Starting with Frank Sinatra on December 12, 1988–nearly 34 years ago to the day–artists have campaigned for fair treatment in line with the rest of the world and get a performance royalty for broadcast radio. The House Judiciary Committee led by the stalwart Rep. Jerry Nadler moved that goal a little closer this week by passing HR 4130, the American Music Fairness Act, out of committee.
Almost as significant as the vote was the comments by Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Darrell Issa (the remaining author of the bill after the wonderful Rep. Ted Deutch announced he would not run for reelection). Given the party change in the House next session, Rep. Jordan is the front runner for Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He was very clear that the committee will be taking up the bill if it doesn’t pass in the lame duck, because it is time to resave this unfairness. Rep. Darrell Issa summed it up: It is time for bipartisan compromise so that America is not in the same category as North Korea, Cuba and Iran, and whatever the right number is it is not zero.
This is not where we needed up before on prior versions of the legislation. We are in a much, much better place than before. I would say that’s for two reasons. First, because the legislation itself addresses radio’s objections and makes the NAB’s mean-spirited lobbying tactics ring hollow and cheap. That dog just won’t hunt anymore.
The other reason is because of a superb messaging effort by the MusicFirst Coalition under new management. MusicFirst under Joe Crowley took their job seriously and understood their job to be very simple: We win, they lose. Too often, lobbyists view their job as perpetuating the conflict so the money keeps flowing. You can tell when you are in one of those because the organization doesn’t seem to quite get it that when you have fewer points when the clock runs out, we call that losing. Even in Washington.
Turning this beast around was a tough job and the entire MusicFirst team deserves recognition and appreciation. We’re not done–there may still be some magic tricks left in this session. But as Congressmen Jordan and Issa said, if the bill doesn’t pass this session, they are committed to taking it up early next session and getting it passed in the House.
Godspeed to everyone who has worked so hard for so long to make this a reality for all of our artists and musicians who need it. It’s what Frank would do.
[Introducing AMFA in the Senate is a huge thing and a major win by MusicFirst over the evil NAB and their $50 handshake. The bipartisan legislation has to pass both Senate and House to become law.]
Since the dawn of radio, the United States has been and remains the only major country in the world where terrestrial radio pays no royalties to performers or recorded-music copyright owners of the songs it plays — a situation that is largely due to the powerful radio lobby’s influence in Congress. While the more than 8,300 AM and FM stations across the country pay royalties to songwriters and publishers, they have never paid performers or copyright holders, although streaming services and satellite radio do.
On Thursday morning, Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced the bipartisan American Music Fairness Act, which aims to rectify that situation by “ensur[ing] artists and music creators receive fair compensation for the use of their songs on AM/FM radio. This legislation will bring corporate radio broadcasters up-to-speed with all other music streaming platforms, which already pay artists for their music.”
We’ve all heard the talking points from Big Radio’s shillery the National Association of Broadcasters about how it’s perfectly fine for American radio stations to deny recording artists and session musicians fair compensation–because exposure, don’t you know. Big radio delivers huge audiences for music and we should all be grateful and work for free for the ever-more-consolidated broadcasting industry.
The other talking point we don’t hear so much from these characters is that media ownership rules are bad and that greater and greater concentration of influence and wealth to control the public airwaves is good. That’s right, it’s not the corporate airwaves, it’s the public’s airwaves. But you wouldn’t know that by looking, right?
So the latest version of this “bigger is better” guff is happening right now at the Federal Communications Commission that licenses radio stations. The NAB is poormouthing to the FCC about how radio and TV stations have trouble competing with Google and Facebook (in particular) for advertising. Oh, no. Google is grinding them into bits? Say it ain’t so!
We know a little bit about what it’s like to have soulless Silicon Valley oligarchs using their political and financial muscle to get a free pass to jack with your livelihood without repercussions from the guys with badges. If Big Tech is really the problem for Big Radio, I’m sure there would be some support for going after them together. But playing nice with others would require the soulless media oligarchs to stop acting like wankers and make a fair deal for artists and musicians. That is not happening. No, no, the solution to the broadcasters’ Google problem is to relax media ownership rules for even MORE concentrated radio ownership, you see. Plus these monopolists want an antitrust exemption for which they have presented no evidence other than even more shillery.
But see what they did there? MusicFirst certainly did and wrote to the FCC to make sure the FCC did, too (letter is here):
The National Association of Broadcasters, in seeking relaxed broadcast radio ownership rules, is asking the FCC to accept arguments directly contrary to those it makes in opposing the American Music Fairness Act.
