On May 7, 2014, Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4588, the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act [PDF], which aims to get performers and labels paid when their music is played on AM/FM radio.
This proposed legislation is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it demonstrates the growing bipartisan consensus that performing artists deserve compensation when their music is used in over-the-air broadcasts. Second, it shows how members of Congress who have disagreed on many issues—including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—can come together to do the right thing by creators.
As nearly two hundred artists, producers, engineers, and music professionals traveled to Washington DC for “GRAMMYs On The Hill” last week, now is a great time to review the status of an important and recurring issue facing recording artists. Artists and record labels, large and small, do not get compensated for the use of their recordings on AM/FM (“terrestrial”) radio. The recording industry would like to see a change in this area, so that working musicians (not just the superstars) can make a fair living making recordings that we as fans want to hear on our local radio stations. It costs money, time, as well as talent, to create great records.
When I talk to friends about my work with FMC, they’re eager to hear about the behind-the-scenes excitement that fuels policy change. Perhaps they’re hoping for House of Cards-style political intrigue set amidst DC’s marble halls.
To be honest though, the most exciting part of my job happens in more humble settings—like a couple Tuesdays ago in NYC, when I got to see Tift Merritt and Marilyn Carino huddle in a corner of a backstage green room to practice harmonies, singing along with a phone’s tinny speaker: “You! You got what I neeeeed!” as David Byrne paced around staring at a lyric sheet, doing his best to memorize as much he could before taking the stage at Le Poisson Rouge.
This week, Clear Channel Communications, the nation’s largest broadcaster, signed an unprecedented strategic partnership with major record label Warner Music Group. For the first time ever, Warner’s roster of performers will be compensated for plays on American terrestrial (AM/FM) radio. (Currently, only songwriters and publishers are paid for radio airplay; performers and record labels recieve nothing.)
Clear Channel chairman and chief execute Robert Pittman lauds the move as “redefine[ing] the relationship between music companies and radio.” But in reality, the deal—like those struck by Clear Channel and Fleetwood Mac , Big Machine Records, and Innovative Leisure—is frustratingly limited. For one, it will not allow for the collection of money owed to artists for international radio play. Because the US doesnt pay foreign performers and sound recording owners for radio play on our shores, American artists receive no money when their music is played abroad. Reciprocity in royalties would require an act of Congress, something that the major broadcasters have fought tooth and nail to avoid. Never mind that the rest of the developed world compensates performers (with notable exceptions including North Korea and Iran). If Pittman truly wants to “redefine relationships,” he should encourage compensating performers across the board so that America no longer gives away a valuable export free of charge on the world market.
Last week, in an event that was called “the first of its kind,” Fleetwood Mac entered into a direct deal with broadcasting behemoth Clear Channel, wherein the celebrated rockers will receive a share of advertising revenue for spins of their new EP, and Clear Channel will save on performance royalties for its online broadcast and streaming services. (Keep in mind that AM/FM radio is not obligated to compensate performers, but under the terms of this deal, Fleetwood Mac will receive revenue from over-the-air plays.) read more
Post authored by Communications Intern Olivia Brown
To anyone who loves truly local radio as much as we do, the “Local Radio Freedom Act” — the latest in a series of Congressional rumblings related to copyright and royalty issues — may sound like a noble cause. But look past the doublespeak title, and you’ll find that one man’s “freedom” is another man’s free lunch. read more
For at least fifty years of the 20th century, the relationship between music and radio airplay was fairly well understood. Record executives knew that if they wanted a hit record, they needed that song to get played on the radio, preferably as many times as possible. In fact, until 2000, radio airplay was essentially a prerequisite to selling significant amounts of recorded music.read more
Say you’re a college radio DJ, and you play a cover of The Velvet Underground’s 1966 classic “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” performed by electro-art-pop duo YACHT. You might be surprised to learn that Lou Reed (the songwriter) gets paid when that song is broadcast, but YACHT, the performer, does not.
Unlike most countries, where performer, sound recording owner, songwriter, and publisher all get paid when a song is played on over-the-air radio, in the US, only the songwriter and publisher are compensated. You heard right: no matter how many times a song gets played on the radio, performing artists don’t get a dime. By contrast, internet radio — from Pandora to Sirius/XM and all the webcasters in-between — pays everybody: labels, performing artists, publishers and songwriters. (For more info on how this all works, check out our Public Performance Right fact sheet.)
This glitch in US law doesn’t just impact the Biebers and Britneys of the world. It also means that hard-working independent artists who are more likely to get played on college and noncommercial radio than corporate stations are missing out on a potential revenue stream.
[This post was authored by FMC Policy Intern Joseph Silver & Policy Fellow Daniel Lieberman]
Yesterday on Capitol Hill, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology rounded up some music industry bigwigs including Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America); Jeff Smulyan (CEO of Ennis Communications); Steven Newberry (CEO of Commonwealth Broadcasting Corp.); Tim Westergren (Pandora founder); Christopher Gutttman-McCabe (Vice President of CTIA Wireless); Gary Shapiro (President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association); and a single artist: Ben Allison, a New York-based jazz bassist. The panel, the title of which the recently deceased Ray Bradbury might even admire — “The Future of Audio” — featured a broad discussion that touched upon music, mobile technology, radio signals, and last, but hopefully not least, artist compensation.