Feb 21 2023

NMC Briefing Paper Uniquely Traces the History of Global Music Repression

As an important feature of the landmark, NMC/IMC joint Symposium on Protecting Free Speech in Music scheduled to premiere on March 3rd in conjunction with international Music Freedom Day, a briefing paper tracing the history of global music repression will be made available to the public for the very first time. The compendium, prepared by NMC Chair Charles J. Sanders and containing dozens of links to musical sources, will serve to provide music community members with the opportunity to incorporate the lessons of the past into their ideas for forging a less dangerous future for songwriters, composers, recording artists and performers.

“We’ve all seen the current headlines from around the world,” the document begins. “Musicians and composers attacked as rabble-rousers and enemies of the state. Singers arrested, their performances banned as dangerous, un-patriotic or sacrilegious. Most recently, we’ve even seen lethal attacks committed against music creators for refusing to perform, or simply for attempting to entertain, not even to proselytize or lampoon. On this subject, the mission of the global music community is clear. We must quickly and effectively formulate ways to help curb this despicable trend.”

According to the report’s author, however, it’s also incumbent on us to recognize that such dangers have plagued humankind’s composers and troubadours for centuries. “Finding sustainable solutions to this newest spike in violence and repression will require our community to evaluate approaches to these threats with a careful eye on history.” Past events addressed in the paper include the banning of musical works and coercive or physical attacks on creators during the US Civil War, the Native American Genocide, the Great Depression and World Wars I and II, other murderous actions in fascist Spain, Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan, brutal suppression in Soviet Russia and during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, outrageous acts of violence under the Pinochet Regime, the Khmer Rouge, and in Apartheid South Africa, and up to and including current, tragic events in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

“The historical pattern of musical repression is actually a simple one to understand. Music’s dual, facile ability to serve as both a powerful tool of propaganda and as an existential threat to power structures and political leaders has made it a prime focus of nervous governmental concern over the entire span of history. As a result, when it comes to music, whether we’re dealing with instances of governmental coercion, repression, violence or all three in combination, whatever we are seeing now the world has seen before. That fact itself creates an opportunity for more expeditiously finding the best way forward.”

The paper concludes with the assertion, “that crucial process is our responsibility to undertake” and it begins with the aphorism past is prologue. Stated another way, as the great novelist William Faulkner once sagely observed, the past is not dead. It is not even past.”

Feb 16 2023

Protecting Free Speech in the Global Music Landscape: National Music Council and IMC to Webcast Joint Symposium on Political Violence Against Music Creators and Performers

The National Music Council of the United States (NMC), in collaboration with its global partner, the Paris-based International Music Council (IMC), is proud to announce the premiere on March 3, 2023 at 9 am EST of a landmark Symposium addressing the recent spike in political violence against songwriters, composers and music performers throughout the world. The webcast, which will be available to viewers at musiccouncil.org, represents a key component of the global March 3rd Music Freedom Day observances. Details concerning subsequent access to materials will be available on the site.

The program will feature discussions and interviews with many of the world’s leading experts and activists on free speech issues as they pertain to the music and music education communities. Panel topics will include Movements to Protect Free Speech in Music; Trends in Politically-based Censorship of the Musical Arts, and; The History of Music’s Political Influence and of Governmental Attempts to Harness, Control and Silence It. The Symposium’s website will also feature a first-of-its-kind article compiled by NMC chair Charles J. Sanders –entitled “Music, Politics and History”– which traces the global timeline of music suppression and includes dozens of links to musical examples and accounts of incidents.

According to a joint statement issued by Sanders and NMC president James Weaver, “We believe this to be the first international, music community-sponsored forum ever held outside of Europe to address this crucial topic, and NMC is proud to have joined with its IMC colleagues in bringing it to fruition.  The ability in the US and Canada to speak out on such issues, principally without fear of government reprisal, places on us a special responsibility to shine a brighter light on these escalating injustices and attacks. Music creators and performers have always been vulnerable targets for coercion and repression.  Our community’s responsibilities are to ensure that such anti-democratic activities not remain hidden in the shadows, no matter where in the world they occur—including within our own borders.”