In fighting the AMFA, the NAB continues to claim airplay has “promotional value” that eliminates the need for radio broadcasters to pay recording artists for the music the stations use to derive millions of advertising dollars. The promotion argument has never been a valid justification for refusing to pay musicians. Such a rationale could swallow all of copyright, as any use of content can be called “promotional.” But even the NAB’s own arguments before the FCC are showing the flaws with its promotion claim.
For example, the NAB argues in this proceeding that radio broadcasters need increased economies of scale to compensate for the significant audience share broadcast radio has lost. Yet, if radio broadcasters have lost so much audience share that they need government intervention, the promotional value they claim to provide recording artists cannot be adequate compensation.
The NAB also applies the promotion claim inconsistently. In addition to its argument about loss of broadcast radio audience, the NAB alleges here that broadcasters need increased economies of scale because online platforms refuse to fairly compensate broadcasters for content the platforms use to derive advertising revenue. The NAB is similarly arguing that platforms’ inadequate compensation warrants passage of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act [the antitrust exemption for monopolists].
The musicFIRST Coalition agrees with the NAB that distributors should adequately compensate content providers. But what is good for the goose must be good for the gander. Online distribution of broadcaster content can also be claimed to be promotional. If the NAB finds inadequate the combination of online promotion and the money online platforms do pay broadcasters, the alleged value of broadcast radio promotion combined with the lack of any money the radio broadcasters pay recording artists cannot possibly be adequate.
The shills at the NAB should try being reasonable just once instead of doing their usual blunt force trauma. Here’s the reality: Nobody is buying what they’re selling because it’s just more snake oil.
TO: Interested Parties FROM: musicFIRST Coalition DATE: September 22, 2021 RE: NEW POLL: Americans support bold actions to get artists paid for AM/FM radio airplay
A new national poll commissioned by musicFIRST — the voice for fairness and equity for music creators — shows that the American public backs bold action to ensure that artists are treated with respect and paid when their songs are played on AM/FM radio.
For decades, dominant corporate broadcasters like iHeartRadio and Cumulus Media have refused to pay artists despite raking in billions of dollars in advertising revenue every year. While these corporations use music creators’ work to fill their airwaves, and in turn bring in advertisers, they claim they cannot afford to give compensation to the artists.
At a time when America is focused on the plight of hard-working Americans, this is exploitation of the tens of thousands of working-class singers and musicians.
These same broadcasters then turn to their lobbyists at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) to do their dirty work on Capitol Hill to maintain the unjust status quo, claiming that providing fair compensation to artists for their work would harm “local radio.” The truth is that the six largest broadcast conglomerates have wiped out local jobs at the 2,000 radio stations they own across the country.
While most Americans are unaware of these injustices playing out between broadcasters and music creators, once they learn of this issue they not only agree it is unfair, and that music creators deserve to be paid when their music is played, but they support artists and advertisers taking strong action — up to and including boycotting AM/FM radio stations or supporting artists from withholding their music — to force broadcasters to do the right thing.
Hopefully, it won’t come to that. That’s why musicFIRST is supporting the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Ted Deutch and Darrell Issa in June of this year and backed by a majority of Americans, according to this survey. If passed, the AMFA would require broadcasters to, would finally, fairly compensate artists when they play their songs on their radio stations, while protecting truly local radio stations by exempting small and noncommercial broadcasters.
Most Americans don’t know that artists aren’t paid for radio airplay — and they side with artists when they find out
One key reason that broadcasters have been able to get away without paying artists for so long is that most Americans simply don’t know it’s happening. .
In this survey, only 30% of Americans said they were aware that artists aren’t paid when their music is played on AM/FM radio. Meanwhile, over half reported that they knew that streaming services like Spotify and Pandora do pay artists for streams.
The NAB is banking on the public remaining in the dark on this issue. Because once they do become aware, Americans overwhelmingly believe it’s unfair that music creators and artists are not paid when their music is played on the radio — by a 2-to-1 margin, 54%-22%. Once average people start speaking up, standing, alongside leading artists and voices in the music industry, the pressure to finally provide fair compensation may be too much for corporate broadcasters to withstand.
Americans support strong actions by artists, advertisers and Congress to overturn the unjust status quo
But American music fans don’t stop at simply finding this situation to be deeply unfair. This new survey also shows that they believe artists, Congress and even advertisers should take bold steps to upend the status quo.
