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Grammy on the Hill

Grammy on the Hill – Lobbying at the Capital for Musicians Performance Rights part 2

Robert Fisher ’79 spent two days lobbying on Capital Hill for musicians rights! In this post, he will talk about day two on the hill!


We started the day with breakfast at the Laision Hotel and an issues briefing with Neil Portman and Daryl P. Freidman. Then, special guest Congressman Jerry Nadler informed us of a few interesting facts: “…the U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t provide full compensation for sound recordings on the radio. Moreover, even though other countries provide for this sound recording right, the failure of the U.S. to do the same means that our singers and musicians cannot take advantage of it abroad. This costs our economy millions of dollars a year, unnecessarily.”


Everyone takes Taxis over to Capital Hill starting at the Rayburn House Office Buildings with our assigned Congressional Guide.


Next we had breakout meetings with our Senators and Congressmen at the Capital. We walked for what seemed to be miles and miles in underground passages and halls to make all the meeting deadlines with our Capital Congressional guide leading the way.

First stop was Congressman Howard Berman representing the Sherman Oaks district of the greater Los Angeles area. We had given him an award the night before for champion musicians performance rights support. Then we travelled the halls to Representative Henry Waxman’s office and had a discussion with his aide, Patricia Delgado, who was very outspoken about our quest to educate musicians about piracy issues and that their music can be taken from any media platform they are using without proper compensation. The millions of artists that are sharing their music are considered the new music industry and not the major labels. We need to become more business savvy in order to protect our own property. The social media artists are the new canary in the coal mine and we are being watched carefully on how we manage the business of our own art over the Internet. Think about how legislation should be worded and presented to both houses so that the lawmakers can pass a fair compensation package. You, as an artist, can create the new business model for the future. Please help us with bringing your ideas to the table.

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Our last official breakout meeting was with Barbara Boxer. She was in the House of Representatives arguing over the Violence Against Women Act when she broke out to visit us in the Capital Lobby. Barbara was very direct by focusing on the answer to our quest for successful legislation. She said (paraphrased)…”This is what you need to do. You need to have several champion artists out in front creating momentum concerning the performance rights issues. Then we will have wind under our sails to pass legislation that will benefit all artists. Senator Feinstein and myself are already committed. Just bring us your new proposals and we will pass it into law. It’s up to you, my dear friends. Join together and make history. You are the new business model for your own future! This is a bipartisan issue that both parties are in favor of.”


Leaving the Capital Lobby and heading towards a new reception room that has our lunch ready, I seem to be the only person to notice Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pass us while talking to a friend. I nodded as I passed her and she had the nicest smile. Well, I guess I’ll soon look forward to being a familiar face roaming the halls of the Capital and the White House. Saying hello to everyone. I’ll one day say…”Good morning, Mr. President, did you get my email?” I truly just want to get things done, at least as a Lobbyist at the beginning. What an honor it is to serve in the same hallways as our founding fathers.

Our group is finally all together for a lunch break as we prepare to be taken by luxury bus to the West Wing of the White House. What an extraordinary day is has been so far.


After we had been delivered to the Old Executive Building we noticed several machine gun wielding Secret Service agents that were there to protect the White House. We went through the final security check point before we entered the gateway to the West Wing of the White House, The Old Executive building. We were in…and we were headed to the West Wing briefing room. We’re here in America’s most beautiful home. We felt so welcomed and appreciated by the staff. The White House gifted us with the Obama’s administration top advisers representing the United States.

We had a total of five speakers including The White House moderator and Neil Portnow. The keynote speaker was White House advisor Victoria Espinal, who is the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

These are some of the highlights of Victoria’s inspiring comments:

“Throughout our history, we’ve produced countless groundbreaking innovations, from Henry Ford’s assembly line to’s Internet sales model, from Edison’s light bulb to Bell Labs’ transistor, from General Electric’s jet engines to Google’s Internet tools. Intellectual property is a key driver of our economy. The report found that IP-intensive industries create 27.1 million jobs and indirectly support another 12.9 million jobs. All told, nearly 30% of all U.S. jobs are directly or indirectly attributable to the IP-intensive industries. These are jobs that pay well. The average weekly wage in the IP-intensive industries overall is 42% higher by 2010 and its 73% for patent industry jobs and 77% for copyright industry jobs. It doesn’t stop there:  the entire U.S. economy relies on some form of intellectual property, because virtually every industry either produces intellectual property or uses it. We have taken important steps forward in our effort to protect American innovation and create an economy that’s built to last.”

Summary of Performance Rights Issues:

-Broadcasters make billions off of musical commercials while creators of the music do not get paid.

-New digital media does not compensate for creators works.

-Other countries collect performance rights but American artists don’t get a penny from overseas.

-Copyright jobs keeping track of millions of unpaid royalties creates new jobs for the economy.

-Online Piracy issues need to be resolved.

-Creators of music should be fairly compensated.

More interesting facts that came from Victoria Espinal, who is the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the Obama Administration.

