[Editor Charlie sez: When you read this cautionary tale for artists, remember that like so many other artists we look up to, Astrud never got a penny from radio performances of her records in the US which would have given her a direct payment outside of her recording agreement.]
“The Girl from Ipanema” was one of the seminal songs of the 1960s. It sold more than five million copies worldwide, popularised bossa nova music around the world and made a superstar of the Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, who was only 22 when she recorded the track on 18 March 1963.
Yet what should be an uplifting story – celebrating a singer making an extraordinary mark in her first professional engagement – became a sorry tale of how a shy young woman was exploited, manipulated and left broken by a male-dominated music industry full, as she put it, of “wolves posing as sheep”.
The hearing on Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) for the American Music Fairness Act (or “AMFA”) was a fantastic opportunity for artists to be heard on the 100 year free ride the government has given broadcast radio. We know it went well because the National Association of Broadcasters sputtered like they do when they’ve got nothing to say.
But what’s really hysterical was how they talked out of both sides of their mouths in two different hearings–which makes you think that NAB president Curtis LeGeyt was doing his impression of Punxsutawney Phil. Yes, when it came to broadcasters getting paid by Big Tech, the broadcasters wanted their rights respected and to be paid fairly. But when the shoe was on the other foot, not so much. In the Senate, the NAB asked for more money for broadcasters in a hearing for the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act–to protect the mega radio broadcasters from the mega tech oligarchs. And if broadcasters don’t get more money, they want to be exempt from the antitrust laws so they can pull their content. Just like artists do to them…NOT.
Then the NAB comes over to the House Judiciary Committee–on the same day being Groundhog Day–and asks the government to continue their 100 year free ride. We call bullshit.
The AMFA witnesses didn’t ask for an antitrust exemption, like the broadcasters did. They simply asked that recording artists be granted similar copyrights as others.
They didn’t ask for more money, like the broadcasters did. They simply asked for at least some payment, since they now receive none when broadcast radio stations air their music.
They didn’t ask for special treatment, like the broadcasters did. Rather they asked that they be treated the same as all other artists around the world, and even the same as artists on virtually all other media platforms in the U.S.
And they didn’t ask for rigts to negotiate and withhold content, like the broadcasters did. Under AMFA, radio stations would still be allowed to play music as they please. Artist advocates simply asked that the biggest-of-the-big stations pay a modest royalty set according to market rates. Stations making less than $1.5 million per year would pay a flat, annual royalty of $500 (less than $1.40 per day) for as much music as they choose to air. And the smallest stations’ payments would drop all the way down to $10.
No station is going to go bankrupt over these royalties.
Huppe has a very strong point here. This legislation has been picked over for years. AMFA bends over backwards to protect community radio and small broadcasters and repects everyone’s contribution to radio’s success.
But that’s the point–it respects everyone‘s contribution.
We had a great panel in Austin to discuss the history of the U.S. broadcast terrestrial loophole and strategies to stop the century-long Big Radio free ride on the backs of the world’s recording artists. Strategy number one is to support the bi-partisan American Music Fairness Act (or “AMFA”) introduced in Congress as HR4130 and sponsored by Rep. Ted Deutch and Rep. Darrell Issa.
The panel of Texas artist Terrany Johnson pka Tee Double, Texas music lawyer Gwendolyn Seale, Sean Glover of SoundExchange and me discussed the importance of the bill to Texas artists. As Tee Double said, the issue and the AMFA bill are “genreless” because the issue is critical to all Texas artists regardless of genre or locale, and in fact to all American artists.
The panel’s main purpose was to educate viewers about the radio loophole–American is one of a handful of countries including China, Iran and North Korea that does not pay artists when their recordings are played on the radio. We emphasized that artists have the power to close that loophole through asking their Member of Congress to support the AMFA legislation through candidate forums and petitions to Congress like the Copyright Alliance petition or the petition at IRespectMusic.org.
One key topic was that artists should not be gaslighted by Big Radio’s argument that they should be able to force artists to work for free because “exposure”. This is one of the great dodges.
Hosting the panel alone helps to raise awareness of the opportunity to bend the arc of the moral universe and we want to thank all the great organizations that reached out to inform their members and supporters by hosting the educational panel. Hosting the event were the Austin area musician support organizations @ATXMusicians, @AustinMusic Foundation, @IRMAustin (I Respect Music Austin) and @TALATexas with help from @SoundExchange, the Copyright Alliance (@Unite4Copyright) and the Texas Music Office (@TXMusicOffice).
If you missed it you can watch it below and get the background materials here. Be sure to say hello to the panelists @sealeinthedeal, @terranyjohnson, Sean Glover and @musictechpolicy.
In any event, artists, producers or labels should register for SoundExchange at www.soundexchange.com. Find out if SoundExchange is holding money for you already and whether your recordings are correctly registered with SoundExchange. Do this even if you are registered as a songwriter with a PRO like ASCAP or BMI–the PROs work for songwriters, SoundExchange works for artists, producers and record companies.
And while you’re at it, register to vote and get your band registered, too! We plan to have candidate forums in 2022 and you want to be ready to vote for artist rights! If you want to work on these efforts, please leave your contact with me.
Watch this space for updates on the American Music Fairness Act and artist pay for radio play or sign up for the MusicFirst Coaltion newsletter to stay in the loop. And finally if you have any questions, write to me or leave a comment.
[Editor Charlie sez: Our friend and supporter Blake Morgan has an important opinion post on the bi-partisan American Music Fairness Act (AMFA) in The Hill, a long-time and influential DC insider journal. Blake tells the human story of why artists need the AMFA legislation and the #IRespectMusic campaign.]
We musicians are used to fighting. For our livelihoods, our families, our dreams. In recent years we’ve fought battles we’ve neither sought nor provoked, against powerful corporate forces devaluing music’s worth. Streaming companies, music pirates, and AM/FM radio broadcasters who, in the United States, pay nothing––zero––to artists for radio airplay.
It’s shocking, but true: The United States is the only democratic country in the world where artists don’t get paid for radio airplay. Only Iran, North Korea, and China stand with the United States in this regard. ADVERTISEMENT
Broadcasters make billions of dollars each year off our music, and artists don’t earn a penny. This impacts not only the artist, but session musicians, recording engineers, songwriters. Virtually everyone in music’s economy.
Isn’t being paid fairly for one’s work a bedrock American value?
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%.
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.
Contact your Members of Congress and tell them you stand against Big Radio. Click here to CONTACT CONGRESS