We Need Some New (Independent) Faces on the ASCAP Board

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I’ve come to the conclusion that instrumental composers need more and better representation on the ASCAP Board of Directors. The substandard royalty rates for instrumental and CPA music, the choice to not implement effective technology for tracking instrumental music on television, and the cowardly act by the ASCAP Board in drafting language that has virtually eliminated independent Board candidates at ASCAP are some of the major reasons I believe we need new people on the ASCAP Board. Simply put, the ASCAP Board since the membership/distribution side of ASCAP was effectively deregulated in 2001, has chosen to undertake a clear and unmistakable series of actions including those above, which are not in the best interests of many instrumental composers.

Since language crafted by the ASCAP Board has made it virtually impossible for an independent candidate to get on the ballot, and the handpicked “Nominating Committee” chooses the “opponents” only a few weeks before the ballots go out, giving these opponents no effective time in which to mount a reasonable campaign and garner support, those seeking reform at ASCAP (other than the kind of “reform” the ASCAP Board has implemented since 2001) are left with one choice: the write-in slot on the ASCAP Board ballots. As it is now, we don’t even know if/when our elected leaders at ASCAP even show up for Board meetings since they keep those records secret from the members. And incredibly, ASCAP is bragging in the latest “Playback” magazine and elsewhere about how the entire Board was re-elected in the last election cycle in 2005.

With typical ASCAP arrogance, they brag about a Board re-election sweep when the Board itself drafted language virtually eliminating all independent candidates and the Board’s own nominating committee handpicked the “opponents” and gave them only a few weeks to mount a campaign before the ballots went out. And then – what a surprise – the handpicked “opponents” were all defeated and the incumbents were all re-elected. It’s a shocking kick in the teeth to any sense of democracy at ASCAP and each and every ASCAP Board member should be ashamed of what’s been done to twist and distort the ASCAP election process into an utterly self-serving process apparently designed to keep 24 incumbents enjoying their first class air travel and social benefits, while everyone else can “eat cake.

For some time I have considered running, because I feel passionately that ASCAP’s composer members need more effective, proactive representation on the ASCAP Board. But as you know, I publish a magazine that covers these issues and no doubt there would be those at ASCAP who would scream that I was using my “power of the press” to promote my own personal interests, which would serve as a distraction from the issues that are truly important to composers. Also, if I were to be elected, until the massive secrecy rules that the ASCAP Board has shrouded itself in have been replaced by a more transparent, open, democratic process, I would be prohibited from discussing and/or writing about any of the “secret information” they talk about at ASCAP Board Meetings which the Board is so intent on keeping from the membership. Simply put, that could severely limit our ability to effectively cover performing rights issues at ASCAP for the benefit of the industry.

My thought is that we need new energy on the ASCAP Board in the form of composer candidates who understand the issues and aren’t afraid to work proactively, openly, honestly and fearlessly towards reform at ASCAP and protecting the interests of instrumental composers, and I include CPA music composers in that category as well. Given the timeframe involved, any write-in candidate who declares in September will have 4 months to campaign and build support in the industry, and I stand ready to very publicly and proactively support any and all ASCAP Board candidates I believe in. We will be doing extensive coverage of ASCAP Board and election issues beginning in September.

Now, given the craven and cowardly act of those at ASCAP who had a hand in eliminating independent Board candidates, we can expect that they may try to eliminate the write-in spot on the ballot, but I don’t think we should let fear of that derail any honest attempts to implement reform and protect the interests of instrumental composers at ASCAP.

I would welcome any thoughts, public or private, on this topic, and hope some of you will consider becoming leaders in our community to implement reform and protect the interests of instrumental composers at ASCAP. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of credits or political contacts, only a sincere and honest determination and commitment to make this industry a better place to work in for all those who write music, not just songwriters and lyricists.