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Public Musicians Forum #9 Report

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

Report by Dawoud Kringle (with Ken Hatfiled) – Photos by Dawoud Kringle

MFM held its 9th Public Music Forum – and the last such meeting of 2018 – on Tuesday, November 27th, 2018 (which fell on Jimi Hendrix’ 76th birthday). The meeting was run by Billy Harper (MFM Board member) and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM President). It began in an indistinct way; the agenda having almost given way to a free form discussion.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

After some discussion where Ken Hatfield (MFM AC member) brought up the question of how MFM is perceived in the digital world, he and Saadat spoke about the importance of activism in the fight for musician rights.

One point that was brought up was that while the MMA has been passed, we’re not out of the woods yet. There are still a great many things that need to be addressed and watched (many of which were addressed in the DBDBD article and other DBDB articles). All said, it’s vitally important that musicians not rest on our laurels after the signing of the MMA. There are still many ways we can be taken advantage of, despite the progress that was made.

Some discussion was devoted to the Justice for Jazz Artists (J4JA) Campaign ran by Local 802. They are not operating under that name anymore.

An interesting question was posed: where are the young people? MFM is in desperate need of reaching the younger generation of musicians and music creators.

Some discussion was devoted to an academic internship. The advantage is that it delegates work do that all the responsibilities are not concentrated in one or two people. The drawback to this is how to get the money to pay for this (unpaid interns create a bad precedent that work for no remuneration is the norm – and is antithetical to MFM’s stance of musical professionalism and commerce). One possible source of income that was suggested was merchandise: MFM t-shirts, hats, etc., sold through a fulfillment company.

During the meeting, Saadat received the following questioning the form of a text from Ross Brooks who couldn’t attend the meeting:

“The question I have for the group is, what types of services do musicians view as valuable that can be provided in exchange for use of content? That is, things of value other than a check , such as use of recording facility, publicist services , space for group classes, rehearsal space, etc . A venue can pay a musician an up-front fee for use of content, such as a live stream of a concert. But the question is , how to address future use / royalties. To what extent can that be addressed via services provided to musicians by the venue and media company.”

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report


Hatfield discoursed at length on this (and was met with a general agreement). As a basic principle, any means of remuneration for our work as professional musicians should be rendered in forms that a bank, business, or private transaction would accept as currency. This is a good rule to stick with.

If one is open to barter deals, the most important thing is to crunch the numbers, then decide for yourself if the deal is worth it. First, decide how much you would normally expect to be paid for a gig. Establish your price. Second, determine if what you are getting in exchange for your performance is of equal or greater value (Hatfield gave an excellent and amusing example. Someone offers to let you use their club for a “free” rehearsal for two hours duration in exchange for doing a gig. You are a member of local 802, which charges $10 per hour for their smaller rehearsal spaces. It is clearly not a fair or good exchange to do a quartet gig of 4 hours duration in exchange for a two hour rehearsal that would cost you $20 at the union. On the other hand, if someone wants to give you something that is worth the, say, $1000 you would get for a quartet performance – and is acceptable to all the musicians involved – doing a barter gig that involves no monetary remuneration is not a problem).

Accepting anything of lesser value than what you provide damages music as a profession, and degrades what value your music has to you. Regrettably, we are struggling with the intolerable situation that music has little or no monetary value in our culture. Bartering won’t remedy the situation: which naturally relegates bartering to the category of the exception, rather than the rule. Accepting barter for a gig holds the danger of devaluing music as a profession, and limiting your individual freedom. No self-respecting musician should accept that unless the gains are real and tangible, and at least equal to the monetary value of the gig – and this, ONLY if that tangible gain is something exchangeable or of acceptable personal profit. Money is a form of storable and transferable wealth. If something is not equally storable or transferable, it ceases to be of value, because its value becomes isolated. (Needless to say, charitable offerings are not a consideration in this discussion).

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

Big Tech works a con of Trumpian proportions in that it grants us access to free content of things that it does not own, in exchange for all the data mining that big tech profits from. This is a bartering model. The question that inevitably arises – yet is rarely addressed – is if this has proven to be a fair or good deal for consumers and content creators. The answer inevitably points to those where the balance of power is not with those accepting the exchange, but lies rather with those offering it. Power respects power, and is never offered freely.

This actually leads us back to the question of getting young musicians involved in MFM. The necessity of getting young people in the gig economy to understand that they have common cause with us is obvious. Big tech has instituted a mindset in the public that demanding a rightful remuneration for one’s work is anti-free speech. Big Tech friendly lawyers, academics and judges have called copyright “obsolete” and “a tax on culture”. They say that internet piracy is just another form of “promotion” which they claim stimulates innovation – which is nonsense, and perilously close to Orwellian doublethink. The younger generation who works in the gig economy, or chases the dream job with Google was raised to believe music is free. This is in direct opposition to MFM’s platform, and a threat to the very existence of musicians. The only way out of this dichotomy is if they can be shown that they’re getting cheated in the same way musicians are. Then they will see that they share a common cause between us. This is a way to build solidarity, and change the mindset of the public, which happily accepts being cheated out of its own property and wealth.

