"Although we love the trade associations that visit us on a daily basis, getting around them sometimes and getting to other kinds of creators … would really be instructional. So I would also probably recommend that if we were to have roundtables, we get out of Washington a little bit. Go somewhere where people make a living from writing songs at their kitchen table. …"
So stated U.S. Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante during the March 2013 hearing of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. Politicians and lobbyists have become so comfortable living in the D.C. "bubble" that it was quite refreshing to hear Ms. Pallante suggest that we burst it.
As it so happens, I know about 20,000 music creators from outside the Beltway who would be happy to share their experiences writing songs at the kitchen table. So we decided to call the Register's bluff. We offered to set up a tour for her to each of our Recording Academy Chapter cities to meet face-to-face with music creators.
And, without hesitation, she said "yes."
The first meeting took place last week in New York and, as expected, there was excitement in the room when music makers from the New York Chapter Board had the chance to talk about their lives directly to a leading government official. But there was just as much excitement from Ms. Pallante and her colleague, Associate Register Jacqueline Charlesworth, both of whom clearly valued hearing directly from the creators (and took notes furiously).
Of course, I realize Ms. Pallante will be hearing directly from other stakeholders whose views differ from ours, and that's her job. But we are very grateful that she would work with us to ensure the voices of songwriters, performers and studio professionals are heard, especially when so many of them are struggling to maintain their livelihoods. As one participant told me, "I thought the meeting was wonderful, and somehow she gave me a little bit of hope."
We look forward to continuing the national tour with Ms. Pallante. It's true there are no giant sets, light rigging, or trashed hotel rooms. But connecting our members to the head of the U.S. Copyright office is epic nonetheless.