SFC Guest Blog: Know Your Allies
If you are a professional music creator but not a pop music superstar, you are at war. You are at war with a fast-evolving cultural paradigm that pays lip service to the value of your work while also devaluing it in the marketplace. You are at war with decades-old decrees and laws that dictate who gets paid and how much, thus making sustainability difficult and prosperity nearly impossible. You are at war with a complex beast—the notoriously confusing music business at large. As with any worthwhile battle, you need to choose a side. And you need to fight. Right now.
It’s daunting to battle a beast. The good thing is, you have allies in this battle. By far, your strongest, most active ally is a 59-year old stalwart entity known around the world primarily for a glamorous and intoxicating awards show: The GRAMMYs. I confess: Before I joined the San Francisco Chapter of The Recording Academy, I was not aware of the vital work the organization does throughout the year. As an indie artist with an easy side-eye for the slicker aspects of our business, I thought the Academy existed mostly to put on a grand show and provide some fine networking opportunities. When Michael Winger became Executive Director of our Chapter in 2011, the messaging to members became increasingly clear to me. I began digging around, researching the organization’s reach, work and influence. After becoming more involved with the Chapter, I was slated in an election and voted into the San Francisco Board in 2015, and am proudly still serving.
One of the most powerful moments in my first year on the Board was meeting with representatives of Nancy Pelosi’s office for last year’s GRAMMYs in My District. My colleagues and I had the opportunity to talk about the outdated laws around who gets paid for radio play and how much. These laws, still in effect today, are partially based on an antiquated business model that is about four paradigm shifts in the past, oblivious to multiple technological and cultural developments (the advent of the pop vocalist, digital distribution, streaming, etc.). It was immensely satisfying to witness one of Pelosi’s aides experience an epiphany in the middle of our conversation and affirm the need for change.
Another powerful moment was when Vice President of The GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares Scott Goldman came to our Board to detail the work of the Foundations of The Recording Academy. Simply put, MusiCares programs provide a safety net of critical assistance for music professionals in times of need. Whether you’re a member or not, you can’t help but be impressed and moved by the breadth and depth of the program and the people who run it.
These are your allies. You have music industry peers who care about whether or not you get paid fairly for your work, and who are willing to put time and effort into making sure it happens. These music industry peers care about (and are in a position to actually help) say, a longtime St. Louis hotel-band vocalist pay her medical bills during a rough patch. These music industry peers are in the same battle as you, fighting with you and for you.
If you’re a professional music creator and already a member, we encourage you to get even more involved with our work. If you’re a professional music creator but haven’t joined yet, what are you waiting for? We are your allies. We understand your needs, listen to your input, and our collective efforts will help us all win the battle.
Plus, I hear there’s a grand party every year and plenty of fine networking opportunities.
PC Muñoz is a recording artist, producer, and drummer based in San Francisco, and serves on the Board of the San Francisco Chapter.