Zafris Lecture Brings David Israelite to Berklee

The longtime president and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association discussed the history of music publishing and how current laws impact artists.

November 21, 2022

Berklee's 29th James G. Zafris Distinguished Lecture brought David Israelite, president and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), to its Boston campus on November 17. At the event, Tonya Butler, chair of the Music Business/Management Department, engaged Israelite in a conversation about music publishing and how current laws impact artists before an audience of Berklee students and faculty.

A champion of songwriter and publisher rights, Israelite is responsible for overseeing all aspects of NMPA’s operations, from legal strategy and implementation to government affairs and advocacy. He was instrumental in guiding the effort to modernize copyright laws, culminating in the Music Modernization Act (MMA) and the subsequent creation of the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC). 

During a Q&A with students, Israelite was asked to offer advice to young musicians starting their careers today. “Grit is probably the best indicator of success, more than talent," he said. "I think you’re probably born with it, but you can develop it.” He emphasized that in the music industry you have to deal with rejection but not give up, and that it’s important to “understand your business and to have a good team around you.”

The annual James G. Zafris Distinguished Lecture Series for Music Business/Management is Berklee's first endowed visiting lecture series, founded by the Board of Trustees in 1992 and named for James G. Zafris, longtime chair of the board and one of its founding members. Previous Zafris lecturers have included Jon Platt, chairman and CEO, Sony Music Publishing; Bruce Lundvall, president and CEO, Blue Note Label Group; Hilary Rosen, then-president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA); Dina Lapolt, a renowned entertainment attorney; and Jeff Harleston, general counsel and executive vice president of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group.

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