Home > #irespectmusic campaign > The MTP Interview: Janita and #irespectmusic: Washington from an artist’s perspective

The MTP Interview: Janita and #irespectmusic: Washington from an artist’s perspective

July 1, 2014

[This interview first appeared in the June edition of Music Tech Policy Monthly.  Janita’s story was specifically noted by Representative Judy Chu in the House IP Subcommittee.]

The #irespect music team returned to Washington, DC last week for more meetings on Capitol Hill about artist pay for radio play.

We interviewed Janita about the trip and discussions with Members of Congress about the importance of passing legislation to create a performance right in sound recordings on terrestrial broadcast radio.

MTP:  Tell us a little about your creative arc, who are your musical influences, what’s your background and how did you get to where you are today musically speaking?

Janita:  I’ve been an artist for over 20 years; I was originally a child-star in my home country Finland. I have gone through many phases in those years, but the phase that I’m most excited about is the one that I’m going through right now. My musical style these days is a mixture of all of my influences, which include alternative artists like Radiohead and Blonde Redhead, soul artists like Meshell Ndegeocello and Bill Withers, and many artists that I find it harder to categorize like Tom Waits and Crosby, Stills and Nash. I’m an omnivore when it comes to music though. My favorite kind of music is great music.

I took a few detours in my musical career, having started at the tender age of 13. Being so young and pliable I got used to being maneuvered by record label executives and such, without realizing that their will wasn’t actually my will. It took me a long time to wake up, grow up and gather the courage to say: “No, man. I’m gonna do it my way. On my own terms.” Now I write all my own music, I play guitar and piano, and I’m very hands on in terms of production. I’m in charge of my music and my career and I love it! I think that that same defiance informs my current role in #irespectmusic.

nadler

L-R:  Tommy Merrill, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Blake Morgan, Janita

MTP:  What is your perspective on the lack of artist pay for radio play in the US?

Janita:  As a Finnish artist I have always been paid for my performances whenever my music has been played on the radio. I have gotten used to this right, and thus the absence of it is distinctly noticeable. In the beginning of my career I didn’t write my songs, so I relied on my performance royalties for part of my income. I would estimate that at times those royalties have been about a third of my overall income.

It was shocking to me initially, when upon moving to the States I heard that the US doesn’t pay performance royalty at all. But at the time I assumed that Finland was the exception in paying those royalties. It only dawned on me much later that instead the US is the exception in this particular area. Every other democratic country in the world pays this royalty. It’s a right, not a privilege.

MTP:  When you became a US citizen, did you continue to get paid for performances in Finland?

Janita:  I became a US citizen last summer, so this is all quite new. Royalties get paid retroactively, and up until some months ago I was still receiving payments for my performances on the radio from last year. I am lucky in that Finland allows dual citizenship with the US (for example Denmark, Japan and Netherlands don’t), which means that if I register my dual citizenship, I will not lose these royalties. However, if I was to decide to become solely a US citizen (which is what the US would actually prefer), I would lose my performance royalties from all over the world. The reverse of the American Dream! As it is, it doesn’t make sense for any recording artist from any democratic country in the world to become solely a U.S. citizen, for loss of a significant source of income.

marsha blackburn sm

L-R  Janita, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Blake Morgan, Tommy Merrill

MTP:  How did you get involved with the #irespectmusic campaign?  Were you worried about getting the Lars Ulrich treatment?

Janita:  Blake Morgan is both the owner of, and a labelmate of mine on ECR Music Group. In addition to that he is the producer of my upcoming album. I followed the back and forth communication between Tim Westergren and Blake very closely last year, and I realized then that I could have been totally duped by that misleading IRFA-email that Westergren sent to a multitude of musicians. Learning the facts through Blake’s whistle-blowing roused my anger, and it was then that I realized that I wasn’t as informed as I wanted and needed to be about issues regarding my profession.

As the year went on, I started to get more and more passionate and involved in these issues. I was immediately on board with #irespectmusic when it launched. We as artists deal with so much injustice in the music industry, and often without our knowledge. I think that many of us are under the impression that there no longer is money in the music business, and settle into that reality. The truth is that there are billions of dollars changing hands in the music industry. It’s just that the artists aren’t getting their fair share of the pie. Us artists are making the industry’s only product and we’re not getting paid for it. It’s obvious that this has to change.

Regarding the Lars Ulrich-treatment… I didn’t much consider it. I was righteously, joyously angry and just went with it.

MTP:  You’ve been to Washington twice with Blake and Tommy to talk to Members of Congress and government officials about the #irespectmusic campaign.  What’s that experience been like for you?

Janita:  It’s been a transformative experience. The first time we went I actually felt emotional in the discussions. I realized that I was giving a face, a name and a voice to artists both in the US and abroad. These government officials regularly deal with the CEOs, directors and the lobbyists of large music organizations and companies. My guess is that it’s pretty rare for them to actually meet with middle-class rock stars: the people who are personally and directly affected by this particular legislation. We are the people to whom artists being paid for their performances on the radio means the difference between being able to keep our lights on or not. To me it’s both a responsibility and a privilege to tell my story to these people, now that I have the opportunity. It has been amazing to see how receptive, informed and motivated both the Members of Congress and other government officials have been.

 

copyright office

 Blake, Tommy and Janita with Associate Register of Copyrights

and General Counsel Jacqueline Charlesworth and Copyright Office Staff

 MTP:  Do you find your Washington meetings have been positive and are the government folks interested in what you have to say as an artist?

Janita:  Absolutely.   We have been greeted with much support everywhere we’ve gone so far. Blake Morgan is a brilliant and funny front-man for this campaign, and each meeting has been positive and inspiring.  Also, my story has been particularly interesting to the government folks that we’ve met, because it brings an international perspective to the issue. It’s pretty cool to state your case, when the injustice is so clear that only a fool would argue it. Artists deserve to get paid for their work! This is not a complicated issue in the end. A plumber, a farmer, a doctor and a lawyer get paid for their work. Why are artists expected to work for free? The government people that we have met with have all keenly understood this issue.

MTP: How have other artists you know reacted to the #irespectmusic campaign?  Have fans been supportive?

Janita:  This is #irespectmusic, with an emphasis on the “I.” It’s not about pushing others to act, it’s about personally reacting to the injustice and wanting to join the cause voluntarily. And so many have, which is wonderful. My fans are incredibly supportive, yes.

 

Judy Chu

L-R: Janita, Rep. Judy Chu, Blake Morgan and Tommy Merrill  

MTP:  What do you have planned in the future for #irespectmusic?

Janita:  I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up going to Washington DC again quite soon. It’s been amazing to watch the momentum grow on the grassroots-level, on the political level and on the music industry side. Of course, right now we are waiting for Rep. Nadler’s upcoming bill, which is thrilling. Exciting plans are in the works!

IRM Team

  1. Atom
    July 1, 2014 at 17:02

    An excellent initiative. Let’s support this. It is time the US dealt fairly with these royalties, as does the rest of the free world

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