The Public Musicians Forum #9 proved to be a good way of capping off 2018. It defined many of the problems that face us, and as a result, laid a good part of the groundwork for 2019.

A special thanks to Board member Billy Harper who initiated and has ran these musician meet ups with Sohrab since last year.

Special thanks also to Ken Hatfield for his input on musician rights and musician related legal issues.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #9

MFM Public Musicians Forum will be run by Billy Harper and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi. This will be our last forum for this year.

Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Venue: Upper West Side Yeoryia Studios, 2067 Broadway, (Between 71st & 72nd Streets), New York, NY 10023, Studio name: Norma (#55, 5Fl.)

Our forum will feature topics on a variety of subjects of interest to our members as following (detailed agenda in the next newsletter):

*Ken Hatfield and Sohrab speak about the importance of activism in the fight for musician rights,

*Dawoud and Sohrab speak about the importance of in-house on-line PR outlets, such as DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY, MFM Member Newsletter. MFM website and MFM social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,

*Discuss how MFM can make it easier for musicians to come to the meetings and get involved in MFM business,

*Give attending musicians the opportunity to speak about problems and issues they have had recently.

After the presentations attendees are invited to network with each other.

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MFM Public Musicians Forum #9 Invitation

MFM Public Musician Forum

MFM Public Musicians Forum #9 Invitation

MFM Public Musicians Forum will be run by Billy Harper and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi. This will be our last forum for this year.

Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Venue: Upper West Side Yeoryia Studios, 2067 Broadway, (Between 71st & 72nd Streets), New York, NY 10023, Studio name: Norma (#55, 5Fl.)

Our forum will feature topics on a variety of subjects of interest to our members as following (detailed
agenda in the next newsletter):

  • Ken Hatfield and Sohrab speak about the importance of activism in the fight for musician rights,
  • Dawoud and Sohrab speak about the importance of in-house on-line PR outlets, such as DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY, MFM Member Newsletter. MFM website and MFM social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,
  • Discuss how MFM can make it easier for  musicians to come to the meetings and get involved in MFM business,
  • Give attending musicians the opportunity to speak about problems and issues they have had recently.

After the presentations attendees are invited to network with each other.

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MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

MFM Public Musician Forum

Report by Dawoud Kringle (with Ken Hatfiled)

MFM held its 8th Public Musician Forum in New York on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018. The meeting was run by jazzman Billy Harper (MFM Board member) and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM President). Saadat began with suggesting that the meeting adhere to a simple agenda.

1. Discussion of what needs to be done after the Music Modernization Act (MMA) victory becoming law October 11th. Reminding the MFM members of the mid term elections in November and the 2018 MFM Annual Membership Meeting in December. Speaker: Ken Hatfield (MFM AC member) assisted by  Saadat,

2. The presentation of a contract for performing and touring musicians. MFM supporter Roger Blanc will lead the discussion.

3. Dawoud Kringle‘s presentation of MFM’s digital magazine / newsletter DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY. Kringle is along with Saadat the main contributor of this on-line magazine.

4. Discuss how MFM can make it easier for musicians to come to the meetings and get involved in MFM business.

5. Give attending musicians the opportunity to speak about problems and issues they have had recently.

MFM Public Musicians Forum



After the meeting opened, Hatfield spoke  (audio file here) in considerable detail on what we need to focus on now that the Music Modernization Act has passed:

The first was the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC). The MLC will distribute the money that the DSPs (Digital Service Providers), ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and various streaming services (e.g. Spotify) will pay us musicians for the uses of our music / content. The proposed configuration of this collective is: ten publisher members and four writer members (with the publishers wanting to choose who the writer representatives will be). The monies are to be split 50 / 50 between publishers and writers. It makes sense that the MLC be configured accordingly.

The MLC will operate under a five year charter granted and renewed by the Library of Congress. The music community can monitor it and offer comments on the Library of Congress website regarding how the MLC performed. This means the configuration could be changed for the second five year charter to a more equitable configuration (such as the ideal seven publisher and seven writer members).

The MLC will have a database for storing information that identifies who owns the rights to the music. They will grant blanket licenses to the DSPs, streamers, and other services that are using / broadcasting our music in exchange for the fees they will pay the MLC. This database will be the “official” source for “correctly” identifying who gets paid for the various licensed uses the MLC will supervise. This will require all tracks to have ISRC codes and be registered with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress as well.

The Case Act, Fair Pay Fair Play Act (FPFP), and the Classics Act will need to be monitored closely.

