The SCL: A Port in a Storm

Winter 2011


As I recently reported at our annual membership meeting, I am pleased to say that as we move into the fourth decade of the Society of Composers & Lyricists that the spirit of community is alive and well. As I meet new members, I realize what a diverse and varied membership we are. Talent comes in many permutations, from the classically trained composer studying at one of our leading universities around the world to those highly skilled in the latest technologies. There is a place for everyone in our ever-evolving profession. Bringing your own unique voice to our industry will continue to make it the most creative of crafts working in the field of media.

Jim di Pasquale and a group of hardworking colleagues formed what we now know as the SCL back in the early 80s. They valiantly appeared before the Labor Relations Board in an attempt for certification regarding collective bargaining. Although that certification was denied, the organization has grown from a few individuals to the leading organization for media composers in the world. I am happy to serve with an elected board of directors that is comprised of working composers and lyricists with immense talents that make my job more than rewarding.

Our membership continues to grow every day, and we have you to thank for letting your colleagues know about our organization. Since 1945, with the creation of the Screen Composers Association, through the ensuing decades under the banner of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America, our membership has always included the most talented lyricists and composers working in the field.

Even in this tight economy, the value of an SCL membership is an investment that is well worth the cost. As you are aware, the number of informative seminars on both coasts, as well as collegial gatherings, screenings, composer-to-composer events, and the celebrated Score magazine are just a few of our numerous benefits. In an at times solitary business, the SCL provides a forum to meet others traveling our path and learn from the most successful in our industry.

As we move farther into the digital age, these are historically unsettling times. We continue to be faced with obstacles in the courts. Recently, the US Supreme Court declined to grant review of ASCAP’s cert petition on the question of whether there is a public performance right in download transmissions of music files. For those in our sector, this is particularly troubling, as our monies from mechanical royalties are minimal and we look to the performance right as sacrosanct. Our community continues to face adversity from service providers such as Yahoo, Mobi TV, and DMX in the form of unfavorable rulings in the rate court. As a result, we may look to legislative solutions in the future that could be a viable alternative to legal rulings. Know that we have faced adversity before and the strength that becomes even more important in these times of challenge is a strong community of composers and songwriters, which is vital to making our impact on a national level. As I have reported to you, I have visited the “Hill” on numerous occasions and my colleagues and I continue to express the significance of your work, not only here in the US, but around the world. To that end we continue to join with fellow creators around the globe to look for answers to challenges that we have in common. Within our own borders, your performing rights organizations ASCAP, BMI and SESAC continue to be our champions as they devote countless hours and resources to the protection of copyright. Our adversaries continue to be well funded and organized, but advocacy through the PROs on our profession’s behalf, levels the playing field in the arena of intellectual property.

Despite the difficulties we face, many of our events during recent months exemplify what is great about our profession. As we join with our colleagues who have shared aspirations, we have had evenings which celebrate our craft, such as our annual membership meeting, which showcased two of the world’s legendary songwriters, Carole Bayer-Sager and Randy Newman, joined by another legendary songwriter, SCL Vice-President, Arthur Hamilton and a celebrated executive in our profession, Steven Vincent to explore the wonders of their creativity. Since my last writing, SCL New York has joined with SESAC to stage another great songwriter event and Gary Maurer and Adam Guettel have been featured in two informative evenings on the east coast. In three well-attended events Blake Neely, Richard Bellis and a panel lead by Adam Levenson have explored interesting aspects of our profession on the west coast.

For the moment, we are faced with uncertain times; uncertain times in our domestic finances, uncertain stabilities of global economies and a tightening of budgets in all aspects of our profession. It is my belief that your creativity matters more in these times of unrest than in times of plenty. Know that the joy that you bring with your music and song can be more than entertainment, it can be the heart of what gives our society the confidence to grow and prosper. We hope that the SCL can continue to be a port in the storm and a proud partner to help you attain your goals and aspirations.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number Four, Winter 2011]