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musicFIRST Warns Lawmakers: Beware of Broadcasters’ Misinformation Campaign to Deny Creators Payment When Their Music is Played on FM/AM Radio

05 May 2021

Washington, D.C. (May 5, 2021) — musicFIRST, the voice for fairness and equity in how music creators get paid, today warned Congress that lobbyists for radio broadcasters are attempting to mislead them into supporting a scheme to deny artists and labels fair pay when their music is played on FM/AM radio.

A “Dear Colleague” letter — sent in the name of Rep. Kathy Castor but crafted by the National Association of Broadcasters — is currently circulating among lawmakers on Capitol Hill in an attempt to secure congressional support for legislation that says artists, labels and other music creators should not be paid when their music is played on traditional radio. While creators get paid when their music is played on streaming services such as SiriusXM, it’s only broadcasters that deny compensation to artists for their work.

“Each Congress, the NAB engages in a clever trick to deny justice for artists and labels seeking to be paid when their music is played on FM/AM radio. They circulate what appears to be a harmless resolution that says radio stations shouldn’t have to pay creators for their work,” said musicFIRST in a statement. “In doing so, broadcasters try to convince lawmakers to sign on by making false and misleading claims about traditional radio and how artists are discovered. The NAB hopes that members of Congress won’t find out that these claims are inaccurate — but musicFIRST isn’t going to let them get away with it.”

To help members of Congress avoid being misled, musicFIRST fact-checked the NAB-crafted letter (link) that is privately circulating among lawmakers:

Claim: The NAB says Congress shouldn’t require broadcasters to pay because artists “thrive” from airplay on FM/AM stations.

Fact Check: False

Creators thrive when they get paid fairly for their work. Among the most outrageous claims made by the NAB is that artists are benefiting from “live music” – when most venues have been shuttered for over a year because of the pandemic.

In addition, that the NAB has the gall to tell artists they are better off not getting paid is a remarkable expression of entitlement. Artists should get to make that decision – and not have to settle for “exposure bucks” from multi-billion corporations.

Claim: The NAB contends that FM/AM radio is the “top source” for how new artists are discovered.

Fact Check: False

Creators are much more likely to be discovered on sites such as streaming platforms or digital platforms such as YouTube or TikTok. One need only look to the 2021 Grammy Best New Artist winner: Megan Thee Stallion was discovered after her freestyle videos on social media went viral and “she went from Instagram fixture to an up-and-up rapper.”

This trend has long been underway, with established artists like Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes also being discovered online. This has only grown since the pandemic began, with artists large and small looking online to get their music out.

Claim: The NAB-pushed resolution, cynically termed the Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA), is designed to protect “local” radio stations.

Fact Check: False

Six corporate conglomerates own over 2,000 local stations. These conglomerates are decimating local radio jobs in favor of profits. For example, iHeart engaged in layoffs all across the country in 2020 — even as its stock price nearly tripled in a year.

In a recent letter, the AFL-CIO’s Jennifer Dorning urged Congress to stand by music creators.

“American terrestrial radio stations have long profited from playing songs without compensating the artists and musicians who performed these creative works. These recording artists are not guaranteed a share of the advertising revenue their performances help generate. The LRFA would enshrine this injustice by mis-classifying fair payments for the use of recording artists’ works as a ‘tax,’” wrote Durning, who serves as president of the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees. “Just as you would not consider nurses’ pay to be a tax on hospitals, you should not accept the premise, put forward by the LRFA’s supporters, that frees them of the responsibility to pay artists and musicians for use of their recorded performances.”


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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