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Senate Introduction of American Music Fairness Act Moves Congress A Step Closer to Justice for Artists

22 September 2022

Senators Blackburn and Padilla have introduced companion legislation to bipartisan H.R. 4130

Washington, DC, September 22, 2022Congress moved a step closer to ending a decades-long injustice against music creators with today’s Senate introduction of the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA). The legislation, sponsored by Senators  Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Alex Padilla (D-CA), would require broadcast corporations to pay performance royalties to creators for AM/FM radio plays. An identical bill (H.R. 4130) has already been introduced and received a hearing in the House, setting Congress up for action this summer and fall.

“The American Music Fairness Act is gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, and we look forward to progress in the months ahead. Big Radio has used an antiquated loophole to deny payments to artists for decades, but with the help of Senator Blackburn, Senator Padilla and other allies in Congress, this is the year we will finally end this injustice,” said Congressman Joe Crowley, Chairman of musicFIRST. “Senators Blackburn and Padilla have the appreciation and respect of the music industry for leading the fight on behalf of the thousands of American artists and creators who deserve to be paid fairly when their work is played on AM/FM radio.” 

Like its House counterpart, the Senate legislation rectifies an injustice that has existed for decades: despite the hundreds of billions of dollars that Big Radio behemoths like iHeartRadio and Cumulus have been paid by advertisers, they have never shared a penny of that money with artists. Across the country, thousands of artists and music creators work to build a career to support their families by playing the music they love — but the rules are rigged against them.

The American Music Fairness Act — originally introduced in the House by bipartisan lead sponsors Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) — aims to finally right these wrongs. Additional information about the legislation — including a fact sheet about the bill’s provisions — is available to download here.

The bill would require FM/AM radio stations whose gross annual revenue is greater than $1.5 million — or stations owned by parent companies whose annual revenue tops $10 million — to pay the artists whose songs they play to fill their airwaves. The bill also includes broad exemptions and low annual flat fees for smaller stations and public, college, and noncommercial broadcasters and protects songwriters by ensuring payments to artists do not come out of their share of royalties.

The legislation has widespread support. Seventy percent of Americans support passing legislation to pay music creators for AM/FM radio plays, according to an April survey commissioned by musicFIRST. Yet, broadcast corporations refuse to provide justice for creators, all while iHeartMedia and many of its Big Radio peers engage in wholesale layoffs across their hundreds of radio stations and crow about their profits.

“The American Music Fairness Act is a vital step towards bringing the U.S. music industry into the 21st Century,” said Michael Huppe, President and CEO of SoundExchange. “It ends the injustice of denying music creators payment for their work, levels the playing field between traditional broadcasts and streaming platforms and caps the royalties that small and community AM/FM radio stations pay at just $500 a year. This is a common-sense – and long overdue — blueprint for a healthier and fairer music industry.”

“Music creators have been fighting this battle for decades, so the introduction of the American Music Fairness Act in the Senate is an important step forward in the fight to ensure artists are paid when their music is played on broadcast radio,” said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “It’s time for artists to be compensated for their creative work that keeps AM/FM radio thriving. We’re thankful to our many Academy members for their continued advocacy, and to Senators Padilla and Blackburn for hearing our collective voice and pushing this legislation forward. We’re hopeful that we’re nearing the finish line to end this inequity that has disadvantaged music people for far too long.”

“The introduction of AMFA in the Senate is an important step forward for music artists’ rights,” said Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA. “I am grateful to Senator Padilla and Senator Blackburn and implore every Congressional member to support AMFA and close up the loophole that allows businesses to exploit workers without pay. Broadcast companies profit from advertising sales because of the creative content musicians and singers record. It stands to reason that the performers who create the content deserve to be compensated just as songwriters are now. The reason it’s called the American Music Fairness Act is because the current situation is wholly unfair and it’s up to Congress to make it fair NOW!”

“By introducing the American Music Fairness Act today, Senators Padilla and Blackburn are standing on the side of musicians and small independent record labels who for too long have seen enormous national radio conglomerates make billions of dollars without paying a cent for the sound recordings that draw in their listeners,” said Dr. Richard James Burgess, President and CEO of the American Association of Independent Music. “That’s just not fair, and the status quo should be an insult to all content creators, including broadcasters themselves. The bill has the most generous exception ever for truly small community broadcasters, so the time is now to enact it into law.”

“For far too long, our broken and unfair system has let AM/FM radio stations — many of which are owned by just a few massive media corporations — get away with refusing to pay artists when they play their music. While these big corporate broadcast companies gobble up billions upon billions in advertising dollars, the session and background musicians, whose work make all of it possible, receive no compensation whatsoever for their creations. It’s time to right this wrong, and the American Music Fairness Act aims to do just that,” said Ray Hair, International President of the American Federation of Musicians. “It’s vital that Congress protects the livelihoods of those who create the music we know and love. We commend Senator Blackburn, Senator Padilla and our other allies in Congress for championing this cause.”

“The American Music Fairness Act takes a smart, calibrated approach towards solving a decades old problem in the radio industry,” said Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. “It will finally ensure that recording artists and copyright owners are paid fairly for their work regardless of the technology used to broadcast it while carefully protecting small and noncommercial stations to preserve truly local radio our communities depend upon.”

Members of the musicFIRST coalition include the American Federation of Musicians, American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the Recording Academy, The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SAG-AFTRA and SoundExchange, among others.

For more information, please visit the musicFIRST website at www.musicfirstcoalition.org and follow the coalition on Twitter at @musicFIRST.

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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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