As Congress prepares for a week-long break at the end of May, it’s a good time to review some recent developments. Last month, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) reintroduced their Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act (PRMA), which was originally introduced in May 2014. The bill’s main focus is ensuring that performers and record labels receive compensation for over-the-air play on AM/FM radio, something FMC has supported for over a decade. Currently a loophole in U.S. copyright law allows AM/FM radio broadcasters to circumvent the payment of royalties, while digital radio is still bound to pay everyone from performers and record labels to songwriters and publishers.
If you’ve ever negotiated with bandmates about where to eat after a gig, you know that musicians can have strong—and sometimes divergent—opinions about a lot of different things. Expand that to the broader music community—which includes independent and major record labels, managers, advocacy groups, artist unions and fans—and it gets even more complex. (Are we still talking about grub? Kinda getting hungry ourselves.)read more
On May 12, 2015, Future of Music Coalition filed the following reply comments to the Federal Communiations Commission (FCC) in the agency’s review of commercial broadcasters’ petition to eliminate on-air disclosure of paid programming.
Before the Federal Communications Commission Washington D.C. 20554
Followers of our work over the past 15 years know that we’ve always taken a stand against against payola—the practice of well-heeled music companies giving cash or other enticements to big broadcasters in exchange for radio airplay. Technically, this practice is only illegal if it is not disclosed over the airwaves when the paid-for music is played. But over the years, the broadcasting conglomerates have found workarounds. Most recently, they established a system of so-called “independent promoters” who would funnel cash or other goodies to broadcasters without the major labels ever dirtying their hands. (Our Payola Education Guide offers a great overview of this pernicious practice.) read more
When music is played on a non-interactive digital service like Pandora, Sirius XM, or cable radio, payment for the sound recording copyright is collected and distributed by SoundExchange, a non-profit performance rights organization. As we detail in our handy “Music and How the Money Flows” chart, this revenue is divided up in a standard formula: 45% goes to the featured artist, 50% goes to the sound recording copyright owner (usually a label), and 5% goes into a union-administered fund to compensate backing musicians and session players. We’re fond of this system because it treats all artists equally, ensuring direct payment that can’t be held against recoupable debt to a label, with equitable splits.
But what happens if you’re a self-released artist who doesn’t work with a label, but owns the copyrights to your sound recordings? You are entitled to collect both the artist share and the label share yourself. Unfortunately, many artists don’t know this, and end up missing out on money they ought to be collecting, because they’ve only registered for the artist share. Other artists haven’t registered with SoundExchange at all.
CD Baby, a popular distribution service with a large userbase of mostly self-released artists, recently announced a change to their terms of service that allows them to collect the label share from SoundExchange for their roster of distributed artists. This move was met with some minor controversy, as indeed, artists are entitled to collect that money themselves directly from SoundExchange, without the administrative cut that CD Baby charges. We decided to go directly to the source: CD Baby CEOTracy Maddux answered our questions this week via email.
by Sam Redd, Communications Intern and Kevin Erickson, Communications Associate
It’s happening again: another contemporary hitmaker is involved in a lawsuit with the estate of a well-loved musician over alleged unauthorized use of elements of the latter’s past work. In this case, the issue is Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” and the Gaye family’s claim that the song illegally appropriates elements from Marvin Gaye’s #1 hit “Got to Give it Up,” released in 1977. After more than a year of legal wrangling, it now appears that the dispute may be one of the rare infringement cases that makes it to trial. But there’s a surprising wrinkle: in the course of litigating this dispute, Thicke may have let slip one of the music business’s more troubling open secrets.
Judge Colleen McMahon of the United States District Court in Manhattan said no-go to SiriusXM’s motion for summary judgment (a move to dismiss the suit), giving the satellite broadcaster until Dec. 5, 2014 to dispute remaining facts. This means that SiriusXM can be held liable for copyright infringement.
Currently, recordings made before February 15, 1972 do not enjoy federal protection, as there was no federal copyright for sound recordings until Congress passed a bill on that date. However, this legislation did not apply retroactive protections, which means older sound recordings are covered by a patchwork of state statute and case law.
Streaming music is getting a lot of attention lately. Some of this is because country/pop superstar Taylor Swift removed her catalog from Spotify, and majormediaoutlets like to ask folks like us what it means. But Spotify isn’t the only streaming game in town: there’s also Internet radio, which is an entirely different animal when it comes to how royalty rates are calculated and how musicians are paid.
By Kevin Erickson, Communications Associate, and Maria-Teresa Roca de Togores, Policy Intern
This week’s midterm elections have come and gone, and while turnout was low (as is often the case in midterms), the resulting shift in the balance of power may impact what music-related issues are on the congressional agenda for the next two years. read more
Who gets paid, how much and under what terms when music is played on digital and AM/FM radio? Answering those questions isn’t easy, even for experts. But one thing is clear: 2014 has been a big year for the laws and policies that determine royalty rates for all forms of radio, and the intrigue will likely continue into 2015. read more