ASCAP Election Begins, Selected “Opponents” Announced

Film Music Magazine • February 3, 2011

ASCAP has launched its writer and publisher board elections, held each 2 years, with the distribution of ballots containing the names of the incumbents plus “opponents” selected by the nomination committees.

On the writer board, the names included:

Incumbents: Richard Bellis, Marilyn Bergman, Bruce Broughton, Hal David, Dan Foliart, Wayland Holyfield, Johnny Mandel, Stephen Paulus, Valerie Simpson, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams and Doug Wood

Selected Opponents: Bill Banfield, Joel Beckerman, George Duke, Russ Kunkel, Tania Leon, Ralph MacDonald, Raul Midon, Earl Rose, Patrice Rushen, Roger Carey Treece, David Wolfert and David Zippel

Prior to 2002, independent candidates running for the ASCAP Board of Directors required only 25 signatures on a petition. After 2002, due to language created by the ASCAP Board, independent candidates now require 1,587 signatures of voting ASCAP members in order to secure a spot on the ballot, unless they are chosen by the ASCAP Nominating Committee.

Since the language created by the ASCAP Board was implemented, in 2002, no incumbent ASCAP Board member who has run for election or re-election has been defeated.

Adding to the challenge of the selected opponents is the fact that while incumbents have months before an election to strengthen relationships and campaign, the selected opponents are announced within days of ballots being sent out, leaving little opportunity for meaningful campaigning.

To download the biographies of all ASCAP writer board candidates, visit:
http://ascap.com/about/elections/

Comments

By Richard Zeier on February 4th, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I just got my candidate package from ASCAP. I was just wondering if Film Music Magazine endorses any candidates that would best represent the interest of composers.

By Mark Northam on February 4th, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Hi Richard –

We thought about it, but sadly since the ASCAP Board works, by choice, in such secrecy, there was no way to really tell what any of the board members did or didn’t do. These people go way, way out of their way to make sure that their individual actions on the board – what they do and what they say – is kept far away from the membership. It’s not transparent, and it’s anybody’s guess what really goes on there. We don’t even know which members even bother showing up for board meetings! That being said, the oppressive policies such as the one where a minute of custom score music is paid by ASCAP only 20% of what a minute of background song is paid would tend to be reason to vote for ANYBODY but the incumbents. Sadly, though, thanks to manipulated election policy and the policy of handpicking “opponents”, not a single incumbent who has run for re-election since 2002 (when the new policies began) has failed to be re-elected. In some ways, those policies have resulted in elections that are more like coronations than elections. I for one would like to see a lot more transparency and accountability from ASCAP board members, but until more composers speak up and start asking for this, I expect we’ll see more of the same from ASCAP where the real losers aren’t the folks who aren’t elected, but are the score composers who are getting paid a fraction of what their music performances are worth while the songwriters, having hijacked the system to fatten their own wallets, continue to laugh all the way to the bank every time one of their background songs gets paid on TV and it gets a 500% automatic increase (for a one-minute cue), coming directly out of the pockets of other ASCAP members.

By Bruce Broughton on February 5th, 2011 at 9:01 am

There are no other American performance rights organizations other than ASCAP in which the board is chosen (and occasionally modified) by the membership. So perform some due diligence on the qualifications of all of the candidates. And then vote.

By Mark Northam on February 5th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

True, Bruce, but in an election, due diligence requires relevant data and facts – like voting records for the incumbents, so we can see specifically what ASCAP policies they supported and did not support. Of course, at ASCAP those remain secret, preventing such due diligence. Reading through the election bios, not much more is available. Once you discount all the platitudes about “wanting to help creators” and such, there’s not much re: qualifications. And how does writing or performing great music – which many of the candidates have obviously done – qualify one to serve on a board whose primary job involves evaluating complex legal and financial matters and making the decisions of a financial organization that distributes almost a billion dollars year of other people’s money?

Can you imagine an election for senator where the candidate refuses to disclose his voting record and instead asks people to vote for him based on his good looking kids or some other aesthetic? This is a serious election, not a beauty contest, and not a songwriting or score composing contest either.

I agree with you – due diligence about the specific qualifications of the candidates to evaluate and make decisions on ASCAP’s complex legal challenges and billion dollar distribution is important. It’s too bad that ASCAP doesn’t think so too and start publishing some relevant candidate data instead of all the fluff, hype and promotional language that we see today. And announcing the handpicked “opponents” within days of sending out the ballots, of course, gives no meaningful time for them to campaign, not to mention no time for the media or others to question them about their qualifications and and publish the results of those questions before voting begins. Add to that the fact that ASCAP refuses to release the vote counts in the election (or even the number of voting members) and it paints a pretty bleak picture for those hapless handpicked opponents…

By Mark Northam on February 5th, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Another thing to consider – ASCAP’s dismal legal performance, most recently evidenced by the disastrous decision against ASCAP in the DMX case where the judge questioned, in open court, why ASCAP would undertake such an unsuccessful legal strategy. The Board (incumbents) are responsible for overseeing and approving ASCAP’s legal strategy as crafted by their lawyers. Where do we see anybody taking responsibility for huge losses like this one? By the same token, would the latest bunch of handpicked songwriters and composers, as the “opponents”, have any better qualifications to manage and guide legal strategy when it comes to these multi-million dollar cases? It all serves to show why in order to make educated decisions in the election, we as members need a lot more information than what songs people wrote, endless platitudes, and fluffy promises about how they’ll “work hard” and such if elected. Working hard is great, but business education, knowledge and experience is what’s needed here to reverse the stunning series of costly legal losses that ASCAP has experienced since the new judge has taken over. Simply put, we don’t know enough about ANY of the candidates to properly evaluate their ability to manage these legal strategies, much less make detailed decisions on the distribution of almost a billion dollars a year. Given the fact that the ASCAP Board is made up of musicians, not business professionals, it’s all the more reason we need to understand their capabilities for understanding and making decisions about the complex legal and financial matters that confront the ASCAP Board these days. What songs they wrote or films they scored in the past pales in comparison to the seriousness and consequences of these critical financial and legal matters on the membership and the future of performing rights.

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