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The Fair Play Fair Pay Act is More Than Just Performance Rights

04 February 2016

Here at musicFIRST, we spend every day working for the Fair Play Fair Pay bill, which would – after decades of struggle – finally create an AM/FM performance right so that musicians and vocalists get paid when Big Radio uses their work.

It’s a vital fight – even with so many new ways to listen and find great music, AM/FM remains a major source of listening (one recent study found that 80 of adults still listen to AM/FM in their cars, for example).  Overall, AM/FM remains the biggest service using and profiting off recorded music without paying a dime to those who created it. 

But the Fair Play bill does more than simply overturn this particular injustice.  It also includes vital forward-looking reforms that will make the market for digital music stronger, healthier, and more fair.  In short, it levels the playing field to ensure that all forms of radio – AM/FM, satellite, and Internet radio – play by the same rules and compete on equal footing.

We wrote at length about this problem in Billboard last year – pointing out that SiriusXM pays below market royalties thanks to a decades old “grandfathered” exception in the Copyright laws: 

SiriusXM already pays below-market royalties for its satellite broadcasts thanks to a special “grandfathered” royalty rate standard it wrested from Congress years ago.  While that special deal may have made sense when Sirius and XM were two separate companies struggling to get off the ground — although many would challenge even that —  why on earth should SiriusXM continue to pay below-market royalties for the music it uses to draw in subscribers today when it is one of the strongest music services in existence? . . . It is time for Congress to pass legislation that would end this. To ensure all music creators receive market value pay, regardless of when they recorded or the technology used to broadcast their songs, which is why the bipartisan Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015 is so critical.

That was true last year – and it is even more true today, with news this week that SiriusXM just finished one of the strongest financial quarters in its history.  The company posted “its strongest full-year subscriber growth in eight years” and brought $1.2 billion — with a B- in revenue.

We celebrate this success at musicFIRST and applaud the quality service and great music provided by SiriusXM. 

But a company with nearly 30 million subscribers earning almost $5 billion a year in revenues should be ashamed to be shortchanging music creators based on a 20 year old leg up offered to it by the Congress.

It is time for #FairPlayFairPay

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