Probably the most important upcoming action concerns 512 reform of the Digital Music Copyright Act’s safe harbor provisions. Some other safe harbors have already been amended and/or repealed in FOSTA – SESTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking act) as well as Article 13 recently passed by the E.U. Parliament. 512 needs to be amended because it gives the DSPs immunity from illegal activities perpetrated on their platforms by the users of their platforms (such as copyright infringement). Reform could stop or limit such activities by requiring mandatory adherence to take down notices.

Two attempts to interfere with our efforts to fix these inequities are troublesome and need to be monitored closely:

(1) The USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement: Trump’s re-branded version of NAFTA) – is purported to contain permanent protection for these safe harbor provisions (particularly section 512 of the Digital Music Copyright Act. Fixing it after ratification will require repeal of the entire treaty).

(2) The ALI’s (American Law Institute) “restatement of copyright” project. Since the MMA will open things up for more judges to hear PRO rate cases (a good thing), more judges will be needed. The judges are not likely to be experts on the complex nuances of copyright law. ALI, who are are hostile to copyright law, is writing a summarized cliff-notes version of copyright law to be used as a guide for judges hearing copyright cases. Big Tech friendly lawyers, academics and judges have called copyright “obsolete” and “a tax on culture”. They say that internet piracy is just another form of “promotion” which they claim stimulates innovation. Judges relying on a short hand description of copyright law written by a biased source, will doubtless undermine the foundations of copyright law by being less than impartial to content creators seeking redress for infringement of their rights to their own creations.

One important point Hatfield used to sum up the situation we are in is quite simple. Recording artists today have two paths to choose from. One: get signed to a big label and let them do the business (which generally means they will rob you blind). Or two: set up your own label and run things yourself. These are fundamentally the only two options available as the future of the music business unfolds.

MFM Public Musicians Forum

Hatfiled recommended the following resources for more info:

MFM’s website

After a break, Saadat and Roger Blanc presented a template for a contract for MFM members to use. The contract, (created by Saadat and Dave Ruch) is specific to live performances, and between performers and venues / promoters. It offers a concise outline of a fair and ideal agreement between Purchaser and Performer. Items in the contract include (but are not limited to) date, time frame, and type of engagement, guarantee or compensation, method of payment contact information, and additional terms and conditions.

The idea of this contract sets a good precedent. It solidifies and defines the terms of a performance agreement, and empowers and protects the musicians. This is something all too often neglected by musicians; and leaves us vulnerable to messy misunderstandings.

A PDF of the contract will be found here.

There were a few minutes devoted to discussing the dichotomy of  DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY  function as both a magazine and MFM newsletter. Regrettably, though, time proved too short to go over the last three items on the agenda. The depth of the first two items demanded thorough discourse.

But the meeting was productive, informative, and a lot of fun.

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MFM & Eclectix to Present an Evening of Jazz in Support of Professional Musicians

MFM and Eclectix

MFM & Eclectix to Present an Evening of Jazz in Support of Professional Musicians Wednesday, Sept 5th, 7-9 PM at Zinc Bar (NY)

The Event Will Feature Tenor Sax Master Billy Harper and His Group and the E.C.O. Ensemble, a Jazz Composers’ Quintet

New York City, Aug. 16, 2018 – Musicians for Musicians (MFM), a non-profit organization that advocates for and promotes a sustainable, professional career path for musicians, and Eclectix, a composers and musicians organization, will present an evening of jazz to bring together musicians, music industry professionals and music lovers. The music and networking event will take place on Wednesday, September 5 from 7-9 PM at Zinc Bar, 82 West 3rd Street in Manhattan and will feature tenor sax master and MFM board member Billy Harper and his group, as well as the E.C.O. Ensemble, a quintet of jazz composer/musicians. There will be a $10 cover charge and 2 drink minimum at tables; there is no cover at the bar.

Music professionals are invited to attend as part of MFM’s effort to bring together musicians from all disciplines, styles, traditions and localities in the cause of their mutual betterment. The music-loving public is invited to foster an understanding of the true value of music – beyond pure aesthetics and to support the professional roles of musicians who make their living from their art.

“We believe strongly that the time has come for the entire community of professional musicians to get together and advocate for themselves and their colleagues,” said MFM president Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi. “Without unity among musicians there’s no way to communicate that music is not, cannot and should not be free. If we are to have music in our lives, we must change this expectation that has developed in the digital age.”

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MFM Public Musicians Forum #6

MFM Public Musicians Forum #6

“Musicians – we have to stop being so proud of being “very independent” and realize that: We are not alone. We are connected as in group of jazz musicians or, just group of musicians.
Like it or not …… it has been the “negative stigma” placed on us as a “group”.
Therefore, it is necessary for us to “join together” ….for our own good.
To end: let us learn how to support each other!
Wouldn’t that be great … after being taught to “fight and compete with each other?”

