MTP: How was the audience reaction for your first 30 days on the I Respect Music petition campaign?
Blake Morgan: It’s honestly––and very happily––been above and beyond anything we could have estimated or ever hoped for. If you ask anyone who’s been working with me on this, they’ll tell you that the goal I’d set for us was to try to get 1,000 signatures in our first 30 days. A daunting number to try and reach for a petition to Congress about paying artists for radio airplay. But, it turns out that after 30 days we’re actually at 10,000 signatures.
A Huffington Post Op-ed of mine in December [“Art and Music Are Professions Worth Fighting For“] garnered a huge reaction going viral with over 44,000 likes and over 8,000 Facebook shares. That was the piece where I first wrote the words “I Respect Music.” So I knew there was a massive and untapped demographic of music makers and music lovers out there, but “liking” or “sharing” something is very different from putting your name on a letter to Congress. I wanted to see what would would happen if we gave people a concrete, universal, and positive way to affect change in the music world, and look what happened. I doubt seriously if the House Intellectual Property Subcommittee has ever seen anything like this.
And, this is the scariest thing the powerful forces who consistently stand against artists’ rights could possibly witness: a mobilized, united, grass-roots movement that is pushing for legislation to pay artists and musicians for their work. So that’s scary, as in awesome!!
MTP: I’m interested in the composition of the people responding to the petition. Based on my own very unscientific random sampling of the people tweeting about it, supporters seemed like a mix of fans and artists. Does that sound about right? Do you have any way to determine their background?
Blake Morgan: That’s exactly right. The I Respect Music petition begins with,”I join music makers and music lovers alike in urging Congress to support artists’ pay for radio play.” And that’s precisely who’s been supporting it, signing it, and Tweeting and posting selfies with “#IRespectMusic” written on a card or piece of paper. It’s those photos––and the variety of them––that has really moved people, both to sign the petition and to get involved in general. People are discovering that there’s something special about taking that particular photo and holding up those particular words. Something powerful. And empowering.
MTP: I saw that James Otto tweeted that he signed the petition, any other luminaries?
Blake Morgan: Yeah, you could say that! In addition to everyday working musicians, music fans, and music organizations, it’s been luminaries as diverse as Patrick Stewart, Gavin DeGraw, David Byrne, Gloria Steinem, Jean Michel Jarre, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Roseanne Cash, Mike Mills, John McCrea, Civil Twilight––even Jane Fonda. And thousands of others, with more every day. It really has been music makers and music lovers alike “getting it,” that artists should be paid for their work. Plain and simple.
MTP: Even the 40 Watt club in Athens! Imagine, nightclubs giving signage for free!
Blake Morgan: Imagine!
MTP: What’s the reaction been from Capitol Hill?
Blake Morgan: Well as I said before, I doubt seriously if the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet has ever seen anything like this before. And that’s exactly what’s been reported to me from multiple sources connected both to the subcommittee directly, and from others on and around Capitol Hill.
What really matters though is that there’s a real chance now that we’re going to see a bill proposed. And proposed in the very short term. Meaning possibly in a matter of weeks, not months. So there’s no question that we’ve moved the needle, and moved it big time.
Keep in mind that these aren’t lobbyists pushing the I Respect Music petition. These are voters, from every corner of the country with more and more joining every day. And, artists getting paid for radio airplay has become an issue that these voters are going to fight for––they’re going to use their votes and their voices to win this fight.
I mean seriously, the United States is the only democratic country in the world where artists don’t get paid for radio airplay? And in holding to this policy we’re standing with Iran and North Korea? You know, sometimes these things are tough to figure out or parse. And sometimes they’re um…really not.
So let’s win this fight. Let’s respect music. Let’s respect the people who make music, and the people who love it too.