There’s been a lot going on in our business over the last several months. I am pleased to welcome four new board members, Ramon Balcazar, Shawn Clement, Denis Hannigan, and Michael Silversher. Each brings his unique talent to our exceptional board. We regrettably say farewell to Sharon Farber, Lynn Kowal and Stu Phillips, though I am optimistic that they will join our ranks again.
The performing rights organizations, which have steadfastly led the crusade for copyright protection on our behalf, took some time over the summer to recognize their members who have continued to help make them what they are. The Society of Composers & Lyricists was front and center as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC celebrated those who have played a significant role in making their films, television shows and games the most successful in their respective industries.
Our organization continues to present informative programs on both coasts as the SCL New York continues to grow with the help of a devoted and energetic steering committee combined with the satisfying partnership it has nurtured with the performing rights organizations there. You can read more about their activities within the body of this month’s issue. Here in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to moderate a panel put together by Ray Costa comprised of some of our most talented composers as we delved into the world of scoring for dramatic television at AFI in June. This event was followed a few weeks later in an evening featuring Michael Giacchino, who brought his talented team to a sold out gathering to explore their working relationship.
In May, I was once again privileged to go to Washington with ASCAP to “Walk the Halls” and spread our message with legislative members and aids. Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle were updated as to some of our ongoing challenges in the courts, as we lay groundwork that could in fact be a precursor to legislation that could play a role in preserving our royalty stream. My colleagues and I covered such basic points as differentiating our contributions from the artists that make their livelihood on the touring circuit, to the complexities of working under a consent decree that enables a music user to receive a license to use our music by merely asking for. We stressed the point that arriving at a reasonable price can be held up in courts for years as we await an outcome to the resolutions. We reiterated that musical performances have been grossly devalued in online and new media. Since our sector in the television and film world is rarely entitled to mechanical rights, the performance right becomes even that more of a concern.
Our trip to the hill was preceded by a concert at the Library of Congress. Congressional leaders introduced performers from their home states and from what we have heard, the evening entitled, We Write the Songs, has become one of the most anticipated events of the year for those in Congress. The night was filled with a number of stellar performances, including former SCL president, Bruce Broughton at the piano with his lovely and talented wife, violinist Belinda, who did an inspired suite from Silverado. Dean Kay, a great friend to our community, did a rousing version of That’s Life and Hal David brought down the house as he performed Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. In an encore performance, ASCAP president, Paul Williams was in fine form as he sang and acted as the master of ceremonies.
Even those not clearly connected to our industry understand that it is a time of change. Every facet of the entertainment business has experienced its own challenges, and the music for media profession continues to grapple with the growing pains of traditional terrestrial broadcast migrating to the Internet. In June, I was in New York to hear oral arguments in ASCAP’s and BMI’s separate appeals of unfavorable rulings in each of their rate setting cases with DMX, a background music service provider. The company was successful in being granted a much lower fee basis than the PROS were requesting in their District Court proceedings. The case on appeal was heard in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and over seen by three appellate judges. The outcome is pending, and as in all of these types of cases, an unfavorable ruling runs the risk of setting dangerous precedents in decisions down the line.
The positive news is that although we are experiencing a time of challenge, our contributions and importance to the whole have never been more pronounced and undeniable. As new outlets for programming continue to present themselves, the need for music and song becomes more consequential. Making sure that we are compensated fairly has never been easy, and in the digital age it has become even more of a slippery slope. We continually stress that we, as the ultimate small businessperson, have a right to be treated with integrity in the market place. We will continue to make our voices heard. We will continue to advocate for fairness, and certainly we will continue to spread the message that without our wonderful music and song, ours would be a society less enriched and less fulfilled.
Published in The SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number Three, Fall 2011]