– Billy Harper
MFM’s President Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi and jazz man and new MFM Board member Billy Harper invite you to this month’s MFM Public Musicians Forum #6.
Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Venue: Upper West Side Yeoryia Studios, 2067 Broadway, (Between 71st & 72nd Streets), New York, NY 10023, Studio name: Norma (#55, 5Fl.)
Please RSVP by calling to Sohrab at 347-963-1448 or emailing him
You’re welcome to bring musicians with you, but please RSVP your guests as well. The number of chairs are limited!


Dawoud’s Forum #5 report: (photo below).


7:00 – 7:20pm: David Freeman speaks about teaching musicians

7:20 – 7:35pm: Brain specialist Dr. Kamran Fallahpour speaks about “Music And Brain / Depression”

7:35 – 8:00pm: MMA follow up. Speak about next campaigns: DMCA reform and FairPayFairPlay Act and why activism is important to address and fight musician issues

8:00 – 8:15pm: Break

8:15 – 8:25pm: MFM’s new mission statement

8:25 – 8:40pm: discuss the Musicians March 2020 in DC

8:40 – 9:00pm: What should be done ASAP? asked by Jimmy Owens

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MFM Public Musicians Forum #5: Addressing Tough Questions

Review by Dawoud Kringle

On Thursday, April 19th, MFM presented its fifth Musicians Forum.

The meeting was a little late in starting. As we waited, the subject of strategies for the MFM agenda, the politics of the music business, and various pension plans were casually discussed. There was also discussion about union vs. nonunion contracts.

The question of how hard it is to work around the stark difference between the professional experiences of the younger and older generations was raised. One of the problems the younger generation created for themselves is the constant undercutting of their own market value. The idea of professionalism – more to the point, earning an acceptable wage for their work – is often so far outside their experience as to be incomprehensible. This creates a toxic environment wherein musicians not only accept the devaluation of their work, they find the situation acceptable.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #5
Michael Moss and Ken Hatfield (photo by Dawoud Kringle)

With the arrival of Billy Harper, the meeting got underway in earnest. MFM founder Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi brought up the idea of redefining the MFM mission statement in a way that would attract the people we need to communicate and work with. AC member Ken Hatfield suggested inexpensive business cards. People could hand them out, and say “check out the MFM website.” This is a practical outreach method that could introduce MFM to those who have difficulty seeing what MFM is working to accomplish, and assist MFM members who lack high end sales skills.

The revised mission statement needs to get an important idea in the mindset of musicians: the music industry is in a state where the actual music itself has been devalued. This is the idea that must be communicated, and the state of affairs which must be opposed and ultimately transcended.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #5
David Belmont & Billy Harper (photo by Dawoud Krungle)

After Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi and Board member David Belmont announced Billy Harper’s approval to the MFM Board, the dialogue returned to the problems of communicating what MFM is doing.

Ultimately the thing that unites us across the board is music, and that we are musicians. Articulating the MFM mission across the boundaries of style, genre, and generations must use this idea to prove that MFM is a necessary organization that 1. Supports all that’s good for music and Musicians and 2. Seeks to provide services, based on advocacy, that other organizations (ASCAP, BMI, Local 802, etc) do not.

The idea of different levels of membership was floated. For example, the main qualification for MFM membership is that one is a professional musician. Others who are not professional musicians (e.g. music students, DJs, music producers, etc.) will arguably require a different classification of membership.

It was agreed that the new mission statement needs to be simple, to the point, and won’t alienate anyone. The question of what marketing methods can communicate this was debated.

The devaluation of music is a constant obstacle. Music is being given away for free. It’s the ingrained habit of most young musicians that they willingly give their music away for free. To complicate matters, audiences have come to expect music to be free: it’s impossible to beat a free giveaway. The idea of music being a thing of value that they spend their hard earned money on is outside the experience of the younger generations. In live performances, the economic models the venues use make it difficult or impossible to earn a decent wage. The traditional established outlets are tied up by the older guard – and they are not willing to surrender a lucrative position. The ecosystem of the music business is not healthy for musicians; and while changing it is, to say the very least, a tall order, it’s a necessity of musicians and the quality music they make are to survive.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #5
Billy Harper and Sohrab (photo by Dawoud Kringle)

Regrettably, there was no time to address the other items on the agenda (a Musicians March for 2020 in Washington DC, and Jimmy Owens’ query about “What should be done ASAP?”). MFM member Melanie Frey managed to contribute brief discourse about female musicians’ rights and issues. The meeting ended with some discussion about the Music Modernization Act (MMA). As of this writing, it is perhaps too late to lobby for a massive overhaul of the MMA; but it’s possible we can work with it.

It’s a potentially disheartening thought that we are going toe to toe with not only a number of powerful adversaries, but that our potential allies are so inured to this intolerable state of affairs that we are forced to actually reeducate them (this is part of the primal foundation of MFM: the promotion of the idea that musicians are professionals). With each of the Musician’s Forum, the detailed nature of MFM’s agenda and the universal problems facing musicians – becomes clearer. And this brings us closer to the method and means of achieving our objectives.

