Mitch Glazier to Take Helm of RIAA, CEO Cary Sherman to Retire in 2018

Courtesy of RIAA
Mitch Glazier

Major label trade group announces succession as Congress debates copyright reform, Billboard exclusively reports.

There’s another new leader in Washington. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will announce Monday that Mitch Glazier will take the helm of the major-label trade association -— as president now and then as chairman and CEO in January 2019. Cary Sherman, who holds that position now and has worked for the RIAA in various roles for two decades, will retire at the end of 2018.

"It’s a really interesting time,” Glazier tells Billboard. "We've hit an inflection point where there’s a lot of optimism, but it’s a very fragile recovery." After a downturn that began in 2000, following the debut of Napster, the U.S. recorded music business took in 11.4 percent more revenue in 2016 than in the previous year, according to the organization. But the industry also faces significant challenges, and policy issues will become more important now that streaming has overtaken sales for the first time as its largest single source of revenue.

Saying that Glazier is taking over in an interesting time may be putting it mildly. Last week, members of Congress from both parties, led by Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), reintroduced the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which would establish a public performance right for sound recordings -— and thus require terrestrial radio stations to pay labels and musicians for the use of their work. There’s also a bill to make the Register of Copyrights, the highest copyright official in the country, a presidential appointee. Even more important, Congress is beginning a long-awaited process of copyright reform, which could lead to legal changes that could affect the entire music business.

"There’s a lot going on in 2017, but we can’t think of this as a snapshot in time without thinking about new business models," says Glazier, who has worked at the RIAA for 18 years and is currently senior executive vp. "I'm not going to guess what’s coming, but I want to make sure that labels are able to invest in artists, no matter what the business model."

For an industry that has seen so much change, Glazier's two-year ascension to the CEO job represents a smooth transition for the trade group. Although Glazier is a Republican and Sherman a Democrat, Glazier says this wasn’t a factor in the change, since "all of our issues have always been bipartisan." Despite the fact that music business executives and creators tend to be Democrats — and some of them have been outspoken about criticizing President Donald Trump — lawmakers are often more influenced on copyright issues by the constituencies they represent than by the party to which they belong.

"Mitch is adept at translating complex recorded music industry issues into layman’s terms," says Warner Music Group executive vp and general counsel Paul Robinson, who is on the RIAA’s board of directors. "We are pleased and honored that Mitch has agreed to become Cary's successor, as it is a rare person who could take on this unique role and build on the RIAA’s achievements."

This story originally posted on Billboard.

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