Upbeat Music Industry Hits Hill
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Neither an official state funeral nor the devastating aftermath of a cataclysmic storm will stop the music this morning in Washington. There's always time for showbiz on Capitol Hill.
While Washington buries Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in a solemn ceremony stretching from the Supreme Court to Arlington National Cemetery, Desmond Child will be laying on a little Livin' La Vida Loca in a House office building.
As congressional committees scramble to focus on a federal response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Gloria Estefan, Jimmy Jam and Dave Koz will be headlining a Power of Music show promoted by the folks who bring you the Grammys.
Last week, China President Hu Jintao postponed his trip to Washington to give the White House and Congress more time for disaster-recovery efforts. Not Hollywood.
For the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, it's the first-ever Recording Arts Day on Capitol Hill and, of course, the show must go on, good timing or not. Besides, there'll be an awards event packed with stars and lawmakers alike jostling for photo ops.
According to the academy, the point of the event is to not only stress the power of music but to also "raise the profile of recording arts during meetings with legislators."
Desmond, Gloria, Jimmy and Dave have issues, although no one on Tuesday afternoon could recall quite what they might be.
"The entire music industry is coming together on common issues," said Daryl Friedman, vice president of advocacy and government relations for the academy, after a long day of dealing with star-struck media inquiries on the nature of Estefan's dress. "We want to build a top-line relationship [with Congress]."
The coalition put together by the Grammy Awards producers includes performing artists, songwriters, music labels, distributors and retailers, groups whose best interests often conflict with each other.
"They don't always agree," Friedman said. "But they do agree on the big issues."
Friedman admitted Hollywood has little to be unhappy about these days. Just two days ago, an Australian federal court gave the industry thumbs up to sue the peer-to-peer (P2P) network Kazaa for aiding and abetting massive copyright theft. Damages are expected to run into the billions.
That verdict follows a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court clearing the way for Hollywood to pursue similar litigation and jumbo damages against U.S.-based Grokster and other P2P networks.
As Kazaa and Grokster take their place to be the next P2P network sued out of business, the Department of Justice is stepping up its anti-piracy enforcement with a number of high-profile busts. The industry itself continues to successfully sue thousands of individuals for copyright infringement.
"The illegal services are becoming less attractive," said Friedman. "In the first six months of this year, the number of legal downloads are up three times from where it was a year ago."
All in all, the music industry thinks Washington is doing a bang-up job delivering the goods. "It's been a good year, no doubt about that," Friedman confessed.
So today Hollywood salutes the solons, even as they scuttle from funeral appearances to Katrina finger-pointing press conferences. Estefan will headline an all-star, hour-long show in the Gold Room of the House Rayburn Office Building.
In the media-only, RSVP-required event, Estefan will "mentor young musicians, culminating in a unique jam session with members of Congress." Dozens of other performers from Randy Jackson to Earl Klugh will join the mentored children and jamming lawmakers.
For the public, the academy is hosting a $200-per-ticket evening downtown at the Willard called Grammys on the Hill. Estefan, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will be honored for improving the "environment for music makers."
Hey, a Grammy's a Grammy, good day or not.