The online music industry internationally grew about 27% to $4.2 billions in 2009, with digital platforms now totaling about 27% of recorded music sales. Single track downloads globally rose 10% to 1.5 billion units. But that promise is undercut by piracy, with the IFPI estimating that there were more than 40 billion files illegally file-shared in 2008, a piracy rate of 95%. The percent of the U.S. Internet population participating in illegal file trading reached 19% in 2007, with P2P music sharing continuing to grow among teens. More than one-fourth of U.S children ages 9 to 14 that year were found to share infringing files on a popular P2P site.

Online piracy has joined physical counterfeiting as a daunting economic challenge to all copyright industries and to the U.S. economy. According to a study conducted for the Institute for Policy Innovation, piracy costs the U.S. economy $58 billion annually in total output, including revenue and related measures of gross economic performance. A conservative estimate of 2005 data from four major U.S. copyright industries – motion pictures, sound recordings, business software, and entertainment software/video games – demonstrate at least $25.6 billion in lost revenue. This results in federal, state and local governments forfeiting at least $2.6 billion in tax revenues annually, with $1.8 billion of that total lost personal income taxes and $0.8 billion lost corporate income and production taxes.

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Grammy on the Hill – Lobbying at the Capital for Musicians Performance Rights

Robert Fisher ’79 spent two days lobbying on Capital Hill for musician’s rights! In this post, he will talk about day one on the hill!

Wednesday April 25, 2012 – Washington, D.C.

Arrive at the Liasion Hotel for Party check in:

I flew into Reagan International Airport on Saturday, April 21st from Los Angeles to meet my daughter, Toni Fisher, (originally from Los Angeles and currently singing in a band in Washington called the Rites of Ash). We both felt at home at the Grammy on the Hill awards party in the heart of Washington, D.C. Many familiar faces from the LA chapter made us feel like we were in good company including Marty Kraft, Kelly Milionis, Linda Mensch, and Neil Portnow, President of the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), whom attends consistently every year. Toni and I quickly took some touristy shots of us in front of the Capital lawn before the sun went down. We took a quick peek of the awards banquet ballroom with all its decorated purple glitter and tinsel.


Toni and I arrived at the check-in tables and were greeted by photographers eager to find out who was arriving at this year’s stellar Grammy event coordinated by Crystal Hypolite. We then proceeded inside the reception party in the Art and Soul Lounge that quickly started to fill up with artists and guests.  I always look forward to meeting old friends from past Grammy on the Hill Lobbying events, but it’s equally exciting to meet new faces that are there to make a difference by being a true American activist, some whom were experiencing the calling for the very first time. It is so patriotic to get involved with the political process and actually physically make a difference by talking directly to a Senator in their office. You walk away feeling like, “I no longer have anything to complain about,“ because you can do something about it!  We are actually getting American musicians voices heard by going directly to the politicians. We celebrated victorious that night before we even walked up the hill. We had lots of faith in our past work because this time around Capital Hill was waiting for us! We just had to show up. We were so grateful for all the overwhelming support we get from the Hill. That night we had a chance to award the front line advocates for musicians performance rights like Congressman Henry Berman and also John Mayer for his work with the returning care for U.S. soldiers.

8:10 pm

Luke Russert (son of late Tim Russert) Master of Ceremonies took the podium and introduced the key note speakers, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, Neil Portnow (NARAS), Pat Collins (SESAC), Daryl P. Friedman, Chief Advocacy and Industry Relations Officer of the Recording Academy (Organizer), and DJ and advocate Jimmy Jam. Guitarist Rick Nielson of Cheap Trick opened the event with a melody and chordal version of our National Anthem that was a solo instrumental.


Awards presented to Congressman Howard Berman and finally John Mayer who spoke so eloquently on how he helps returning soldiers adjust to civilian life after combat (post combat traumatic stress syndrome) PTSD experiences. John says it helps to ask soldiers about their experiences and just listen. “Yellow ribbons for returning veterans are just IOU’s to help our veterans adjust to civilian life once they return home”


Senator Orrin Hatch surprised all of us with a song he had co-written with a songwriting team about his beloved State of Utah. The song was performed live on stage for the Grammy on the Hill audience and was received with a heartfelt emotional response. The Senator stood up and acknowledged the warm reception of his own music with a standing ovation for “High Country”.


Then the explosive musical fireworks were delivered on stage with blues guitar icon (who will always be John Mayer’s and any musicians mentor) the great Buddy Guy rocked Capital Hill at night! Whether you are Democrat or Republican, music always melts the hearts with the labor of its love. John Mayer then joined forces with Buddy and musical history was created in front of our ears. To hear those two musical geniuses exchanging blues guitar lead licks as if they were having a conversation was extraordinary. Every Congressman and Senator we met during the evening’s afterglow and at the next day Capital Hill meetings and speeches, all opened with a musical appreciate for Buddy and John’s performance.

*As a side note and behind the scenes to all the festivities, my daughter and I videotaped a cover song of Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” on Monday at the Rites of Ash recording studio in Annandale, VA. Posted on YouTube Tuesday and went viral by Wednesday night. By Thursday morning it doubled in hits. It was quite the buzz last night and again at the breakfast tables this morning with the Grammy on the Hill participants. Big surprise for all of us!


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