark ties in with the fact that the Creators Alliance plans to play an active role in advising on the drafting of possible new copyright legislation, following the release of a 245-page report by the US Copyright Office just last week which recommends a pretty radical set of reforms to the current system, including a fairer distribution of royalties between recording artists/labels and songwriters/publishers.

Ryan Tedder stated: “Music activism is coming at exactly the right time. From the Turtles to Taylor Swift, longtime established and new generations are speaking out. With all the changes in how we listen to music and the review of copyright laws which are set by Congress, music creators and fans must speak out now.”

Spotify (for once) was not mentioned directly - there are after all a bunch of services offering digital music in the US, each with its particular set of issues around royalty payments. It is interesting though to see the industry react so quickly and in a relatively organised manner following the publication of the Copyright Offices’ report and the focus displayed at the Grammys should make for an interesting 2015 since - in order for the new recommendations to be shaped into legislative form before the Obama administration starts winding down operations - things will need to move fast.

(Andrea Leonelli)