In summing up his own organization’s hopes for what the Symposium will accomplish in terms of future action, IMC president Alfons Karabuda adds that “we have seen in recent months and years the murder, displacement and economic sanctioning of composers, conductors, musicians and other members of our international community in various places across the globe.  Our fellow music creators and artists who find themselves in these disastrous political crossfires are urgently in need of our help.  We are exquisitely sensitive to the diplomatic nuances required to avoid exacerbating the dangers they face, and will exercise sound judgement in consultation with the victims in each case.   History, however, teaches that silence is neither an acceptable nor effective strategy.”

Jan 16 2023

ARTISTS UNDER BOYCOTT – Sanctions Against Russian Artists and Their Work: Their Impact on Artistic Freedom and Other Fundamental Rights

A White Paper from Avant-Garde Lawyers

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has resulted in severe violations of rights guaranteed under international law, the impact of which cannot be overstated. At Avant-Garde Lawyers (AGL), we are in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and are committed to providing specialized support to vulnerable artists on both sides of the border in this geopolitical conflict.

The intensity of suffering and devastation inflicted in the war has brought together communities across the globe in an effort to publicly condemn the use of violence by Russia. In this context, in the fields of arts and culture, a pattern has emerged in which national institutions, international festivals, exhibitions, competitions and orchestras have presented Russian artists with peremptory termination statements informing them of the unilateral revocation of their engagements on account of their nationality. Most of these institutions failed to provide the affected artists with any form of compensation or opportunities to discuss or contest their exclusion. While many stated that their intention was not to penalize individual artists, this is precisely what the exclusions have factually achieved.

Understandably, cultural institutions feel the need to publicly condemn Russia’s actions, but decisions to exclude Russian artists were also taken in an attempt to avoid negative repercussions in the form of economic or reputational loss. Overall, these measures and the way in which they were taken raise concerns about the lack of understanding among cultural institutions of the question of “sanctions” and their negative implications for the affected artists, for the institutions themselves, and more broadly for the freedom of artistic expression.

It is in light of these concerns that we publish this White Paper to provide information and analysis to assist cultural institutions in navigating the complexities of the situation. We do so through the lens of fundamental rights as guaranteed under international law. For us, at AGL, this is an important discussion that must be kickstarted amongst key stakeholders to avoid the further targeting of Russian artists by actions taken to condemn the Russian government. We would also like to sound an alarm to prevent exclusionary measures targeting art and culture from becoming the norm in times of geopolitical conflict. This would serve as a massive blow to artistic freedom at a global level and undermine cultural pluralism and exchange. In a world reverberating with alienation and violence, art must be championed as a universal value to be created, shared and enjoyed without borders.

As lawyers and cultural rights defenders, we encourage debate and discussion on this crucial subject and encourage civil society organizations and cultural institutions to join us so that this conversation can contribute to strengthening the framework in which the core principles of our democracies, those that allow us to express ourselves freely and be free from fear and discrimination, are protected, defended and promoted.

Please click here to read the complete paper.

Andra Matei
Executive Director, Avant-Garde Lawyers

Dec 09 2022

National Music Council Membership Meeting January 19, 2023

National Music Council Membership Meeting

Thursday, January 19th

3:00 EST
BMI Offices
7 World Trade Center | 250 Greenwich Street, New York City

We encourage you to attend in person, but a virtual option via Zoom will be provided

Agenda and Zoom Link to Follow

Dec 05 2022

NMC Mourns the Passing of Bob McGrath

The National Music Council mourns the passing of our longtime friend and colleague, Bob McGrath. If Bob was not the nicest man in show business, he was certainly in the running. His joy in sharing his knowledge, kindness and wonder with the children of the world left an indelible, positive mark on generations of kids who passed through the friendly, musical confines of Sesame Street. It was an honor and a pleasure to know him, and to learn from him. We shall miss him dearly.

Nov 21 2022

Musical Culture and Economics Rest on Both Speech Freedoms and Copyright Protections

New York, November 19, 2022 — With the suppression of artistic freedoms on the rise throughout the world, it remains clear that many governments continue to view the longstanding practice of lashing out against music creators to be an especially effective strategy in discouraging political dissent. That tactic has the dual intentions of silencing those voices perceived as most likely to spark impassioned protest, while simultaneously conveying the message that no one is safe from being targeted for commercial, financial and sometimes violent retribution over “unwelcome” speech. The warning to the public is simple, but blunt: “if this can happen to a star performer, composer or songwriter, imagine what can happen to you.”

