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‘This Is About Survival’: Recording Academy Marks Six Months of Intense Advocacy in DC

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action,” says Daryl Friedman, the Recording Academy’s chief industry, government and member relations officer. For the past six months, that has meant an intensive virtual lobbying campaign that includes getting politicians into Zoom chats to hear academy members talk about the need for federal support during the pandemic.

On the academy’s first-ever virtual District Advocate Day (Aug. 12), 2,000 members met with legislators and staff from 250 congressional offices to discuss the issues affecting them. “Our members stepped forward in a new way,” says Friedman.

The academy’s virtual advocacy started in March with a campaign that, says Friedman, sent “tens of thousands” of letters and emails asking Congress to include relief for music creators in the CARES Act — which ultimately included unemployment assistance to freelancers and independent contractors, paycheck protection loans and National Endowment for the Arts grants for artists in need. (The act passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law on March 27.) An academy-hosted webinar followed, and over 27,000 tuned in for guidance on obtaining immediate and long-term relief.

Now the academy is encouraging members to contact their legislators to support the Help Independent Tracks Succeed (HITS) Act, which would allow qualified producers to deduct 100% of their production expenses, and the Save Our Stages Act, which would grant venues six months of financial support. (The academy’s charitable division, MusiCares, has distributed more than $19 million in grants to over 19,000 musicians.)

“In some ways it has been busier for advocacy at the academy than any previous year, because this isn’t just about a royalty rate or a copyright law issue,” says Friedman. “This is about survival.”

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 19, 2020 issue of Billboard.

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