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Attention: MFM’s President Official Statement Reg. the Music Modernization Act (MMA)

Since February – as the President of MFM and a 24/7 professional musician – I’ve been doing my “homework” reg. the Music Modernization Act (MMA). I’ve been talking about this bill to people from the music industry, musician advocacy organizations, my union, professional musicians around me and music activists. Trying to get an understanding of this complex and essential bill, which has a long history.

It is clear that the MMA is a very important piece of legislation intended to benefit the music community, especially song writers/composers and music publishers. Honestly, I didn’t try to read the 100 plus pages of the latest version of the bill due to time limitation and not being a native speaker. So I left that to the experts around me pointing me out to the pro and cons.

In MFM’s previous two meetings we discussed this bill with all in attendance; and Ken Hatfield (MFM’s advisory Committee member) did a superb and in-depth job introducing this bill to the attending musicians.

Delving in to the details of MMA and the process involved in its creation and evolution has been a real eye opener for me…… I’ve learned a lot:

Firstly, I learned from it that music and business REALLY do go hand in hand. Confirming MFM’s slogan #MakingMusicIsAProfession. It made me understand how and why musicians have been exploited for so many years by our “so called” “employers” and how the public has become increasingly complicit in this.

Our exploitation has been going on for far too long to recount here. As pertains to recent history, the biggest exploitation started with the birth of the Internet, which changed the paradigms of music business. In order to create profitable business models the DSPs (Digital Service Providers) took advantage of safe harbor provisions (like the infamous 512 section of the DMCA) that limited their liability for illegal uses (perpetrated by those using their platforms…making the DSPs not “directly” responsible) of copyrighted materials (like our music) to build market share. The DSPs did this by promoting and profiting from illegal file-sharing to start with. They then collected and monetized the data of all their “users” that participated in what were illegal activities. This led to the abuses perpetrated by the supposedly “legal streaming services”…uses which MMA is intended to address.

This whole line of indentured servitude foisted on musicians was sold under the misleading banner of “information wants to be free” a nonsense phrase (selectively excerpted from what its author Stewart Brand actually said) and frequently used to justify access to copyrighted material…for FREE (though the platforms providing access were and are profiting from advertising and data mining connected to our content)…resulting in wholesale exploitation of all content creators especially the music workers.

The public blindly went along with it, because they only saw the short sighted advantage of getting stuff for free! Many musicians went along too, becoming willing victims of this digital eco system of serfdom by providing their (copyrighted) music for free via downloading and streaming. Why? Because they believed in the illusive value of the “free” exposure they would get out of it. In fact, this exposure proved to be of limited value to some indie musicians, but the majority of musicians didn’t achieve anything! Even major artists received far less under this new digital paradigm then previously paid under the old system.

Just look at the rates being paid. The current statutory compulsory rate is 9.1 cents per use (this is the rate intended for “phono records”…as stated in the NOIs that streamers routinely use to notify copyright owners that their music is being used), but streamers like Spotify only pay rates .0014 cents per use! Clearly a misuse of the compulsory license law’s intention!

Secondly, with the MMA issue I found an important topic to start a discussion with the MFM Board and MFM members. The MMA issue was “the common cause” I needed as an example to demonstrate MFM’s mission which wants to empower the fragmented community of professional musicians through common cause.

It helped me to bring musicians to our meetings and forums. (Some of them joined MFM later.) Respected professional musicians, such as Billy Harper and Ken Hatfield joined the MFM board and advisory community. Speaking of Billy Harper: since November he’s been running (with me) the monthly musician meetings on the Upper West Side. Because of him other respected musicians, such as Jimmy Owens, Michelle Shocked, Joe Lovano, Stanley Banks, Cynthia Scott, Ricky Ford, Robby K attended our meetings.

MMA was discussed in following occasions:

Thirdly, due to the MMA I had the chance to reach out to other musician organizations, music schools, local politicians and Local 802. Improve MFM’s presence on social media and get musicians outside of MFM interested in MFM, especially those who don’t believe in organizing.

All this said what is MFM’s stand position regarding MMA? Is it endorsing this bill?

As Dawoud wrote: “from legislative perspective this bill is important because 1. It is a bill that consolidates many of the best provisions of its predecessors into one bill, such as CASE and FAIR PLAY FAIR PAY ACT and 2. It has substantial support from the major players in the music community.”

The pros include the fact that digital service providers (DSPs), such as iTunes, Spotify, Pandora etc. have finally agreed that they will pay for every play/stream/broadcast use of music (identified and unidentified). This money will go to the music community and no longer stay with the DSPs (under the issuance of Notice Of Intent to seek a compulsory license to make phono records a.k.a. NOIs …which essentially result in delaying or not paying mechanical royalties). This money will be distributed by a Collective which will be under the Library of Congress who will grant it a charter of 5 years duration.

