The ProShop was recently addressed by a very special guest—Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America.
Rick talked to a packed meeting of my students about the “Fair Trade Music” initiative that’s being supported for the first time in music history by over 25,000 songwriters and composers from nearly 50 countries throughout Europe, Africa and North and South America.
Just as many of us buy only “Fair Trade” coffee because we care about the growers of the beans, this fair trade initiative champions a set of principles designed to ensure transparency, fair compensation and autonomy for music creators in an increasingly complex and non-transparent music business.
As he told us of the initiative, Rick’s customary charm and excitement came through. He got the rapt attention of everyone in the room. He’s not just an advocate, but a proven creative player in the music business that demands respect.
Rick has earned 40 platinum albums with songs recorded by artists Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Alabama, Steve Wariner, Pam Tillis and Dean Martin. His song, "I Can't Even Get the Blues No More" was Reba McEntire's first number one single, and "Long Neck Bottle" recorded by Garth Brooks, set a record on the Billboard charts by entering the charts at #10.
They also work as a co-writing team and have co-written three top ten recordings for Bluegrass icons, the Whites, as well as penning the jazz ballad, "Irresistible" which was recently featured in the Sony Pictures Classic movie "Saving Face," and the swing song, "I'm Hanging' Around," which was recorded by Dean Martin.
After serving as Vice President of the Songwriters Guild of America for 18 years, in 2003 Rick was elected President. In 2004 he was elected a Vice President of the National Music Council, and in 2005 he became Communications Chairman of the Music United Coalition.
Rick told us the the Fair Trade Music principles include fair compensation for music creators; transparent management of rights and revenues derived from musician’s works; recapture of the rights of music works in a time frame no greater than 35 years; organizations that advocate and educate musicians as to their rights; and freedom of speech for music creators without fear of censorship, retaliation or repression.
More than any other sector of the music community, Rick said, the songwriter and composer community has been hit the hardest by the catastrophic losses that have financially decimated the music industry since the beginning of the 21st Century.
Rick said the principles of Fair Trade Music provide a framework for ensuring that music creators can survive and flourish in the future, to the benefit of individual songwriters and composers, consumers and culture in general.
Rick also routinely engages his audience is discussions that provoke thought. This one was no different. He gave the students some practical advice about how to become a success in the music business. They listened...very carefully.
Rick with Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah), an advocate of strong copyright protection for musicians. One reason is Hatch is a songwriter himself. Rick has written songs with him.
Student Comments about Rick Carnes Presentation
“Rick Carnes is a powerhouse. Aside from his phenomenal success in the music business, he has launched “Fair Trade Music.” A “Fair Trade” stamp on any recording signifies that the artist is being fairly compensated.”
“Fair Trade Music” is for recognizing and rewarding songwriters for their invaluable product—the song upon which the entire music business depends. Makes sense!”
“Digital piracy could be stopped easily by the ISPs, but there is no financial incentive to do so.”
“A Rick Carnes quote that stood out for me: ‘When you value your music at zero, you get zero returns.’”
“Can’t wait to get my Fair Trade T-shirt.”