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musicFIRST Launches New Campaign To Empower Music Creators

30 August 2017

Washington, D.C. (August 30, 2017) – The musicFIRST Coalition today launched a new campaign and website to unite music creators in support of their intellectual property rights at a time of rapidly changing technology. The musicFIRST Coalition works to ensure music creators get fair pay for their work on all platforms – wherever, and however, it is played.

“Music has incredible value and music creators should always be fairly compensated for their work,” said musicFIRST Executive Director Chris Israel. “It is a very exciting time and the ways that we are listening to music are changing rapidly. Unfortunately, many laws remain outdated and often fail to protect music creators by denying them fair pay for their hard work. Our new campaign is focused on empowering music creators to advocate for the essential and enduring value of their works.”

The new campaign will activate artists and advocates on four key themes:

No Heart Radio – Music services like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music pay performers for playing their songs, yet there is a music platform in the U.S. where the principle of fair pay for one’s work does not apply: broadcast radio. The radio industry uses the music of hard working performers to attract listeners to their stations, but they don’t pay the musical performers for their work. Between their profits and government help in the form of subsidies, there is no reason the radio industry can’t pay for using the creative property and work of music performers and artists just as all their competitors do.

SiriusLY? Artists Deserve Better – How we listen to music doesn’t change the way we appreciate a song, but our laws have different rules for different platforms. Newer, innovative platforms, like internet and satellite radio, pay performers for use of their music. However, our laws allow SiriusXM to pay performers an unfair, below-market royalty rate. Worse than an unfair, below-market rate for satellite radio is that AM/FM radio is exempted entirely from paying artists. We need to establish true platform parity that ensures music creators are compensated fairly for their work, ends the entrenched practice of government picking winners and losers in the radio business and restores fairness to music.

That 70s Law – A quirk in U.S. law has resulted in federal copyright not covering songs recorded before February 15, 1972. Most artists who created music from before 1972 are not compensated when their work is played on digital radio, satellite radio and AM/FM radio. While digital and AM/FM radio have stations and formats dedicated exclusively to such music, they refuse to pay anything to the performers who created these classics, shortchanging creators and copyright owners well over $60 million a year for digital airplay alone. Pre-72 recordings have immense enduring value and their creators must be fairly compensated when they are used.

YouLose – Google’s YouTube is the most popular music service in world, but rather than playing it straight with music creators, Google hides behind its legal “safe harbor” to make billions selling ads around unlicensed copies of music. It’s a classic “heads I win, tails YouLose” strategy. Music creators can accept much lower payments forced on them by Google, or their music will just end up on YouTube anyway, which has a very convenient government-granted safe harbor from copyright infringement. Being the biggest certainly doesn’t make you the best.

As part of the campaign, musicFIRST will launch a national digital ad campaign targeting music creators and recruiting them to the advocacy effort. Artists will be asked to share their stories on the new website and send messages to the members of Congress who represent them to ask for their support. The coalition will also conduct outreach to allied organizations who want to ensure that music creators are fairly compensated for their hard work.

“Our goal is to rally the people and organizations who make and love music to ask Congress to address obvious flaws in our copyright system. We are simply looking for a level playing field with no government subsidies, grandfather clauses or decades-old safe harbors. The music industry has evolved, innovated and grown. Some of those who told us to “adapt to disruption” are now the ones hiding behind outdated government protections. It’s time to modernize the rules to let competition, innovation and great music thrive. The real winners will be the millions of fans who ultimately drive everything we do,” said Israel.

The musicFIRST Coalition was founded in 2007 by a broad spectrum of organizations representing musicians, recording artists, managers, music businesses, and performance right advocates. Since then, it has expanded nationally to include dozens of partner organizations and groups who support music creators.

To learn more, visit musicFIRST’s new website, and follow the coalition on Twitter and Facebook.


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