Irving Azoff, Don Henley, Coran Capshaw, Dave Matthews, Others Start an Artist Lobbying Group to Fight Big Tech — Introducing the Music Artists Coalition

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Photo Credit: slgckgc / CC by 2.0

The Music Artists Coalition is a new lobbying group formed on behalf of some of the biggest stars in music.

Dave Matthews, Don Henley, Anderson .Paak and Maren Morris are all on board, along with manager Irving Azoff.  Other names include managers Coran Capshaw and John Silva.

The Music Artists Coalition will advocate on artists’ behalf in music-related disputes in Washington.  The work will encompass a range of issues, many of which are only spottily represented on Capitol Hill despite billions of lobbying power by tech giants like Google.

The light representation for artists may explain why artists are often getting the shaft in the digital era.  At present, musicians depend on federal courts and Congress to determine their royalty fees.  Bars, radio stations, and restaurants are all governed by federal consent decrees.  Copyright judges determine how much streaming services must pay to songwriters, yet most of the muscle on these issues is coming from better-organized corporate entities.

“Artists decide their musical fate every time they write a song or step on stage,” Don Henley stated. “Their true fate — the ability to protect their music — is being decided by others: bureaucrats, government legislators, and the powerful digital gatekeepers.

“We are forming the Music Artists Coalition (MAC) to ensure that there is an organization whose sole mission is to protect the rights of music artists — performers and songwriters.”

“Emerging artists deserve the same opportunity that many of us had — to be able to make a living creating music,” said Dave Matthews.  “It’s important for today’s musicians to pave the way for those in the future.”

The music industry is no stranger to lobbying groups, but not many of them represent artists directly.

The RIAA was established to represent major record labels while the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) represents major and larger indie publishers.  Those heavyweights are counterbalanced by monstrous tech interests, with artists usually drowned out.

Manager Irving Azoff says artists really don’t have a seat at the lobbying table.  He aims to change that with the Music Artists Coalition.

“Just the fact that we have a powerful group of people will scare everyone else to the table.”

Azoff has been one of the most outspoken advocates for artists in the industry. He manages the Eagles, Gwen Stefani, and Travis Scott, among others. Azoff previously formed the Recording Artists Coalition (RAC), and is now aiming his coordinating efforts at tech titans.

Azoff has recruited managers like Coran Capshaw and other publicists and executives who work directly with artists. Azoff says he and his fellow board members will self-fund the organization.  Right now the group is in the process of hiring a lobbyist to represent them, and the new coalition has already identified a few issues to target.

Chief among those is the recent appeal of a ruling that boosted songwriter royalties. The challenge was lodged by Spotify, Alphabet/Google, Sirius/Pandora, and Amazon.  Separately, Dave Matthews has signaled interest in addressing bootleg merchandise being sold on retailers like Amazon.

Part of the recently-passed Music Modernization Act (MMA) called for tech companies to create a copyright database and collect royalties, specifically under the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC).  Just recently, the U.S. Copyright Office granted control over the MLC to a coalition led by major music publishers like Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), with SoundExchange a pre-picked royalty processor for the group.  The bid was granted despite protests related to the way unmatched artist royalties would be claimed by major publishers, even for songs they didn’t own; the MAC is hoping to address some of those problems.