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Performance Rights Act Bill Introduced in the Senate

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Corporate radio loophole is unfair, unjustified and un-American

“Today marks the beginning of the end for corporate radio’s loophole,” said Jennifer Bendall, executive director of musicFIRST, upon introduction of the Performance Rights Act in the Senate and House of Representatives.

“It’s unfair, unjustified and un-American that artists and musicians are paid absolutely nothing when their recordings are played on AM and FM radio. Music is their work, their livelihood. They deserve fair pay for air play,” Bendall said. “Artists and musicians across America thank Senator Leahy, Representative Conyers and their colleagues for introducing bills that will close the corporate radio loophole.”

The Performance Rights Act will close an archaic provision of America’s copyright law that allows AM and FM radio stations to earn $16 billion a year in advertising revenue without compensating the artists and musicians who bring music to life and listeners’ ears to the radio dial. The bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate today by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA); and in the House by Representative John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jane Harman (D-CA), John Shadegg (R-AZ), and Paul Hodes (D-NH).

“Every artist and musician from the biggest star to working class performers deserves to be paid when their performance, their work, is broadcast over the radio,” Bendall said.

AM and FM radio is the only music platform that does not pay a fair performance right to artists and musicians for the use of their work. Satellite, cable and internet radio compensate artists when they play their music. AM and FM radio however receives a free pass to broadcast the recordings of thousands of artists and musicians every day without paying them a penny.

“American broadcasters literally earn billions by playing our records,” said GRAMMY winner Sam Moore. “All we ask is to receive what artists in every other civilized country around the world receive when their recordings are broadcast — fair compensation for the performance of our work.”

The Performance Rights Act brings the United States in line with almost every other nation in the world. Only a few countries do not provide a fair performance right on radio, including Iran, North Korea and China. And because the U.S. doesn’t have a performance right, foreign stations do not have to pay American artists when their music is played on stations around the globe — an inequity that costs American artists tens of millions of dollars each year.

“It’s only fair that AM and FM radio be held to the same standards as other music platforms and terrestrial radio stations around the world,” Bendall said.

Major provisions of the Performance Rights Act are as follows:

  • Over-the-air broadcast stations would be able to use a statutory license and make one payment annually under a rate set through negotiations or by the Copyright Royalty Board for all the music they play, instead of having to negotiate with every copyright owner for each use of music.
  • The proposed legislation accommodates small broadcasters and others to assure balance and fairness to broadcasters and artists. More than 75 percent of all commercial radio stations and more than 80 percent of all religious stations would be covered through the planned accommodation.
    • Small commercial stations would pay only $5,000 per year;
    • Noncommercial stations such as NPR and college radio stations would pay only $1,000 per year;
    • Stations that make only incidental uses of music, such as “talk radio” stations, would not pay for that music; and
    • Religious services that are broadcast on radio would be completely exempt.
  • Proposed amendments to existing law would make clear that a new right for recording artists and owners cannot adversely affect the rights of, or royalties payable to, songwriters or musical work copyright owners.

“The legislators crafted an accommodation for small broadcasters — but at the same time they did not want artists and musicians to continue to subsidize the radio conglomerates that rely on music to attract listeners and sell ads. The compromise language is fair to performers, fair to songwriters and fair to broadcasters,” Bendall said. “A fair performance right supports and encourages the creativity and content that will continue to make American radio profitable.”

People who love music understand that creativity, talent and hard work are required to bring it to life. The goal of the musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition is to ensure that aspiring performers, local musicians and well-known artists are compensated for their music when it is played both today and in the future. Of all the ways we listen to music, corporate radio is the only one that receives special treatment. Corporate radio has a free pass to play music — refusing to pay even a fraction of a penny to the performers that brought it to life. The musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition is committed to making sure everyone, from up-and-coming artists to our favorites from years-ago, is guaranteed Fair Pay for Air Play. For more information on the musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition please visit www.musicFIRSTcoalition.org.

Supporting organizations include: American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), American Federation of Musicians (AFM), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Christian Music Trade Association (CMTA), Music Managers Forum – USA (MMF- USA), The Latin Recording Academy, The Recording Academy, The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Inc, Recording Artists’ Coalition (RAC), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Society of Singers, SoundExchange and Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

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