This Collective will not only distribute the money to writers and publishers, but it will also create and/or oversee the creation of a data base that all the DSP’s will rely on to identify and pay accordingly for any and all of the music that the DSPs play/stream broadcast etc. or otherwise use to generate revenue for their business.

The cons include the fact that the aforementioned collective as presently configured will be comprised of 10 publisher members and only 4 composer/writer members (and the publishers want to choose these four writer members). There is little or no transparency for independent self-published writers /composers regarding the right to audit the Collective. This right of audit is limited to the Big Publishers (which means that Sony and Universal will not only have the lions share of board members on the collective, but will be the only ones that can audit the Collective’s disbursements of the money they receive from the DSP’s). This configuration of the Collective is clearly unfair in light of the law which requires writers and publishers to spilt all these revenues 50-50 i.e. 50% to each!

The content of this bill is still “evolving”, although the MMA was unanimously voted out of the House Judiciary Committee April 11, 2018. I agree with Ken’s statement: “The music community will need to decide individually and collectively if we can live with the basic procedural intent of MMA while working to fix the issues we have with it before it is voted on by Congress.” So there’s still some time for the experts such as MusicAnswers, C3, the AFM, activists, such as Maria Schneider, David Lowery and many others to make changes before the Congress votes on it. But the time we have is dwindling away so we cannot wait indefinitely!

Due to the complexity of this bill I and MFM are still not able to participate in making meaningful corrections and come with good advice. On the contrary, MFM leaves that to the experts we trust. But MFM will support and endorse any decision done by the musician community. We believe that ONLY unity and solidarity among musicians and their reps will improve this bill. There are many in the music community that believe that MMA is overall an improvement for song-writer/composers and publishers. Though more so for the established than the fledgling indie artists. But, because there are mechanisms within the bill for future improvements, MFM wants this bill passed and signed by the President in the near future.

Attention: in order not to kill this bill, no MFM member can speak for MFM regarding any official MFM position on MMA. Of course all of MFM’s members may freely speak their minds as individual members of the music community and even members of MFM. But these are their personal views…not views sanctioned or advocated by MFM! Whatever he or she thinks, believes and claims are personal…and should be clearly stated as such…regarding MMA.  Again: the bill is too complex, it is clear that the majority of our members (including myself) are not able to grasp all the content of this bill…and given that it just made it through mark-ups (on Tuesday 04-10-18) most congressional representatives are also unlikely to be able to address it in its entirety! So for this one MFM needs to observe and learn to prepare us for future actions!

In solidarity and music,

Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM’s President) – 4/17/2018



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Review: The MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3: Laying the Groundwork for Action

By Dawoud Kringle (with Ken Hatfield and Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi)

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Dawoud Kringle

On Tuesday, February 27th, the MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3 was held at Yeoria Studio. Organized by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi and Billy Harper, the agenda of the meeting was threefold. 1. Ken Hatfield and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi were to discuss the Music Modernization Act (MMA). 2. The rights and problems of women musicians. 3. Organizing a Musicians’ March in NY and DC in 2019.

The attendance of these meetings is growing. Attendees this night included Ricky Ford, Cynthia Scott, Stanley Banks. Jimmy Owens, Robbi Kumalo, Bill Saxton, Melanie Frey; and Gene Ghee.

Saadat opened the meeting with a brief introduction. Hatfield hit the ground running with his discourse about the Music Modernization Act, and other bills that affect the future of digital music production, distribution, and remuneration for creators. Ken Hatfield handed out a document he’d prepared (later, Saadat joked that he’d asked Hatfield to prepare a one or two page document; Hatfield came with 10 pages). This document formed the main body of his discourse, and it covered a lot of ground.

A wide variety of interrelated subjects and problems were brought up, discussed, analyzed, dissected, and argued over. This began with a historical perspective (including the fact that present copyright laws have remained almost unchanged since 1909). This overview included:

1. The 1996, the Digital Music Copyright Act (DMCA), a US copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization. It criminalizes production of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted material (this became a necessity with the advent of the Internet; and the nature of digital music medium). One of the biggest problems with DMCA is section 512 (a.k.a. the “SAFE HARBOR” provision). This provision makes it impossible to sue the digital service providers (DSPs) when they violate our copyrights. Elimination (or as some propose revision / restriction) of section 512 would allow musicians a leverage similar to how the tobacco companies could be held financially accountable for the death and disease their product creates.

2. The Fair Play Fair Pay act (HR1836) which amends federal copyright laws to extend copyright owner’s rights to include the exclusive right to perform or authorize the performance of a recording publicly through the means of any audio transmission. It proposes that terrestrial broadcasters will have to pay the same four concerns that digital broadcasters now have to pay. Previously terrestrial broadcasts only generated revenues for composers and publishers (though at higher rates than those paid now by DSPs) while digital service providers pay (1) composers and (2) publishers…… each at much lower rates. Composers and publishers currently get 1/12th of what record companies and performers get) and also pay (3) owner(s) of the mechanical rights to the sound recording (generally a record company) and (4) the performing artist (i.e. the featured artists). Under FPFP all broadcasts would pay roughly the same (or similar) concerns and amounts. That is the game changer here.

