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Rep. Ted Deutch testifies for artists’ rights in front of House Judiciary Committee

22 October 2021

October 22, 2021 — Rep. Ted Deutch — who introduced the American Music Fairness Act in June with Rep. Darrell Issa — testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee October 22, 2021 about the fight for music fairness and fair compensation for music performers. An excerpt from his testimony:

“I value my local broadcasters and want to ensure that they thrive in communities across the country. But I refuse to accept a corporate giveaway that hurts artists is necessary to protect small, independent broadcasters.

The American Music Fairness Act will finally ensure that artists are justly paid.

It will help the thousands of musicians who are struggling to make ends meet – whether their songs were hits many years ago or they are just starting out today. Fixing this deeply unfair system is the least we can do for the recording artists who have enriched our lives with their music.”

You can read the full written testimony from the Congressman below or watch the clip here.

Following his remarks, Chairman Nadler stated “I would like to see this passed as fast as possible.”

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Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to speak about the American Music Fairness Act – a bill I introduced with Congressman Issa from California.

This bill would make a long overdue change to pay performing artists a small piece of the massive profits made by big radio stations that play their songs.

Frankly, it is ridiculous that this isn’t already happening. We expect every other business to pay for their raw materials. Grocery stores pay for produce. Builders pay for lumber. Corporate radio should pay for music.

AM-FM radio makes a profit by selling advertising around music and other content. When you tune in to sing along with your favorite songs or catch up on local sports, you also hear ads for car dealerships or furniture stores in your area.

But while talk radio stations pay their hosts. Sports radio pays for play-by-play. DJs are paid to entertain, inform, and introduce the songs that bring in listeners. Songwriters are paid for their music and lyrics.

The artists singing and musicians playing are not.

The excuse we hear from radio broadcasters is that “exposure” is enough. But this isn’t the 1960s.

Every creator knows that “exposure” isn’t how they pay the bills. Technology has changed a lot since the start of AM/FM radio. And we all know that publicity from radio airplay isn’t how an artist breaks out into the mainstream. Most mainstream radio plays a small rotation of hits rather than breaking a wide range of new or indie artists.

And I would caution anyone who might suggest to legendary artists like Dionne Warwick that “promotion” is fair compensation when her songs like “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” are played on radio—She has over half a million Twitter followers. She doesn’t need exposure. She needs to be paid fairly for her artistry.

Congress fixed one injustice for pre-1972 recordings three years ago in the Music Modernization Act. But those rights still don’t apply when the songs are played on radio. Dionne Warwick should have been paid in 1969, and she should be paid today when her songs are on the airwaves.

It is only in America that we have this problem. Countries around the globe collect royalties for American artists. But those royalties never make it to our artists because we refuse to reciprocate. This costs American artists $200 million every year in royalties outside the US.

My bill would ensure that US artists get paid for domestic radio play and allow US artists to finally collect their international royalties.

As we sit in this hybrid remote hearing, we should all be all reminded of the hardship artists have faced through the pandemic — as tours were postponed and venues shuttered. But even as we stayed closer to home, we still got to enjoy the music on the radio — internet, satellite, and AM-FM. Satellite radio and digital music services are required to pay both performers and songwriters.

It was only AM-FM that didn’t pay performing artists.

Sometimes I hear that my bill is a threat to local radio. But small local radio stations pay only a nominal annual fee under the American Music Fairness Act. And the smallest stations would pay only 2 cents a day.

I value my local broadcasters and want to ensure that they thrive in communities across the country. But I refuse to accept a corporate giveaway that hurts artists is necessary to protect small, independent broadcasters.

The American Music Fairness Act will finally ensure that artists are justly paid.

It will help the thousands of musicians who are struggling to make ends meet – whether their songs were hits many years ago or they are just starting out today.

Fixing this deeply unfair system is the least we can do for the recording artists who have enriched our lives with their music.

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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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