By a more than 40-point margin (60%-16%), survey respondents say that artists should be able to withhold their music and not allow radio stations to play their songs if they’re not being paid for it. And big corporations like iHeartRadio and Cumulus may have some difficulty selling ad space if they no longer have music to bring people to their stations, since nearly 3- in- 5 Americans (57%) say that music is what attracts them to listen to the radio. And one step further, roughly two-thirds (65%) of Americans say they would also support Fortune 500 companies and other major brands engaging in a boycott of advertising on traditional radio stations if they continue to refuse to play fair.
But most immediately, this is an issue that Congress can remedy by updating our outdated and unjust laws — and Americans are urging lawmakers to do so. In this survey, over half of respondents (54%) said they would support Congress passing a bill that would require radio stations to compensate artists when they play their songs, such as the AMFA, with only 20% opposed.
Most Americans are turning to streaming services and digital platforms to discover new music and artists, contradicting the NAB’s “promotional value” myth.
Since the beginning of radio, broadcast corporations and their executives have claimed they are doing artists a favor by providing “promotional value” to artists for free. This may have been the case in the 1960s when Americans mostly discovered new music through the radio, but this outdated and exaggerated myth no longer flies in 2021.
The new survey shows the truth: Times have changed and roughly two-thirds of Americans now use digital sources, such as streaming services and digital platforms, as their primary means for finding new artists and music. Meanwhile, only 1- in- 5 (21%) of Americans say they use traditional AM/FM radio stations to discover new artists they like — and that number will only continue to drop. Of the coveted younger generation (18-29 years old), only 7% point to AM/FM radio as the most likely place to discover new music.
These days, songs and artists are much more likely to go viral on platforms like TikTok or get featured on a popular Spotify playlist, which helps them shoot to the top of the charts. In turn, these same songs are then played on the radio. These are 2021’s order of operations, not vice versa.
This so-called “free exposure” from radio stations is merely more exploitation. Yet the NAB continues to use this argument to defend why they shouldn’t have to pay artists. However, the data is clear: their claims on this and many other issues are, at best, outdated and, at worst, intentionally misleading — and music fans have had enough.
Americans want music creators — those they already know and those they haven’t yet discovered — to be paid for their work. It’s time for the NAB and the corporate broadcasters they represent to finally listen.
About This Poll
This poll was commissioned by musicFIRST and conducted online via SurveyMonkey from August 30-31, 2021, with a national sample of 1,455 Americans. The margin of error was +/- 2.5%.
musicFIRST works to ensure music creators get fair pay for their work on all platforms and wherever and however it is played. We rally the people and organizations who make and love music to end the broken status quo that allows AM/FM to use any song ever recorded without paying its performers a dime. And to stand up for fair pay on digital radio — and whatever comes next.
Contact your Members of Congress and tell them you stand against Big Radio. Click here to CONTACT CONGRESS
[Editor Charlie sez: Our great allies Ted Deutch and Darrell Issa are introducing a law to guarantee the key object of the #IRespectMusic campaign–artist pay for radio play!]
Reps. Deutch and Issa will be joined by legendary artists Dionne Warwick, Sam Moore, and others to introduce legislation to ensure music creators are fairly compensated when their songs are played on AM/FM radio
(Washington) On Thursday, June 24 at 1:15 pm ET, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) are hosting a national press event alongside artist-advocates like Dionne Warwick and Sam Moore to introduce the American Music Fairness Act.
Members of the press can register here. This event will be live-streamed here.
After COVID-19 disrupted artists’ financial stability, it is more important than ever that legislation is passed to ensure music creators are compensated when their music plays on FM/AM radio stations. The American Music Fairness Act will require that performing artists are paid for the use of their songs on FM/AM radio — just like they already do on digital streaming services.
This bipartisan bill is a response to the Local Radio Freedom Act championed by the National Association of Broadcasters.
WHAT: A national press event announcing the American Music Fairness Act
WHO: · Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) · Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) · Dionne Warwick · Sam Moore · Additional artist-advocates
WHEN: Thursday, June 24, 1:15pm ET
WHERE: House Triangle, United States Capitol, Washington, DC
FROM ARTIST & ECR MUSIC GROUP FOUNDER BLAKE MORGAN:
BOWING TO PUBLIC PRESSURE, INTERNET RADIO GIANT ABANDONS LEGISLATION THAT WOULD LOWER MUSIC ROYALTIES
If you spoke up about this, if you posted about it on Facebook or Tweeted about it to your friends, if you added your voice to the courageous chorus who stood up and spoke out, you helped win this fight.
In just about every other country in the world musicians are paid a performance royalty for terrestrial radio airplay. The United States is one of a few countries that does not, along with China, Iran and North Korea.
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