[This post first appeared on MusicTechPolicy. Read the American Music Fairness Act here.]
Blake Morgan helped to launch the American Music Fairness Act on June 24 in Washington along with Dionne Warwick, Sam Moore, a host of other artists and the bill’s sponsors Rep. Ted Deutch and Rep. Darrell Issa. We asked Blake about his impressions.
Chris Castle: I see you were back in Washington supporting new legislation to create a performance right for artists on terrestrial radio, how did that feel? Getting the band back together?
Blake Morgan: You know, it felt great. There’s a new spirit in the air, a new energy to this fight. Everyone at the launch event could feel it. It was aspirational. How can one not feel that way for something called the American Music Fairness Act?
Any particular insights from the event?
Perhaps the one at the top of the list is that everyone was so happy––to see each other, to band together, to renew our vows to each other so to speak. To recommit ourselves in a new way to securing fair payment for artists on terrestrial radio. It was emotional. The fight for justice always is, and let’s make no mistake: this is a fight for basic fairness and justice. There’s an unmistakable excitement about the new bill, and our job––together––is to turn that excitement into volition, then into momentum, and finally into victory.
There was a quote in the recent Supreme Court ruling against the NCAA that jumped out at me: “Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate.” That’s not exactly analogous to broadcast radio, but it’s close, don’t you think?
Absolutely. Nothing could be more American than being paid fairly for one’s work. Nothing should be more American than being paid for one’s work. When it comes to music, where else in the American economy are working people told they won’t be paid for their work because instead, they’re going to receive “exposure.” That’s what AM/FM radio does. What’s more, broadcast radio can take our music without our permission, broadcast it, sell advertising around it, profit from it, and not pay the artists anything for it! As Sam Moore said at the bill’s launch event at The Capitol, “Pay us! Be nice!”
You were an active supporter of the CLASSICS Act that required pre-72 recordings be given equal treatment on digital performances. I was pleased that Rep. Deutch and Rep. Issa invited several generations of artists to the American Music Fairness Act event, will the pre-72 artists also be protected by AMFA?
Definitely, that’s such an important part of what this bill does. My godmother was Lesley Gore, the iconic 60’s hitmaker who sang the classics “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me,” among others. She died in 2015, after having never been paid one damn dime for those hits being played on AM or FM radio. AMFA may be too late for her, but I’m committed to making sure we get this passed in time for other iconic hitmakers and legends who have helped weave the very fabric of this country with their music. Who could possibly look any of those artists in the eye and tell them they shouldn’t be paid fairly. For shame.
What can the #irespectmusic community do to support the legislation?
We can do what we do best––bring music makers and music lovers together, tell people to stop wringing their hands and start rolling up their sleeves, and get active in supporting AMFA. We’re going to set up mechanisms in the coming weeks to make our voices heard with congressional members, with broadcasters (an increasing amount of which support this legislation, in fact), and with those who haven’t yet joined the push. We’re going to work hard, we’re going to work smart, and we’re going to pull ourselves closer and closer to victory with this in mind: it always seems impossible until it’s done.
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