A group of over 40 musicians have signed a letter to prominent federal lawmakers urging the passage of proposed legislation that would grant artists royalties when their songs are played on broadcast radio.
The letter comes as lawmakers with the House Judiciary Committee are scheduled to vote on whether to refer the American Music Fairness Act to the full House chamber. That vote is scheduled to take place Wednesday.
An initial letter sent to House lawmakers was endorsed by popular musicians and bands, including Hanson, Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper, Kevin Bacon, Peter Frampton and Jackson Browne. Joining them on the new letter were the Roots, Dionne Warwick, Jack White, Elvis Costello, Randy Gravis, Aimee Mann, the Stone Foxes, Roseanne Cash and others.
“For over 80 years, artists have been fighting for basic fair pay from Big Radio. This fight is far from new,” former Congressman Joe Crowley, chairman of the MusicFIRST Coalition, the group backing the legislation, said in a statement. “Many of the artists who have added their names to this joint letter know this all too well, because they have been in this fight for decades now. We’re grateful to them for their tenacity and their commitment to this important cause, and we’re confident that the artist-driven momentum behind the American Music Fairness Act will finally bring about historic progress this year. I feel proud to stand with these incredible creators in their fight to secure the respect and fairness that all artists so richly deserve.”
A companion bill was introduced in the Senate in September. Both bills have bipartisan support, but it is not clear if either will be considered before the end of the current Congressional session on January 3, 2023.
The measure would start to bring parity to how royalties are distributed from music played on other audio platforms, including satellite radio and streaming music services. While artists receive compensation when songs are played on satellite and streaming services, the current law only extends royalties to songwriters when tracks are played on AM or FM radio, which has the potential to cut performers out when they are not also credited as songwriters.
The AMFA was introduced following a similar measure last year called the Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA), a non-binding proposal in which lawmakers voiced opposition to a so-called “performance tax” on local radio stations. The measure received the backing of several broadcast public interest groups, including the National Association of Broadcasters, but was never formally adopted by vote.
At the time, Crowley opposed the LRFA, calling it a “meaningless” proposal that would do nothing for the local radio industry. Not surprisingly, the public interest groups that supported the LRFA last year have come out in opposition to the AMFA this year.
“NAB remains steadfastly opposed to the AMFA, which disregards the value of radio and would undermine our critical public service to line the pockets of multinational billion-dollar record labels,” Curtis LeGeyt, the president of NAB, said in a statement in September. “NAB thanks the 250 bipartisan members of Congress, including 28 senators and a majority of the House, who instead support the Local Radio Freedom Act, which recognizes the unique benefits that radio provides to communities across the country and opposes inflicting a new performance fee on local broadcast radio stations.”
Crowley said those who supported the LRFA last year can still support the AMFA this year, because last year’s proposal was non-binding on Congress. Nearly a half-dozen federal lawmakers have endorsed both proposals between last year and this year.
Proponents of the AMFA say public support is on their side, pointing to a recent poll that showed around 6 in 10 Americans supported Congress passing a law that would provide performers royalties when their songs are played on traditional radio. The poll was commissioned by MusicFIRST, the group leading the charge for the proposal’s passing.
A copy of the letter that was sent on behalf of MusicFIRST to House lawmakers is available HERE.