In addition to fights over possible video game and movie regulation designed to combat gun violence, and ongoing disputes about YouTube and piracy, there’s an issue on the far, far back burner in Washington, D.C., that a lot of people out in Hollywood care about a great deal, and on which not much is getting done: Music royalties.
And apparently, some people in Hollywood are getting their pitchforks ready—but not for inactive politicians. Instead, they’re training their fire on their very own lobbying organizations.
Meet Jay Cooper. He’s a big time entertainment lawyer with Greenberg Traurig out on the West Coast.
He also sits on the Board of Directors of Sound Exchange, the organization that music royalties run through and therefore one of the biggest players in the fight to reform music royalty rules in a manner more favorable to artists, creators, record labels, etc., etc., etc.
Sound Exchange funds a bunch of pro-music royalty lobbying in Washington, D.C. And reportedly, Cooper has been getting more and more mouthy about what he sees as failings in the lobbying efforts Sound Exchange funds.
This is taking not just the form of a Hollywood lawyer complaining to other Hollywood bigwigs that money he is partially in charge of directing is going to lazy, D.C. swamp layabouts who count “deliverables” as lunches at the Palm or meetings with random congresscritters’ legislative assistants who, of course, always promise to “raise the issue with their bosses,” or researching the feasibility of $15,000-a-pop weeklong sponsorships of Beltway publication morning newsletters.
It turns out that Cooper last month took to the pages of Billboard to call for the formation of an entirely new lobbying organization, because apparently, he thinks the ones that already exist that Sound Exchange is funding suck exactly that much. His complaint seems to be most focused on groups purporting to represent artists, as opposed to those representing labels or other components of the music industry.
Apparently, it’s bad enough he wants to resuscitate some entity he created with Don Henley and Sheryl Crow two decades ago because all the current players are so worthless.
Here we are in 2018 where featured recording artists are facing many issues in the industry that are unique to them alone: the need of a performance right for recording artists from AM/FM radio, the continuing battle with labels challenging the artist’s termination rights (despite the law), and the erosion of artist royalties. I believe it is now time for RAC 2.0 to be formed as an additional voice alongside AFM, SAG/AFTRA, Sound Exchange and the Recording Academy so that the world hears directly from the very artists that are affected by the enormous challenges of technology, the challenges to their termination rights, the erosion of royalties, or simply the non-payment or routine underpayment of royalties.
In the UK, the Featured Artists Coalition is an advocacy group with a Board of Directors that includes members of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Annie Lennox, among others. They work tirelessly on behalf of all featured recording artists. We need the same level of commitment from featured recording artists here in the US, the world’s largest music market.
This sounds a lot like what two coalitions already in up and running, and funded by Sound Exchange, exist to do: The Content Creators Coalition and musicFIRST.* But apparently, they’re not getting the job done, and so we now have a big Hollywood lawyer blasting ineffective Hollywood lobbying organizations he funds in one of Hollywood’s biggest publications, and in conversation around town in Hollywood.
It’s generally hard to get the rest of America on board with Hollywood on virtually any topic, but Cooper seems to have found a unifying topic to bring the country together in this time of discord: The generally terrible, awful, useless, sucky, behavior of D.C. swamp creatures who do basically nothing other than enrich themselves.
No one is going to spare a tear for Cooper himself, or Don Henley or Sheryl Crow, but for a lot of smaller time musicians who aren’t leftist tabloid cover hounds, the kind of money wastage he’s pointing to actually matters. Remember, too, that while you’re not paying for Sound Exchange’s lobbying, with the proliferation of government agencies bidding out advocacy contracts to high priced firms (a huge problem in the Obama years), the prevalence of fat-and-happy swamp creatures getting rich matters in deeply personal terms to you, too. After all, you’re the taxpayer—and the ultimate client in some of these scenarios.
Just not Cooper’s. But it sounds like he’s mad enough that he doesn’t need you backing him up with pitchforks, anyway.
*Note that Sound Exchange apparently does not fund the Content Creators Coalition, though it does appear to fund musicFIRST, which is perhaps the entity Cooper is really trying to take a shot at with his post.