To decry this dangerous trend, music creators and recording artists throughout North America are joining together to shine a light on the increasing misuse by governments of both intimidating law enforcement tactics and of electronic tracking technologies to curb the use of songs as a means of social and political criticism.

As regards the governmental weaponization of technology against music creators, for example, in at least one recent case, the metadata of a widely popular protest song was apparently changed to indicate a new and fictitious author and copyright owner. Copyright violations were then alleged against the original creator by the government-supported imposter as a method of having the songs automatically removed from various internet music sites.

This abuse of the copyright monitoring systems that serve as the economic lifelines to help protect and get music creators and artists paid is unacceptable, unethical and illegal. It is secondary in its lawlessness, however, to the acts of political intimidation being perpetrated by governments through the use of violence up to and including murder against targeted musicians and songwriters.

All of this must stop, and it must stop now. Once reported, appropriate steps should be taken by the global community of nations in pursuit of providing international protection and justice to the victims of abuses, including crimes against humanity.

Composers and artists rely on free speech and copyright protections in equal measure to safeguard our abilities to peacefully effect cultural advancement, and to create sustainable livelihoods for ourselves and for other members of our local communities. We cannot and will not abide by actions designed to undermine the pillars on which our social, artistic, and economic freedoms and lives rest, and pledge to do all within our legal power to assist in preventing the erosion of such rights –including the loss of life– whenever and wherever they occur in the world.

Music Creators North America (MCNA)
The National Music Council of the United States (NMC)
Fair Trade Music International (FTMI)
The Songwriters Guild of America (SGA)
The Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL)
The Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC)
The Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC)
The Alliance for Women Film Composers (AWFC)The Composers Diversity Collective (CDC)

For more information, contact: Charles J. Sanders, cjs@csanderslaw.com, 914 588 7231

Aug 30 2022

A Message From the NMC President and Chair

Dr. James Weaver, President
National Music Council

Charles J. Sanders, Chair
National Music Council

Happy Autumn to all National Music Council members!  We hope you had an enjoyable summer, and are ready to join us in rolling up our sleeves as we launch into a productive fall campaign in support of our many common ideals.

Autumn’s return is traditionally a time for reflection and reevaluation, and we’re happy to report how excited we are concerning the current state and trajectory of NMC.  When we think about our organization today, we are fortunate in these challenging times to remain a vibrant and growing member-based umbrella group, whose members share a wide range of mutual aspirations.  Each of our goals rests upon the laudable motivations of supporting music creation and performance, defending and advocating for creators’ rights, and teaching music throughout the United States and the world.   These are vital contributions to our Nation and the world, and our members are rightfully proud of the work they continue to perform no matter the challenges that may arise.

For the past 82 years and counting, NMC and its members (now numbering over forty national organizations) have successfully advocated for these. principles at the local, state, and national levels, and on a global basis through our active service on the Paris-based International Music Council.   In our last newsletter we spoke to the five music rights identified and developed by the IMC in coordination with our organization and others:

In the pursuit of supporting these complementary rights in the US and across the globe, NMC has recently placed emphasis on educating the American public on the enactment of a new US law known as the CASE Act, the passage of which was supported by NMC.  The Act established a “small claims” system within the US Copyright Office to permit creators and copyright owners to affordably protect their rights against infringers, while maintaining the fair use safeguards developed by American courts over two centuries of copyright practice to protect the speech rights and privileges of educators and users.  This careful balance will be monitored and reported upon by NMC over the coming months and years, to ensure that the highest aspirations of the law are fulfilled and maintained.

NMC will likewise proudly continue its watchdog role in monitoring the suppression of speech that is an ever-present danger to music creators and educators around the world.  The rising, global trend toward authoritarianism in national governance has recently demonstrated the particular vulnerability of outspoken creators to be “made examples of” by repressive regimes seeking to silence commentary and dissent across entire societies.  A vital part of NMC’s mission is to bring such instances to light in ways that offer protection to the targets of censorship, while additionally encouraging the free exchange of ideas (so long as hate speech is not implicated).

