[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
The 116th U.S. Congress and Democratic majority in the House of Representatives are barely two months old, yet special interest groups working against the interests of music creators are already up to their old tricks.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and its army of highly paid lobbyists are asking Members of Congress to cosponsor a bill that they have the nerve to call the Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA). In past Congresses, many lawmakers have been deceived into cosponsoring this legislation, being told that it is a non-controversial sense-of-Congress resolution aimed at protecting local radio stations. In fact, it is an anti-creator, anti-property-rights bill.
LRFA seeks to perpetuate an anomaly in U.S. copyright law under which terrestrial broadcasters (AM/FM radio) are allowed to use creators’ music to sell highly-profitable advertising with zero compensation for the artists who created that music. There is no other music distribution platform that is allowed to get away without paying creators. There is no other country in the economically developed world that permits radio to abuse creators’ property rights this way.
In a situation unique to the United States among the world’s major countries, terrestrial radio stations have never paid royalties to record labels, artists and producers, although they do to songwriters and music publishers. A2IM CEO Richard James Burgess, formerly a music producer and head of Smithsonian Folkways Records, weighs in on that situation.