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NEW POLL: Americans support bold actions to get artists paid for AM/FM radio airplay

21 September 2021

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: musicFIRST Coalition
DATE: September 22, 2021
RE: NEW POLL: Americans support bold actions to get artists paid for AM/FM radio airplay

A new national poll commissioned by musicFIRST — the voice for fairness and equity for music creators — shows that the American public backs bold action to ensure that artists are treated with respect and paid when their songs are played on AM/FM radio.

For decades, dominant corporate broadcasters like iHeartRadio and Cumulus Media have refused to pay artists despite raking in billions of dollars in advertising revenue every year. While these corporations use music creators’ work to fill their airwaves, and in turn bring in advertisers, they claim they cannot afford to give compensation to the artists. 

At a time when America is focused on the plight of hard-working Americans, this is exploitation of the tens of thousands of working-class singers and musicians.

These same broadcasters then turn to their lobbyists at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) to do their dirty work on Capitol Hill to maintain the unjust status quo, claiming that providing fair compensation to artists for their work would harm “local radio.” The truth is that the six largest broadcast conglomerates have wiped out local jobs at the 2,000 radio stations they own across the country.

While most Americans are unaware of these injustices playing out between broadcasters and music creators, once they learn of this issue they not only agree it is unfair, and that music creators deserve to be paid when their music is played, but they support artists and advertisers taking strong action — up to and including boycotting AM/FM radio stations or supporting artists from withholding their music — to force broadcasters to do the right thing.

Hopefully, it won’t come to that. That’s why musicFIRST is supporting the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Ted Deutch and Darrell Issa in June of this year and backed by a majority of Americans, according to this survey. If passed, the AMFA would require broadcasters to, would finally, fairly compensate artists when they play their songs on their radio stations, while protecting truly local radio stations by exempting small and noncommercial broadcasters.

Most Americans don’t know that artists aren’t paid for radio airplay — and they side with artists when they find out

One key reason that broadcasters have been able to get away without paying artists for so long is that most Americans simply don’t know it’s happening. . 

In this survey, only 30% of Americans said they were aware that artists aren’t paid when their music is played on AM/FM radio. Meanwhile, over half reported that they knew that streaming services like Spotify and Pandora do pay artists for streams. 

The NAB is banking on the public remaining in the dark on this issue. Because once they do become aware, Americans overwhelmingly believe it’s unfair that music creators and artists are not paid when their music is played on the radio — by a 2-to-1 margin, 54%-22%. Once average people start speaking up, standing, alongside leading artists and voices in the music industry, the pressure to finally provide fair compensation may be too much for corporate broadcasters to withstand.

Americans support strong actions by artists, advertisers and Congress to overturn the unjust status quo

But American music fans don’t stop at simply finding this situation to be deeply unfair. This new survey also shows that they believe artists, Congress and even advertisers should take bold steps to upend the status quo. 

By a more than 40-point margin (60%-16%), survey respondents say that artists should be able to withhold their music and not allow radio stations to play their songs if they’re not being paid for it. And big corporations like iHeartRadio and Cumulus may have some difficulty selling ad space if they no longer have music to bring people to their stations, since nearly 3- in- 5 Americans (57%) say that music is what attracts them to listen to the radio. And one step further, roughly two-thirds (65%) of Americans say they would also support Fortune 500 companies and other major brands engaging in a boycott of advertising on traditional radio stations if they continue to refuse to play fair.

But most immediately, this is an issue that Congress can remedy by updating our outdated and unjust laws — and Americans are urging lawmakers to do so. In this survey, over half of respondents (54%) said they would support Congress passing a bill that would require radio stations to compensate artists when they play their songs, such as the AMFA, with only 20% opposed.

Most Americans are turning to streaming services and digital platforms to discover new music and artists, contradicting the NAB’s “promotional value” myth.

Since the beginning of radio, broadcast corporations and their executives have claimed they are doing artists a favor by providing “promotional value” to artists for free. This may have been the case in the 1960s when Americans mostly discovered new music through the radio, but this outdated and exaggerated myth no longer flies in 2021. 

The new survey shows the truth: Times have changed and roughly two-thirds of Americans now use digital sources, such as streaming services and digital platforms, as their primary means for finding new artists and music. Meanwhile, only 1- in- 5 (21%) of Americans say they use traditional AM/FM radio stations to discover new artists they like — and that number will only continue to drop. Of the coveted younger generation (18-29 years old), only 7% point to AM/FM radio as the most likely place to discover new music.

These days, songs and artists are much more likely to go viral on platforms like TikTok or get featured on a popular Spotify playlist, which helps them shoot to the top of the charts. In turn, these same songs are then played on the radio. These are 2021’s order of operations, not vice versa. 

This so-called “free exposure” from radio stations is merely more exploitation. Yet the NAB continues to use this argument to defend why they shouldn’t have to pay artists. However, the data is clear: their claims on this and many other issues are, at best, outdated and, at worst, intentionally misleading — and music fans have had enough.

Americans want music creators — those they already know and those they haven’t yet discovered — to be paid for their work. It’s time for the NAB and the corporate broadcasters they represent to finally listen. 

About This Poll

This poll was commissioned by musicFIRST and conducted online via SurveyMonkey from August 30-31, 2021, with a national sample of 1,455 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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