Performance Right for Sound Recordings

WHAT IT IS: A performance right would require that compensation be paid to artists and rights holders whenever music is broadcast by AM/FM radio. Currently, only songwriters receive compensation for AM/FM radio airplay.

In March 2017, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Thomas Rooney (R-FL) co-sponsored the Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R. 1836), a comprehensive bill that addresses several key issues for music creators, including the establishment of a performance right at terrestrial radio.

WHY IT MATTERS: When a song is played on your local radio station, the performer doesn’t receive a cent. This is because of the age-old loophole that allows radio stations to broadcast music without paying royalties to the credited artist. In the meantime, radio stations sell advertising and earn billions of dollars in revenue by monetizing a core product — music — while recording artists never see a dime in return. This unjust situation can be rectified by passing a performance rights bill.

Terrestrial radio is the only U.S. industry that’s built on using the intellectual property of others without permission or compensation. Broadcasters in every other developed country in the world compensate performers. The result is that the United States, which should be the standard bearer for intellectual property rights, is among countries that do not recognize these fundamental rights, such as China, North Korea and Iran.

Further, U.S. artists are being deprived of income from overseas because our country does not have a performance right reciprocal to those in other countries.

WHERE IT STANDS: While the Music Modernization Act contains three of the four provisions found in the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, it does not establish a terrestrial performance right. The MMA was crafted with the support of the digital services and their trade associations, including Pandora, Spotify, the Digital Music Association, and the Internet Association. Similarly, Congress must continue to pressure broadcasters and their Washington trade association, the NAB, to work with music stakeholders to resolve the performance rights issue. If emerging digital platforms can work with music to resolve issues, then so should the oldest and most profitable distribution platform: radio.