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AM-FM Act Introduced With Hopes To Finally Pay Performers For Radio Play
For as long as American radio has existed, performers of the music broadcasted across the terrestrial AM/FM airwaves coast-to-coast have not been compensated for their hard work. But thanks to a new bill introduced today, this long-time wrong might finally be made right.
The “Ask Musicians For Music (AM-FM) Act” was introduced this week by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in the Senate and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House. . Coming less than two months after nearly 2,000 Recording Academy members advocated for a terrestrial performance right during District Advocate day, the bill would empower music creators to grant permission and seek payment, with a focus on the large broadcasters who have subsidized their business by using music at will and without paying the hard-working performers.
“When music creators share their wonderful gift with the world, we hear songs that inspire and unite us. We should encourage such thriving talent and ensure the music community is properly compensated for their work,” said Senator Blackburn. “The AM-FM Act will reward singers, songwriters and musicians for their hard work when their music is played on the radio.”
On Nov. 21, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), a staunch supporter of music creators rights, introduced and withdrew an amendment similar to the AM-FM Act during the Judiciary Committee’s markups in the House of Representatives. The amendment was proposed during the committee’s debate over the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which allows satellite companies to license and transmit broadcasters' content to underserved markets via a compulsory license.
Rep. Deutch made the strong point that creators deserve the same right these broadcasters enjoy to control and be paid for the work they create.
"For too long, AM/FM radio has retained the right to play songs without paying the performers," said Rep. Deutch. "FM radio is the largest music service in the world, hands down. Two hundred plus million listeners, $17 billion in annual revenue, most of which is generated by advertising sold against an audience drawn to those stations by music."
Rep. Deutch also pointed out that the current system discourages small and medium size radio stations from making the leap to digital platforms, which leads to consolidation and decreased diversification on radio.
— GRAMMY Advocacy (@GRAMMYAdvocacy) August 31, 2019
The setting of today’s STELA mark-up was quite appropriate, as the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have a long-standing hypocritical stance on the issue of compensation for creative work. The NAB are advocating for STELA to expire and sunset, essentially empowering broadcasters to gain more control over permission and compensation for the repurposing of their content, while simultaneously remain also opposed to the AM-FM Act which seeks to grant the same to the creators who supply radio's main hook: music.
The Recording Academy, which has long been championing legislation to establish a performance right, continues to stand for music creators of AM/FM performance rights and against the hypocrisy of the NAB. In previous congresses, the Academy was at the forefront of the debate—bringing attention to the issue during Congressional hearings, GRAMMYs on the Hill, District Advocate day, and during GRAMMY weekend. This new bill provides the opportunity to address both fronts, granting creators the rights they deserve and illuminating the greater importance of control and consent for all creators.
“The AM-FM Act will give artists control over what is rightfully theirs, their music,” said Daryl P. Friedman, Chief Industry, Government, & Member Relations Officer, Recording Academy. “The legislation is about consent for use of content, a basic concept that the National Association of Broadcasters is seeking for its own television members. We thank Senator Blackburn and Representative Nadler for their leadership on this issue, and ask members of Congress who recognize the importance of intellectual property to join them and pass this legislation.”
“The United States is an outlier in the world for not requiring broadcast radio to pay artists when playing their music, while requiring satellite and internet radio to pay,” said Chairman Nadler. “This is unfair to both artists and music providers. I’m proud to sponsor the Ask Musician For Music Act of 2019 which would give artists and copyright owners the right to make a choice to allow AM/FM radio to use their work for free or to seek compensation for their work. The bill would also allow them to negotiate rates with broadcasters in exchange for permission for it to be aired. This is what music creators want and deserve.”
Now is the perfect time to contact your Members of Congress today and urge them to support the AM-FM Act and finally establish a long overdue performance right on terrestrial radio. The time has come, indeed.