Lawmakers Try Again To Tax Radio


Federal lawmakers on Thursday reintroduced the American Music Fairness Act, a proposal that would require traditional AM and FM broadcasters to pay royalties to musicians on par with how royalties are doled out on streaming and other platforms.

The proposal was reintroduced by U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn and Alex Padilla in the Senate as well as Representatives Thom Tillis and Dianne Feinstein in the House of Representatives, signaling bipartisan support for the measure. Representatives Darrell issa and Jerry Nadler led the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, a spokesperson for Blackburn’s office said.

“From Beale Street to Music Row to the hills of East Tennessee, Tennessee’s songwriters and artists have undeniably made their mark,” Blackburn said in a statement. “However, while digital music platforms compensate music performers and copyright holders for playing their songs, AM/FM radio stations only pay songwriters for the music they broadcast. This legislation takes a long overdue step toward leveling the music industry playing field and ensuring creators are fairly compensated for their work.”

The legislation is similar to a proposal that was introduced by federal lawmakers last year, one that passed through the House Judiciary Committee, but was never taken up for a full vote by either chamber in Congress.

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 introduced two years 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.

On Thursday, NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt said the re-introduction of the AMFA would do more harm than good to traditional broadcasters by imposing a new performance fee that he described as “untenable for local radio.”

“Local radio stations and performers have built a strong, mutually beneficial partnership that has endured for over a century,” LeGeyt said. “This partnership provides enormous value for new and established performers, local broadcast stations and the tens of millions of radio listeners that rely on our uniquely free service. Unfortunately, AMFA would destroy that relationship with a new government-imposed performance fee that is simply untenable for local radio. We urge the record labels to join us at the negotiating table to discuss a win-win solution to this issue that would benefit both performers and local broadcasters. But this one-sided legislation is not the answer.”

MusicFIRST, the coalition supporting the measure, praised the bill’s reintroduction in Congress.

“It’s clear that the movement for music fairness continues to gain momentum, bringing us closer than ever before to ending Big Radio’s ability to deny artists the fair pay they deserve,” former Representative Joe Crowley, who now serves as the chairman of MusicFIRST, said in a statement. “This week’s House and Senate introductions of the American Music Fairness Act is evidence of that. We thank Senators Padilla and Blackburn and Representatives Issa and Nadler for their leadership in the effort to secure economic justice for our nation’s music artists and creators, and look forward to working together to drive continued progress in the coming months.”



  1. It’s a dying business with most employees aged 50 or older. There is simply no imagination. Most successful categories have a “tax”, but when there’s so much revenue, you don’t feel it.

    However, radio continues to lose money, year over year, so the tax is feared.

    When fear is a major component, the industry is in bad shape.

    It is easy to see why advertisers continue to slash radio budgets.

  2. The government needs to find itself other things to occupy their time other than sticking they’re hands in to local radio. Why try to push an already teetering industry off of a financial cliff when there’s more important issues at hand. Priorities Please…

  3. If this STUPID AMFA becomes law, it could force many music stations to flip to a News/Talk format, consisting of mainly syndicated shows that are based mostly out of New York, or even worse, to shut down completely. It would force thousands of local radio station workers out of work and could very well spell the end of such popular music apps as iHeart Radio. It could even pave the way for shock talkers such as Howard Stern to return to broadcast radio. 🙁

  4. I have written to our reps in the House and Senate so many times over this I am pretty sure they just ignore it. Why can’t the NAB get all state associations behind a concerted push to get this slapped down for good?

  5. How is it “fair” when radio stations can’t charge performers or their record companies for the airtime used to promote their merchandising and ticket sales? They get it FOR FREE!

    • ‘How is it “fair” when radio stations can’t charge performers or their record companies for the airtime?’

      Thank you.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here