WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- DC's Hamilton Live rocked Wednesday night as music artists, producers, and writers descended on the nations' capital for the 2017 GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards.
The Recording Academy's GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards featured performances from GRAMMY winners Keith Urban, John Popper of Blues Traveler, and Wynonna. Martina McBride hosted the event. Keith Urban was awarded the Recording Artists' Coalition Award for his commitment to music education along with his own musical achievements. The GRAMMYs on the Hill events bring regulatory issues for musicians, producers, and writers to decision makers on Capitol Hill.
But the photo op of the night occurred when dozens of lawmakers joined Wynonna and John Popper on the stage, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M). Wynonna joked that she was, "finally bringing Congress together."
The overall issues surrounding regulation for artists can be a very passionate topic. During an interview on WUSA9's Great Day Washington, superstar music Producer/Guitarist Peter Asher and Blues Traveler frontman John Popper say that a change in pay for music artists is drastically needed.
Asher says, "There's a number of ancient copyright issues that need to be fixed to make things fair. Most of which are actually not a matter of argument and are relatively bi-partisan and agreeable... but just need to be organized and fixed."
"People think when an artist is hearing their record on the radio all the time, they are making some money.. they're not. At least not from that," adds Asher.
This is one of the issues raised by participants of GRAMMYs on the Hill, as the Fair Play Fair Pay Act was reintroduced in Congress just last week by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The act would require payment at market value from broadcasters to artists and record labels, regardless of which platform is used.
Popper says, "We've had such a bad system that goes all the way back to the beginning of what we call Rock n' Roll."
"There's definitely improvements that have happened, but we are looking at 40 years of absolute stagnation while technology has advanced several times," adds Popper.
Radio industry representatives have a different take, they argue that the rules put in place help give artists free airplay in order to promote their albums and concerts.
A statement from Gordon Smith, President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters reads in part, "NAB respectfully opposes the legislation reintroduced by Rep. Nadler that would impose a job-killing performance royalty on America's hometown stations. NAB remains committed to working with Congress on balanced music licensing proposals that help grow the entire music ecosystem, promote innovation, and recognize the benefit of our free locally-focused platform to both artists and listeners."
The NAB backs a separate bi-partisan bill in Congress called the Local Radio Freedom Act, which would prevent Congress from imposing any kind of fees from broadcasters to artists to play music.
The radio industry sees royalty payments as jeopardizing to local jobs, and harmful to new artists looking to break into the recording business.
Asher disagrees, "There are special arrangements made for those kinds of mom and pop stations who we love and would never hurt in any way. It's big radio that basically doesn't see why they shouldn't have to pay people."
John Popper says he and his colleagues in the group Blues Traveler have always relied on concerts to keep the money rolling. But, he had to cancel recent concerts due to health issues. As the frontman of the group, his presence is required to help sell out tickets. Popper says, "If I can't work I can't eat. They wanted me back in six weeks and I had to go back after two."
"We had a tour to do and I didn't want to miss it," adds Popper.
The Recording Academy's GRAMMYs on the Hill continues on Thursday with Advocacy Day, with over 100 music creators meeting with lawmakers. Funding for music programs is also a hot button topic, with the fear of funding cuts nationwide to creative programs.
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