3. The Classics Act: HR 3301, which was initiated by a bipartisan group of senators. If passed, HR 3301 could close major loopholes in US copyright law that left Artists out of the royalty payments of digital radio play in platforms such as Pandora and Sirius XM. Currently artists are not paid for their contributions/performances of digital broadcast of any recording created before 1972. This is the main loophole from the DMCA that the Classics Act closes.

4. The Case Act HR 3945. Copyright law is adjudicated in Federal Courts. Federal litigation is so expensive and complicated that most creators and small businesses cannot afford to enforce their own rights. Because of this, infringements regularly go unchallenged, and many creators feel disenfranchised by the copyright system. HR 3945 addresses the problem of federal courts having exclusive jurisdiction over copyright claims. Content creators will for the first times since DMCA be able to sue those that infringe upon our copyright and mechanical rights in small claims court for amounts up to $30,000 U.S.D. This also means that those guilty of infringement will (1) be limited regarding their delaying tactics, and (2) they will be more likely to have to pay and therefore will settle and hopefully cease and desist their infringements.

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi
MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Dawoud Kringle










5. The Music Modernization Act. From legislative perspective this bill is important because 1. It is an omnibus bill that consolidates many of the best provisions of its predecessors into one bill and 2. It has substantial support from the major players in the music community, including ASCAP, BMI, RIAA, AFofM, and NMPA. The MMA promises to reform music licensing in ways that are advantageous to songwriters and composers in the modern digital age. The bill is, as of this writing, a work in progress. As such, some of the problems have yet to be worked out. The pros of the MMA include the fact that DSPs have finally agreed that they have to pay for every play/stream/broadcast use of our music (identified and unidentified). This money will go to the music community and no longer stay with the DSPs (as currently happens under the issuance of Notice Of Intentions (NOI) in lieu of or at least delaying our payments). This money will be distributed by a Collective (in some versions it is called the Mechanical Licensing Collective or MLC). This collective will be under the Library of Congress who will grant it a charter of 5 years duration.

This Collective will not only distribute tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars to writers and publishers, but it will also oversee (and create or choose/contract/outsource the creation of) a data base that all the DSP’s will rely on to identify and pay us accordingly for any and all of the music that the DSPs play/stream broadcast etc. or otherwise use to generate revenue for their business. The cons include the fact that the aforementioned collective as presently configured will be comprised of 10 publisher members and only 4 composer/writer members (and the publishers want to choose the writer members). There is little or no transparency for independent self-published writers /composers because the right to audit the Collective is limited to the Big Publishers (which means that Sony, Warner, and Universal will not only have the lions share of board members on the collective, but will be the only ones that can audit the Collective’s disbursements of the money they receive from the DSP’s). Additionally, it has been widely reported that these big publisher / record companies have substantial investments in several of the biggest streaming entities. This configuration of the Collective is clearly unfair when the writers are entitled (by law) to at least 50% of that revenue.

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Dawoud Kringle

The music community will need to decide individually and collectively if we can live with the basic procedural intent of MMA while working to fix the issues we have with it before it is voted on by Congress. The DSPs see these issues as an internal disagreement within the music community (between publishers and writers), and do not care how we divide the money that they have agreed for the first time to pay us. The publishers may need this deal more than we do. However, it may be advantageous to accept the good provisions of the MMA, and deal with its problems later (with the exceptions of the Collective Board configuration and section 512, the Safe Harbor provision, which are unacceptable). Every single musician that writes any of their own material, and/or creates/produces their own recordings needs to educate themselves about the MMA and the 512 section of the DMCA and determine where they stand. Then they need to act accordingly to proactively help create a sustainable musical eco-system that we can all live with and prosper within.

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Dawoud Kringle

The scope of this analysis is too complex to be sufficiently presented here; and is not complete. MFM is at work examining the dynamics of this, and especially the Music Modernization Act, which holds great promise. This publication will present MFM’s findings and position on these issues.

Hatfield brought up a few other related issues of importance that musicians need to be aware of. This includes the necessity of ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) codes, which will help to ensure that we get paid once a fair system is finally established.

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

The meeting was a fast paced and detailed analysis of the present situation we musicians are facing, and what can be done using the resources available to us. The streaming companies are willing to pay; though the details regarding method(s) of distribution of funds is still being fought out.

The subject of MMA was too complex a subject to simply skim over. And it brought a great number of other questions to the surface which has yet to be answered. Because of this, the other subjects of the meeting’s agenda (the rights and problems of women musicians, and organizing a Musicians’ March in NY and DC in 2019) were tabled for the time being.

In my review of the 2nd Jazz Musicians Meeting, I mentioned how MFM had reached a new milestone in its development as a musician’s advocacy organization. This night, that milestone was firmly established.

