Session Spotlight: The Re-emerging Artist Rights Movement?

Written by Rory Burbeck | February 25, 2014

See David Lowery at this SXSW 2014 Music Conference Session

Special thanks to Jay Rosenthal for the text

To say the least, songwriters and artists are pissed off. Some firmly believe that the modern day recording artist/songwriter is under siege. They fight their labels, their fans, online distribution services, Internet radio, antagonistic courts, and government indifference. For artists, touring is harder than ever and their copyright property has been drastically devalued. For songwriters it is even worse – they don’t tour, sell merchandise, appear in movies or endorse products.

The point is many songwriters and artists are simply not satisfied at all with the state of affairs in the music business. Rather, they believe there is much wrong with this so called “digital revolution.” And now artists and songwriters are starting to push back.

While there have been episodes of artist discontent and activism in the past, this recent uptick is somewhat unprecedented – and perhaps even more important, artists for the first time are now using social media to engage in their own form of digital activism.

In recent months, artists like David Byrne, Trent Rezner, Thom Yorke, David Lowery, Mike Mills, and John McCrea, have taken to the Internet to voice their dissatisfaction with the digital services and laws that protect them. One artist, Blake Morgan, started the I Respect Music viral campaign.

In Washington, artists like Steven Tyler, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Dr. Dre, Sting and Danger Mouse, have recently filed comments with the Commerce Department strongly objecting to the notion of creating a compulsory license or expansion of fair use for digital sampling and mash-ups.

Songwriters have also recently come to Washington. In a lobbying event last year on Capitol Hill, sponsored by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), Linda Perry, along with other songwriters Desmond Child, Lee Thomas Miller, Kara DioGuardi, and BC Jean, spoke and sang to a packed house of Congressmen and Congressional staffers, on how songwriters have been hurt much more than artists have in this digital age. Linda Perry, in particular, brought to their attention the fact that her song “Beautiful" was streamed 12.71 million times by Pandora in the first quarter of 2012 and she received $349.16 in royalties for that quarter.

Learn more on the topic at the Love the Art, Fuck the Artist: The Re-emerging Artist Rights Movement? session featuring speakers David Lowery, Eric Hilton, Lee Miller, and Dave Zierler. The panel will be moderated by Jay Rosenthal. The session will take place on Thursday, March 13th at 3:30pm in Austin Convention Center Room 12AB.

David Lowery photo by Brian Birzer