Yolanda Adams and Rep. Lois Frankel
Photo: Leigh Vogel/WireImage for The Recording Academy
Women's History Month: Meet Two Women Advocates Devoted To Creating Music — And Defending It
Women's History Month is here again, and we're opening up the conversation through the lens of advocacy for all music people.
To kick it off, why not meditate on the advocacy efforts of two women who stand tall in the often male-dominated music industry?
Meet Ledisi and Yolanda Adams, who have made waves in the music industry through their creative outpourings and tireless devotion to creator's rights.
Ledisi — A Towering Vocalist & Voice For Creators
As a GRAMMY Award winner — and a 2022 GRAMMY nominee for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album — Ledisi not only works hard on her music, but also for the entire music community.
She has participated in the GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards and Advocacy Day, works as the president of the Academy's L.A. Chapter, and remains outspoken on the importance of music education and using one's voice to help others.
In 2021, Ledisi discussed how she previously felt uncomfortable staking a claim in the advocacy space. But after participating in a GRAMMY U panel for the San Francisco Chapter, her perspective changed — and she realized there is far more to the Recording Academy than handing out awards.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ledisi. Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage for NARAS
"I can proudly say I am an Advocate for the Arts, and it started here with the Recording Academy. I have found so much joy in helping my beloved music community," she said. "In my first GRAMMYs On The Hill, I walked alongside my peers lobbying in the halls of Congress using my little voice — [one] that shocks sometimes, [but] still, people listened.
As Ledisi recalled, she left with the realization that the Recording Academy's essence is artists and artistry. "It's creators like me who advocate for artist rights and their legacy," she added, "for fair representation, diversity and the passion to preserve the history of all music creators."
In 2015, Ledisi came to D.C. to both perform at the GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards and participate in the Advocacy Day that followed.
When asked about her role as an advocate in an interview, Ledisi replied: "Nothing in music is free. Everything has a cost, and as long as we continue to have outdated laws that don't reflect the times and it affects creators, we will never be 'free.'"
In 2018, Ledisi spoke out for SB-933, or California's Arts for Every Student Act. While, unfortunately, it didn't make its way to law, the underlying message — and her sentiment in support of it — remain impactful.
Why did Ledisi stump for the bill? Because "children deserve the opportunity to nurture their love of the arts," she said.
Ledisi also touched on key qualities that arts education instills in students: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, and encouraging others to innovate and persevere.
On a collegiate level, in 2020, Ledisi partnered with former First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative and GRAMMY U to help students reach their goals in the music industry.
Oh, and as for SB-933? Granted, it may not have passed back in 2018. But this year, California has a fresh opportunity to drastically improve arts education statewide — if the California Arts and Music in Schools ballot initiative becomes law.
Yolanda Adams — A Gospel Great Demanding Fair Pay
In 2019, Yolanda Adams was honored at GRAMMYs On The Hill for her dedication to advocating for the rights of artists.
She's not only a gospel singer-songwriter and four-time GRAMMY winner — she's consistently been a champion for creator's rights. Through a variety of channels, Yolanda has demonstrated her commitment to music advocacy time and time again.
Adams has been the Co-Chair of the National Advocacy Committee since 2020. This committee works to determine specific policy positions of the Recording Academy and advance the interests of all music creators.
As chair, she has worked with the Academy's Advocacy team in Washington, D.C., to advocate for legislation that would enhance the rights of creators such as the HITS Act and American Music Fairness Act.
In 2020, Yolanda Adams testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property with the theme: "How Does The DMCA Contemplate Limitations and Exceptions Like Fair Use?"
Her testimony highlighted the importance of artists receiving compensation and giving permission for usage of their music — especially when the pandemic ground live music to a halt.
Adams also spoke about the need to pass legislation that would put an end to AM-FM radio being able to play music without giving compensation to artists. This is what the American Music Fairness Act — introduced in June of 2021 — would do.
"When we can't perform, we try to make part of our living from our recordings. In the digital landscape, where streams only bring fractions of a penny to the creators, we hope to monetize every use," Adams said during the hearing. "This is where fair use comes in."
"When you hear a debate about fair use, it's typically about monetization. And that's important to me and my fellow Recording Academy members," she continued. "If someone's claim of fair use reduces the artists' ability to earn a living, it should be treated as infringement, plain and simple."
Adams not only advocated at a national level, but statewide as well. In 2018 she joined the Recording Academy in Texas for the Texas Chapter Advocacy Day where she and other Academy members met with state lawmakers to highlight the importance of artists' rights within their state.
She also participated in the 7th annual District Advocate Day in August of 2020. Although this day was filled with virtual meetings rather than in person, it nonetheless was crucial in getting Members of Congress aware of the issues at hand—including providing relief for shuttered venues and artists who were impacted by the pandemic.
Adams also participated in the Academy's 7th annual District Advocate Day on Aug. 12 , advocating alongside nearly 2,000 music professionals for critical support for the music community as it continues dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're going to keep on fighting so we can make sure terrestrial radio gives us what we rightfully earned," she said, "and make sure the next generations of artists don't feel that they have to play their music underground."
Keep checking RecordingAcademy.com and GRAMMY.com throughout Women's History Month to learn how women artists and advocates have fought for all music creators throughout the years — and how they're just getting started.