A handful of attendees agreed to work within the framework of a working group to address and act upon these issues. While the question remains whether they want to that privately or under the umbrella of MFM, an important step has been taken. This is where MFM can get into the game and affect real change for the music community.

While much work (both theoretical and practical) lay ahead, progress is being made. The agenda of MFM is no longer a mere theory. It is beginning to work.

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Review: Jazz Musicians Meeting #2 with Jazzman Billy Harper & Sohrab 

Text by Dawoud Kringle 

MFM founder Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi and jazz virtuoso Billy Harper organized a Jazz Musicians Meeting. This is the second of such meetings. Attendees such as Joe Lovano, Billy Harper, Ray Blue, Jimmy Owens, Ken Hatfield, Roger Blanc, and MFM members Reggie Sylvester, Michael Moss and others made the event a remarkable success.

The first thing that was noticeable was that the basic idea that making music is a profession (the foundation of MFM) was already so deeply ingrained in the psyche of the gathering that it was too obvious to even bear mentioning. The need to voice this basic fact has, in the context of this meeting, been transcended. The next step had been very decisively taken.

Saadat had invited many female professional musicians to the event. Unfortunately none showed up. The inclusion of women in these affairs is an important factor. The lack of the participation and contributions of female musicians was noticeable; and underscored the dire need to support gender equality in the music business.

The conversation began with a lively analysis of the harsh economic realities of trying to make a living as a musician. One interesting point that arose was how streaming outlets like Spotify, Pandora, etc., do not pay us a living wage. Spotify is particularly unsavory in their business practises. A musician will have to have millions of streams before he or she will see the most minuscule royalty statement (which by the way, if that monthly royalty does not meet a certain minimum, it does not spill over into the next month). Their entire business model is losing money: yet their CEOs are pulling in seven figure salaries. Where does this leave the musicians who actually produce Spotify’s content? Penniless. And the CEO’s platitudes are always the same: “it’s good exposure.”

Some problems that were discussed included playing clubs, the pros and cons of the Union, question of publishing royalties for composers and side men, and  the obsolete business models that are being used to exploit musicians.

Other subjects that could offer possible solutions were explored, including the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, CASE Act bill in Congress, Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and setting up a corporation (LLC) and pay  into your own pension, arranging deals with BMI and ASCAP for guaranteed payments, and others which are attempting to level the playing field for musicians.

The nuts and bolts of record deals and how musicians can get paid was dissected under a microscope. Many anecdotes of personal experiences of different deals were compared and analyzed.

Jazz Musicians Meeting
Photo by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi w. Ken, Jimmy and Billy


Ken Hatfield was the main commentator on musician rights and issues. It is regrettable that his discourse was not recorded; it contained valuable information on the business.

Jazz Musicians Meeting
Photo by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi w. Joe, Reggie, Michael and Roger

Jimmy Owens shared ideas rooted in his experience as a musician activist. He gave good advice on business matters; and his anecdotes were priceless.

Joe Lovano gave some very interesting inside information about his business relationship with Blue Note Records.

Saddat’s contribution to the meeting – beyond his role in organizing it – was more in the background. He moderated a bit, and asked the group to share concerns, fears, and successes. This was a good sign: not because Saadat‘s contributions are irrelevant or superfluous. It simply signaled that the MFM model of “we” – i.e. a proactive and communal collective approach to diagnosing problems and implementing workable solutions, is finally taking shape.

Concerns were expressed about the future. The mechanization of business is reducing work opportunities for musicians, as well as all workers. Europe, as another example, has no more need for American jazz musicians. They developed to the point where they have their own branches of jazz. This poses a question: how do we get overseas gigs in the face of the present political (Trump) and economic climate? How do musicians set up health care, career development, etc. How does the working musician survive at all?

Photo by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi w. Jimmy, Billy, Ray and Roger

All attendees agreed that musicians need to organize and advocate the profession and business of music. It’s necessary that musicians get out from their individual mental boxes and start to listen to other musicians and share experiences. It was also reiterated that we shouldn’t play for free (one of the elders advised one of the younger attendees not to play at a club that doesn’t pay despite providing the backline).

One thing that’s important is drawing an audience’s attention. This is difficult because people don’t know how to listen to music.  We are fighting the dumbing down of America. Our best work is incomprehensible to most people. We can’t accomplish our long term objectives  without the audience understanding that we are not getting paid for the use of our work. Breaking through this is a priority.

Musicians got into their careers because of some inner spiritual idea. The music business  behaves in contrast to universal spiritual principles. We are walking a razor’s edge trying to survive and prosper through speaking universal truths directly into hearts. The American model of greed based business is simply not working. It is doomed to destruction. We need another way to do this.

This meeting was a milestone for MFM. It was a gathering of intelligent and experienced musicians who shared ideas in order to formulate a real workable plan of action. All attendees asked that these meetings be continued.

This could signal the beginning of a formidable movement.