Further, NMC as always will be actively advocating for fair remuneration to creators and copyright owners for the use of their works in the US and everywhere in the world.  With such economic protections, as we have witnessed over the centuries, creativity, speech, art and culture flourish.  Without them, the result is often decay and retrogression.

With your help, we look forward to continuing all of this important work — including our online educational panel series– on behalf of our members.  Your active participation in and support of NMC initiatives over the coming year is enthusiastically welcomed!

Once again, Happy Autumn.  As Van Morrison famously wrote, “It’s a marvelous night for a Moondance.”  Let’s get to it!

Jun 08 2022

National Music Council of the United States Presents Progressive Rock Icon, Creators’ Rights Activist and Music Educator David Lowery with the Prestigious American Eagle Award for 2022

Los Angeles, California, June 8, 2022 – On June 2, the National Music Council of the United States presented progressive rock icon, creators’ rights activist and music educator David Lowery with its 2022 American Eagle Award.  NMC is the Congressionally chartered umbrella organization representing virtually all of the most active music industry groups in America, and has bestowed the highly prestigious award just 38 times in its over eight decades of existence.

Mr. Lowery joined the highly exclusive list of music community luminaries to have previously been honored for their career-long histories of truly significant contributions to American musical culture, music education, and the protection and advancement of creators’ rights both in the United States and around the world.  Past honorees have included Steven Sondheim, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Dave Brubeck, Marian Anderson, Max Roach, Lena Horne, Vince Guaraldi, Roberta Peters, Odetta, Patti Smith, Kris Kristofferson, Sesame Street, and VH1’s “Save the Music” Foundation.

The Award ceremony, which took place at a packed gala dinner at the NAMM Summer 2022 convention in Anaheim, featured remarks by NMC Chair Charles Sanders, Songwriters Guild of America President Rick Carnes and NMC President James Weaver, and a rousing speech and performance by Lowery himself.  Focusing on the need to champion fair compensation for music creators and artists in the 21st century if musical culture is to continue to survive and grow, Lowery stated:

“The foundational myth of Silicon Valley is the garage startup that becomes a global brand.  Well, look at my own startup: Camper Van Beethoven. A few kids in a faded beach town start a band. With a small personal loan from a singing cowboy-true story- we made a record and went from the attic to competing on a global scale in a few short years.

In the 80’s and 90s, this story was replicated, to different degrees, by hundreds of indie rock bands all across the United States. And this story is not unique to the US or rock music.…If Silicon Valley is widely hailed for its entrepreneurial energy and innovation shouldn’t artists and bands also be praised and seen in the same light?  We are certainly as creative.  We generate jobs and substantial economic activity. Some political scientists even think it was really American Pop Music that ended the cold war.  It has always seemed like something worth protecting to me.”

Lowery concluded his remarks by performing his first, satirical hit, “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” which prompted a standing ovation from the appreciative audience of industry professionals and fellow creators.  “Keep fighting for your rights,” he told the crowd.  “You are truly on the right side of history.”

David Lowery’s storied career began while studying mathematics and computer science at the University of California Santa Cruz in the early 1980’s.  It was there that he founded the critically acclaimed ensemble Camper Van Beethoven, and the associated record label Pitch-a-Tent Records.  With these two initiatives, Lowery played a prominent role in launching the global Indie Rock movement.  In 1991, he moved on to the ensemble Cracker, which produced three top ten alternative/rock radio tracks and three platinum albums.  During that period, he also produced a variety of recording artists, including albums for critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands such as The Counting Crows, LP and Sparklehorse.

Today, Lowery continues to be an active songwriter, recording artist, university professor, author and entrepreneur.  He likewise remains dedicated not only to tirelessly fighting for music rights (he organized the class action lawsuit for copyright infringement against Spotify nearly a decade ago), but also to demonstrating to creators that entrepreneurial alternatives to Silicon Valley-based music distribution of music are available to counter the current, grossly unfair payment practices of the tech giants.

May 27 2022

National Music Council to Honor Musician, Songwriter and Music Advocate David Lowery at 38th Annual American Eagle Awards

Los Angeles, California, May 27, 2022 – The National Music Council of the United States will honor musician, songwriter, journalist, blogger, producer, and rights activist David Lowery at its 38th annual American Eagle Awards on Thursday, June 2, 2022 at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California.  The NMC honors are presented each year in recognition of those who have made a truly significant contribution to American musical culture, music education, and the protection and advancement of creators’ rights both in the United States and around the world.

