Since the earliest days of AM/FM radio, musicians, singers, and record labels have never been paid when their work is broadcast — even though radio earns billions selling ads to listeners who tune in for the music.
It's always been unfair. 35 years ago, Register of Copyrights Barbara Ringer told Congress that a right to be paid for air play —a sound recording “performance right” — would “assure performing artists of at least some share of the return realized from the commercial exploitation of their recorded performances.” Artists enjoy a performance right for radio in almost every industrialized country. America stands outside this mainstream, alongside nations like North Korea, China, and Iran who also deny performance rights.
It’s as wrong today as ever — the current Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante told Congress in March 2013 that denying pay for performance is “indefensible.”
Since 2007, musicFIRST has been working to end this injustice so that music creators can earn a living from their work.
We are a national coalition representing artists and record labels, from New York to Nashville, New Orleans to L.A.
Our Partners are performer representatives including musicians and artist unions and trade associations, major record labels and independents of all sizes from across the entire U.S. representing the diverse musical culture of our country, and the digital performance rights organization SoundExchange — the full spectrum of music creators standing together to rally allies, supporters, and fans for a “Performance Rights Act” that would ensure fair pay for music creators.
We are leading a major effort to convince Congress now is the time to right this historic wrong. Key committees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed performance rights legislation with strong, bipartisan support in 2010 — the first time such a law had ever made it so far.
In 2016, the fight for performance rights continues...
An AM/FM performance right would mean a real livelihood for musicians, session artists, and singers who fill up radio playlists but haven't seen a dime of pay for their creations. From Motown stars to classic rock legends, many of these heroes of music struggle to make ends meet, while corporate radio cashes in off their creative work.
A performance right would allow Americans to collect royalties they earn from international airplay. Today, overseas royalties are collected but never paid because the U.S. denies performance rights at home.
A performance right would also fuel innovation. Digital radio – which does pay for music – is growing, but is forced to compete on an unfair playing field tilted against it by AM/FM’s free ride. musicFIRST is leading the fight for “platform parity” so that all forms of radio play by the same rules and pay for the music that they use.
In 2012, over 130 major artists from all walks of music — Rihanna to Billy Joel to Katy Perry to Martha Reeves — signed a musicFIRST/SoundExchange open letter urging Congress to reject short-sighted calls to slash musicians' pay for Internet radio and Congress listened – that effort was beaten back in 2013, a historic win for music creators.
The principle of fair pay for music creators applies to AM/FM, digital, and whatever kind of radio comes next. It's not about the platform, it's about the music.