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MEMO: New national poll puts Big Radio on notice ahead of NAB congressional fly-in

11 May 2021

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: musicFIRST Coalition
DATE: May 11, 2021
RE: New national poll puts Big Radio on notice ahead of NAB congressional fly-in

As the National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) arrives in Washington for their annual congressional fly-in, a new national poll commissioned by musicFIRST — the voice for fairness and equity in how music creators get paid — shows that the American public isn’t buying many of the outdated myths that Big Radio will attempt to sell to lawmakers in the days ahead.

The poll comes on the heels of the reintroduction of the so-called “Local Radio Freedom Act” (LRFA), a cleverly worded and seemingly innocuous resolution that actually prevents creators from being paid when traditional radio plays their music. This NAB-crafted policy resolution purposely misleads lawmakers through false claims about local radio and how artists are discovered.

But many lawmakers are beginning to catch on to Big Radio’s deceptions. When LRFA was previously introduced in the 116th Congress, it had 118 initial cosponsors in the House. However, when the resolution was reintroduced last week, that number had dwindled to just 77.

And it’s not just lawmakers. While most Americans are currently unaware of the ongoing injustices in artist pay perpetuated by the NAB, the new survey reveals that — once they are informed of the status quo — a majority agree that artists should be paid when their music is played on FM/AM radio. And respondents want Congress to side with artists over broadcasters in this fight by a nearly 20-point margin.

musicFIRST is dedicated to ensuring all artists are paid their due when the music they create is played on FM/AM radio. For years, thousands upon thousands of everyday artists — most of whom will never become household names or achieve celebrity status — have watched Big Radio make billions in profits by playing their music, all without ever receiving a single cent in return. And particularly now in the COVID-19 economy where most music venues have been shuttered for more than a year, many of these artists are struggling to make ends meet, and in some cases, outright suffering.

These new survey results show that as the public is educated about the ugly realities of artist compensation today, NAB and the Members of Congress who continue to support them will have to answer for the financial injustices they have perpetuated.

Most Americans don’t know that artists aren’t being paid when traditional radio plays their music

After years of Big Radio using their billion-dollar megaphone to mislead the public on this important issue, it is crucial for advocates fighting for fairness for artists to raise awareness of the problems with the current system.

Survey results reveal that 6 out of 10 Americans did not know that artists don’t get paid when their music is played on traditional radio, indicating that the NAB has been largely successful in their efforts to date to hide the realities of artist pay.

By contrast, nearly the exact same number (57%) reported that they did know that artists receive payment when their music is played on streaming services like Spotify and SiriusXM — an issue that has been publicly addressed by high-profile artists and advocates in recent years.

These results suggest that continued education of the public and lawmakers is necessary to overcome decades of misleading messaging from the NAB, and that when championed by leading voices in the entertainment industry, these messages will break through to the public.

Americans think it’s unfair that music creators aren’t paid for their work — and they want Congress to side with artists

Even more importantly, this new survey reveals that when the public is made aware of the unfair situation facing artists today, they overwhelmingly side with creators over broadcasters. In fact, a majority (52%) of Americans believe it’s unfair that artists are not paid when their music is played on traditional radio, compared to just 27% who say the opposite.

And that sentiment also translates into an appetite for real-world action. When asked who Members of Congress should side with between broadcasters who want to continue to play music for free and artists who want to be paid when their music is played, respondents chose artists by a nearly 20-point margin — 46% to 28%.

These numbers couldn’t be clearer: Americans believe artists should be paid for their work, and they want their congressional representatives to stand up to Big Radio and stand in solidarity with their favorite artists. For the 84% of Americans who said music is either “very important” or “somewhat important” in their life, this is a potentially powerful bipartisan political issue.

Digital and streaming platforms are now Americans’ primary source for discovering new music — undercutting the NAB’s misleading arguments about traditional radio “exposure”

One argument that Members of Congress are likely to hear from broadcasters during this week’s fly-in is that Big Radio shouldn’t have to pay creators actual money for playing their music because they already give them millions of dollars in “free exposure” instead, which allegedly enables listeners to discover new artists and music.

This claim, which has long been a favorite of the NAB, is manifestly untrue — and has been for years now. The new survey results bear that out. When asked which medium they were most likely to use to discover new music and artists, a clear majority of respondents said they opt for either digital streaming services such as Sirius XM or Spotify (35%) or digital platforms such as YouTube or TikTok (19%).

By contrast, less than a quarter (24%) said that traditional FM/AM radio was their primary means of music discovery.

These numbers outright disprove the charade at the heart of LRFA: that FM/AM radio is the “top source” for discovery of new artists. It’s a claim that may have been true 20 years ago, but today’s music consumers are simply looking to other sources to find new music. More often than not, today’s biggest stars — Justin Bieber, Megan Thee Stallion, Shawn Mendes and many more — were discovered and achieved widespread success on digital platforms long before traditional radio ever started playing their songs.

This new data puts the NAB and its allies on notice: They can no longer credibly claim the “exposure” an artist might receive through plays on FM/AM radio is somehow a substitute for fair pay. The American people believe artists should be compensated for their work — and it’s time for Big Radio to join them in the present.

About This Poll

This poll was commissioned by musicFIRST and conducted online via SurveyMonkey from April 27-29, 2021, with a national sample of 1,780 Americans. The margin of error was +/- 2.5%.

About musicFIRST

musicFIRST works to ensure music creators get fair pay for their work on all platforms and wherever and however it is played. We rally the people and organizations who make and love music to end the broken status quo that allows AM/FM to use any song ever recorded without paying its performers a dime. And to stand up for fair pay on digital radio — and whatever comes next.

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