Upon a recent visit to Washington, D.C., multi-Platinum, Grammy-award winning artist NE-YO and RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman sat down to chat about a range of issues, including NE-YO’s storied music career, writing hits for Beyonce, Kanye West, Rihanna and others and his role as Senior Vice President of Artist and Repertoire (A&R) for Motown Records, among other topics.
“I just want to be one of the last great storytellers,” said NE-YO when describing his music career. “The greatest compliment I’ve ever been given – I’ve had people walk up on me and say, ‘Me and my wife’s first dance was to one of your songs,’ or ‘I was going through a really tough time with a breakup and your song helped me get through it.’ This is why I do what I do.”
As SVP of A&R for Motown Records, NE-YO is responsible for discovering new talent and bringing talent to the label. Asked by Sherman what he looks for in an artist he signs, NE-YO responded, “For me, it’s always about passion…if there’s no passion behind [your music], it becomes very ‘for the moment.’ And nothing ‘for the moment’ is ever worth it…”
“And you can definitely see it on a person. If there was no money, if there was no fame and fortune, he would still be somewhere with a guitar in his hand – that’s the guy I’m trying to sign.”
In his conversation with Sherman, NE-YO touted the benefits of being signed to a record label. “The label is support,” said NE-YO. “When you want [your music] to move a little further than just your block or your city, that costs money. It’s not a cheap thing. It’s not an easy thing. From a standpoint of distribution, from the standpoint of marketing and promotion, there’s a million things that you can do yourself, but when you need that extra long arm to get you even further, that’s where the label comes in.”
Check out more of their conversation here:
A triple threat singer, songwriter, and actor, NE-YO’s hit “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)” was certified RIAA Platinum in 2013. Three of NE-YO’s albums -- 2006’s “In My Own Words,” 2007’s “Because of You,” 2008’s “Year of the Gentleman” – have gone RIAA Platinum and produced several popular hits, including “Miss Independent,” “Sexy Love,” “Because of You,” “Mad” and “Closer.” NE-YO has also appeared in several films including Stomp The Yard, Save the Last Dance, Red Tails, and Battle: Los Angeles and written music for films such as The Princess and the Frog, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire and I Can Do Bad All by Myself.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, today introduced the “Songwriter Equity Act.”
We welcome Congress’ review of the laws governing music licensing, and whether those laws written long ago still work in the context of today’s dynamic music marketplace. It has become increasingly clear that music copyright law has fabricated inappropriate distinctions in the rights enjoyed by creators, resulting in anomalies and inequities. The bill introduced deals with some of the interconnected pieces of music licensing reform, and other issues are also important, such as ensuring that all creators are paid fair market value for their music, regardless of platform; payment for pre-72 works; performance rights for airplay; and improvements in the system for mechanical licensing. We look forward to working with Congress, our music community colleagues and our distribution partners toward meaningful reform that benefits consumers and creators alike.
Executive Vice President, Communications and Strategic Data Analysis
“What’s the one thing that never gets old? Listen how the story unfolds…”
Our sister trade org in London, IFPI, recently launched a new Rube Goldberg-inspired video featuring talented MC Pepstar that takes the viewer on a creative tour through the history of recorded music in 90 seconds. Filmed at the iconic Abbey Road Studios, the video tells the story of the staying power of music: while technology has changed – and continues to change – one thing that forever remains is the music. It’s an entertaining and inspirational video that’s sure to impress. Check it out here: www.musicremains.org.
Today, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its report highlighting markets around the world in which the theft of U.S. intellectual property is open and notorious (see our news release here). Included in its report were a number of online sites that have a uniquely prejudicial impact on the ability to develop viable legitimate online music marketplaces in some key territories, and whose practices are particularly intolerable. There are three in particular that jump off the page: Russia’s vKontakte, Ukraine’s ex.ua, and Vietnam’s Zing.
While sites such as the Pirate Bay or Brazil’s Degraçaémaisgostoso.org (the English translation of which is “Free is much better”) may, in some respects, be more overtly hostile to creators, Russia’s vKontakte, Ukraine’s ex.ua and Vietnam’s Zing are particularly notorious inasmuch as they occupy central places in the e-lives of the citizenry of their respective countries. These are companies that should be licensed distributors sustaining creators rather than opportunistic pirates robbing their countries of innovation and creativity. They should be contributing to the economic and cultural welfare of their societies. They have made conscious business decisions to profit by providing access to infringing materials. Sadly, the world will always have its Pirate Bays championing ill-considered forms of cyber-anarchism, but it should not have central online actors that coldly and rationally choose theft as a business model.
The music industry is at a very interesting and exciting inflection point. Authorized music delivery platforms are being introduced or expanded around the globe, providing more and more options to users, both in terms of the diversity of music as well as the range of access models from which to choose. From permanent downloads to streams to everything in between, there has never been a greater time to be a music consumer. But to maintain this growth of services, and to sustain the creative community that produces content, it is critical that societies address the unfair competition posed by the operation of unauthorized services. At one time, some people justified piracy due to the unavailability of content through licensed platforms. Regardless of the legitimacy of such arguments at that time, there can be no question that those arguments no longer hold water in today’s diverse music marketplace. Access to legitimate music has never been as easy, inexpensive and ubiquitous. There is simply no excuse for operating a service based on providing access to infringing music, and we hope that the companies named in today’s USTR report will take prompt action and become part of a community that empowers creators.