“For honored individuals, the American Eagle Award represents a very special category of peer recognition, celebrating a lifetime of dedicated work on behalf of music creators, music students, and the entire music community,” says NMC Board Chair Charles J. Sanders.  “David Lowery is among those rare persons whose careers have personified that level of across-the-board commitment to his colleagues and followers everywhere in the world.”  Adds NMC president and music education leader James Weaver, “we could not be prouder to honor Professor Lowery, a great and influential music creator who has demonstrated time and again his additional devotion to advocating for universal musical education for every child in every nation.”

David Lowery’s storied career began while studying mathematics and computer science at the University of California Santa Cruz in the early 1980’s.  It was there that he founded the critically acclaimed ensemble Camper Van Beethoven, and the associated record label Pitch-a-Tent Records.  With these two initiatives, Lowery played a prominent role in launching the global Indie Rock movement.  In 1991, he moved on to the ensemble Cracker, which produced three top ten alternative/rock radio tracks and three platinum albums.  During that period, he also produced a variety of recording artists, including albums for critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands such as The Counting Crows, LP and Sparklehorse.

Today, Lowery continues to be an active songwriter, recording artist, university professor, author and entrepreneur.  He likewise remains dedicated not only to tirelessly championing music rights, but also to demonstrating to creators that entrepreneurial alternatives to Silicon Valley-based music distribution of music are available to counter the current, grossly unfair payment practices of the Tech giants.  “David Lowery has been a leading voice for decades on issues concerning fair remuneration for artists, songwriters and composers,” states NMC board member Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America and a leading songwriter and global activist for creators’ rights himself.  “It will be my great pleasure to present him with this honor, which he has earned through his longstanding, courageous advocacy — on Capitol Hill, in the courts and in print — on behalf of American creators and musical culture.”

NMC executive director Dr. David Sanders notes that Mr. Lowery  joins a “who’s – who” of American musical giants whose have previously been honored by NMC.  “Let me put into perspective the significance of the Eagle Award by reciting the names of just a few of the past honorees,” says Sanders,. “They include Stephen Sondheim, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Dr. Billy Taylor, Morton Gould, Dave Brubeck, Marian Anderson, Max Roach, Lena Horne, Roy Clark, Crystal Gale, George Clinton, Ervin Drake, Theodore Bikel, Vince Guaraldi, Roberta Peters, Odetta, Patti Smith, Sesame Street, and VH1’s “Save the Music” Foundation.

Tickets for this event are available to the general public. For more information on schedule, location details, tickets, and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.musiccouncil.org or contact NMC Director David Sanders at sandersd@montclair.edu.

Proceeds from the event support the National Music Council’s music education advocacy efforts.

The National Music Council

The Congressionally-chartered National Music Council is celebrating its 82nd year as a forum for the free discussion of this country’s national music affairs and challenges. Founded in 1940 to act as a clearinghouse for the joint opinions of its members –and to work to strengthen the importance of music in our lives and culture– the Council’s initial membership of 13 has grown to almost 50 national music organizations, encompassing every important form of professional and commercial musical activity. Through the cooperative work of its member organizations, the National Music Council promotes and supports music and music education as an integral part of the curricula in the schools of our nation, and in the lives of its citizens. The Council provides for the exchange of information and coordination of efforts among its member organizations and speaks with one voice for the music community whenever an authoritative expression of opinion is desirable. www.musiccouncil.org


The NAMM Show is the global gathering of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and its many member companies, representing the global music products industry, including music instruments and pro audio products, music retailers and educators and house of worship professionals. The awards are presented with support from The NAMM Foundation, a non-profit which works to advance active participation in music making across the lifespan through scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs.

Apr 05 2022

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona Calls on States, Districts, & Higher Ed Institutions to Address Nationwide Teacher Shortage & Bolster Student Recovery with American Rescue Plan Funds.

The National Music Council applauds US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on his call to use American Rescue Plan funds to bolster student recovery. NMC encourages states, districts and higher education institutions to make music and the arts a big part of this effort!