Recording Academy

The Quest for Royalties for the Use of Sound Recordings on AM/FM Radio: In Full Swing

Guest post by Owen J. Sloane (@osloane) and Rachel M. Stilwell (@rachelmstilwell)

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.

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Does Organizational Membership Matter?

To the casual observer, musicians probably seem like a disorganized bunch. Unlike doctors or lawyers, there are no qualifying exams or prerequisites that certify a musician’s level of “professionalism.” On a group level, there is no central organization that represents their collective interests.

But that’s not the case. In addition to record labels, booking agents, managers and other teammates, musicians and songwriters can align with a vast array of music-related organizations that serve a number of purposes, everything from performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and SoundExchange, to unions like AFM and SAG-AFTRA, to genre- or role-based organizations like Folk Alliance, Chamber Music America, or the Songwriters Guild.

As musicians and advocates, we at FMC know that these organizations serve an important purpose, and we have a sense that membership makes a difference. But in what ways? Do musicians that belong to certain organizations participate in more revenue streams? Do they make more money because of these allegiances? Or is the inverse true; do particular types of work make it possible and/or necessary for musicians to join certain organizations?

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