Today our colleagues at the International Intellectual Property Association (IIPA) submitted, on behalf of us and other creative industry organizations, a report to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on recommended reforms “needed to address the theft of intellectual property and other barriers to overseas markets faced by U.S. industries that rely on copyright protection.” That submission was part of the USTR’s annual so-called “Special 301” process. You can read more details here.
Some particular perspective relevant to the music industry is worth highlighting. 2013 was an incredibly dynamic and busy year for fans and the music community, with the launch or expansion of new services in the United States and global markets, and an emerging awareness that efforts to more meaningfully address the theft of intellectual property are important in order to enhance cultural production and economic competitiveness. Governments around the world took important if initial steps to rein in unfair competition that undermines the ability of the creative sector to flourish.
Italy adopted important measures through its regulatory authority (AGCOM) in an effort to address Internet piracy through expedited procedures—in other words, in internet time. Spain continued to make some improvements to its regulatory structure to try to repair some of the damage to its cultural industries resulting from a decade of neglect, although these reforms have yet to make an impact on the market for cultural materials. The government of the Philippines continued to enhance its enforcement against piracy, and even China has witnessed a transformation away from pirate platforms and towards licensed services.
These are but a few examples of a growing recognition of the negative impacts on societies from permitting pirate services to operate without interference—a trend that we hope will further accelerate in 2014. There is much left to accomplish.
Neil Turkewitz, Executive Vice President, International, RIAA
As a quick refresher, RIAA member companies sued SiriusXM last fall in California for refusing to pay for its use of music made before 1972, despite repeatedly playing these popular songs on various SiriusXM channels. More specifically, SiriusXM plays music that was recorded before February 15, 1972 by transmitting high-quality digital versions of those recordings to more than 25 million paying customers – all the while refusing to pay the artists who created these cultural treasures. These songs are some of the most iconic of all time – music by artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Supremes, Bob Dylan, and hundreds of others – so it’s inconceivable and a strong injustice that SiriusXM refuses to pay. It’s a wrong we’re trying to right.
Which is why, on behalf of group of independent and major record labels, RIAA recently asked a court in California on Monday to affirm that California law recognizes a right of digital public performance for sound recordings that were created before February 15, 1972 (a copy of the filing is available upon request). Doing so will ensure that companies such as SiriusXM that transmit these pre-‘72 recordings to their subscribers from satellites or over the Internet pay the artists and music labels who created those recordings for SiriusXM’s use of them. (Keep in mind that through a quirk in U.S. copyright law, only sound recordings made after 1972 are protected under federal law. Congress, however, has made clear that states are free to protect recordings made before 1972. We’re simply asking a judge to affirm that California state law protects sound recordings made before 1972).
What does this mean? For more than 40 years, California law has explicitly recognized the existence of property rights in pre-’72 recordings. Those property rights have for many years protected the creators and owners of those recordings and allowed them to make money from selling copies of those recordings to the public as vinyl records, audio tapes, and CDs. But as we all know, times have changed and the music industry has completely transformed itself. Fans now enjoy access to music through a variety of digital platforms, including the ones that SiriusXM offers. But unlike the other digital platforms that DO pay legacy artists, SiriusXM simply refuses. It flies in the face not only of California law but of the basic principles of fairness.
As a multi-billion dollar business, it’s fair to say that SiriusXM is a successful company. We applaud them for their success. But their business model only works when there’s music. Artists from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s have given fans a reason to dance and sing for decades, and fans seek out stations that feature their great music. These artists deserve payment for their work. It’s only right and it’s only fair.
The RIAA Team
Before you read any further, click this link for the blog post by the always illuminating Seth Godin (I’d also recommend this book of his expanding on the subject). What Mr. Godin understands so well is the importance of human connection and group activity for everything from art to household goods to ideas.
Maybe this can be a good context for us to think about the evolution of music?
It wasn’t so long ago that the way many people listened to music was very different from today. Of course radio was a big part, but so was the record player and the Hi-Fi, with many hours (and dollars) dedicated to finding just the right setup and pair of speakers. It was easy to listen with friends and family, picking out your favorite albums to share, or finding just the right station to hear the new song everyone is talking about.
When the cassette, and later the CD came out, the way people listened changed too. It became easier to disconnect from others and just listen alone on a Walkman. But the desire to use music to connect with others didn’t go away. Does anyone else remember looking at their new college roommate’s CD collection as their first gauge of how well you would get along? And joining other fans for a live concert might be the best example of one of Mr. Godin’s “Tribes” coming together around a shared experience.
Then came digital music and the iPod. Is there any more perfect imagery than the white earbuds to represent the ability to listen to music all by yourself? Digital music allowed people to listen to virtually whatever they want, wherever they want – but apparently was so good at isolating us that we need instruction manuals (“Avoid switching off your brain when you switch on your gadget”) on how to continue functioning like human beings while we use them. Events like the Grammys and the Super Bowl became more important and more popular as there were fewer opportunities to have everyone connect on a single point.
But now we’re seeing music at the forefront of the new ways people are connecting to each other online. On Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, music artists and videos dominate the lists of what is most popular. Virtually all of the new music streaming services (like Spotify, YouTube, and now Beats Music and others) have an online social component as part of the basic fabric of the listening experience. And fans are connecting with other members of their “tribes” in greater numbers. So even with headphones on, people are not just listening by themselves.
Joshua P. Friedlander
Vice President, Strategic Data Analysis, RIAA