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.
Remember the Local Radio Freedom Act from last year? Well, they’re back with a new LRFA (pronounced “screw you”). This Congress can’t agree about much, but they can agree they want to keep screwing artists.
Here’s the deal. LRFA is the Alinsky-style straw man–demonize your opponent as something you want people to believe your opponent to be (a “tax” for example), then perpetuate that mischaracterization no matter what. (In the current parlance, something pretty close to gaslighting fake news.)
This LRFA legacy “nonbinding resolution” has become an evergreen in the arsenal of the NAB’s gaslighting efforts to perpetuate exploitation of recording artists for one reason and one reason only–because they can. The NAB gets a bunch of Members to sign up, doesn’t tell them the truth about what they signed, and hope that nobody tells them otherwise until it’s too late.
Here’s a list of signatories at the end of this post in case you want to tell them #irespectmusic, why don’t you? Sign the petition at I Respect Music.org
Supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act.
Whereas the United States enjoys broadcasting and sound recording industries that are the envy of the world, due to the symbiotic relationship that has existed among these industries for many decades;
Whereas for nearly a century, Congress has rejected repeated calls by the recording industry to impose a performance fee on local radio stations for simply playing music on the radio and upsetting the mutually beneficial relationship between local radio and the recording industry;
Whereas local radio stations provide free publicity and promotion to the recording industry and performers of music in the form of radio air play, interviews with performers, introduction of new performers, concert promotions, and publicity that promotes the sale of music, concert tickets, ring tones, music videos and associated merchandise;
Whereas Congress found that “the sale of many sound recordings and the careers of many performers benefited considerably from airplay and other promotional activities provided by both noncommercial and advertiser-supported, free over-the-air broadcasting”;
Whereas local radio broadcasters provide tens of thousands of hours of essential local news and weather information during times of national emergencies and natural disasters, as well as public affairs programming, sports, and hundreds of millions of dollars of time for public service announcements and local fund raising efforts for worthy charitable causes, all of which are jeopardized if local radio stations are forced to divert revenues to pay for a new performance fee;
Whereas there are many thousands of local radio stations that will suffer severe economic hardship if any new performance fee is imposed, as will many other small businesses that play music including bars, restaurants, retail establishments, sports and other entertainment venues, shopping centers and transportation facilities; and
Whereas the hardship that would result from a new performance fee would hurt American businesses, and ultimately the American consumers who rely on local radio for news, weather, and entertainment; and such a performance fee is not justified when the current system has produced the most prolific and innovative broadcasting, music, and sound recording industries in the world: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over-the-air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings.
Here’s the list of Members of Congress who want to keep screwing artists:
Ms. Castor of Florida (for herself, Mr. Conaway, Mr. Butterfield, Mr. Johnson of Ohio, Mr. Gianforte, Mr. McEachin, Mr. LaMalfa, Mr. Rogers of Kentucky, Mr. Gosar, Mr. Weber of Texas, Mr. Graves of Georgia, Mrs. Dingell, Mr. Moulton, Mr. Babin, Mr. Young, Mr. Comer, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Bost, Mr. Kelly of Pennsylvania, Mr. Cole, Mr. Keating, Mr. Flores, Mr. Hagedorn, Mr. Crawford, Mr. Palazzo, Mr. O’Halleran, Ms. McCollum, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Kinzinger, Mr. Collins of New York, Ms. Stefanik, Mr. Turner, Mr. Olson, Mr. Allen, Mr. Chabot, Mr. Massie, Mr. Hill of Arkansas, Mr. Westerman, Mr. Upton, Mr. Duncan, Mr. Walker, Mr. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Mr. Rush, Mr. Kilmer, Mr. Walberg, Mr. Gonzalez of Texas, Mr. Kind, Mr. Lynch, Mr. LaHood, Mr. Grothman, Mr. Wilson of South Carolina, Mr. Latta, Mr. Williams, Mr. Budd, Ms. Kuster of New Hampshire, Mr. Long, Mr. Bilirakis, Mr. Arrington, Mr. Hice of Georgia, Mr. Shimkus, Mr. Zeldin, Mr. Meadows, Mr. Mullin, Mr. Emmer, Mr. Lawson of Florida, Mr. Pallone, Mr. Clay, Mr. Posey, Mr. Newhouse, Mr. Womack, Mr. Walden, Mr. Hastings, Mr. David Scott of Georgia, Mr. Harris, Mr. McKinley, Mr. Rouzer, Mr. Nunes, Mr. Lamborn, Mr. Calvert, Mr. Rogers of Alabama, Mr. McHenry, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Davidson of Ohio, Mr. DeFazio, Mr. Mooney of West Virginia, Mr. Loebsack, Mr. Carter of Georgia, Mr. Cuellar, Mr. Duffy, Mrs. Brooks of Indiana, Ms. Foxx of North Carolina, Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Mr. Brown of Maryland, Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Wenstrup, Mr. Brendan F. Boyle of Pennsylvania, Mrs. Rodgers of Washington, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Dunn, Mr. Cook, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Stivers, Miss González-Colón of Puerto Rico, Mrs. Beatty, Mr. Evans, Mr. Brooks of Alabama, Mr. Fortenberry, Mr. Payne, Mr. Luetkemeyer, Mr. Yarmuth, Mr. Courtney, Mrs. Radewagen, Mrs. Bustos, Mr. Banks, Mr. Gallagher, Mr. Smith of Nebraska, Mr. Kelly of Mississippi, and Mrs. Wagner)
And here’s the list of Senators:
Mr. Barrasso (for himself, Mr. Heinrich, Mr. Boozman, Ms. Collins, and Mr. Udall).
From what we have gathered, on May 15, the Senate will vote on the Music Modernization Act (which now includes the Classics Act and the AMP Act). It’s flying through the walls of government faster than anything we’ve ever seen. Some call it unprecedented. Some say it’s been a long time coming. The music member organizations are touting this as if we are finally getting our moment in the sun. But are we really?
ASIDE FROM CREATING A DATABASE — IS THE MMA A LANDMARK OR LANDMINE FOR MUSIC CREATORS, PRODUCERS, AND PERFORMERS?
There are arguments on both sides from within the music creator community, and it is hard to know who is “right.” All we know is that all of the “member” organizations that directly impact how musicians and music creators get paid (the AFM, ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange) have communicated to their members to support this bill, to sign numerous petitions to Congress to ensure it passes, etc., without much member discussion on what the cons are of the legislation. In addition, the advocacy organizations (NARAS, SONA, NSAI, the SCL) have also trumpeted support without much point by point member discussion or debate, which to us is deeply concerning.
Is the MMA truly a landmark win for ALL music creators? Will money start flowing to the “little guy” who doesn’t have a publishing deal and plans to utilize streaming services to distribute his/her music, who is totally DIY, who doesn’t understand/care about the inner workings of the music industry and what the difference is between AFM, SAG-AFTRA, ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange, and Advocacy-only groups such as NARAS, SONA, and NSAI? (This, by the way, is the majority next generation DIY musicians who upload millions of tracks into the streaming services every year.) What will REALLY change for that DIY music creator, producer, or performer? Can he/she plan to retire off of the whopping increase in earnings that passing the MMA will provide? Will they be able to figure out how to register to get their windfall in time before the publishers who are behind the MMA claim it?
If the MMA legislation is so much of a windfall moment for all music creators, producers, and performers — why is it so hard to find a concrete example (or have the advocacy groups even CREATE an example to relate to) of a DIY music creator and how the MMA will help him/her earn more income for their music (or musical contribution) from streaming? Why haven’t the member organizations provided examples of “if you wrote this, recorded this, produced this, and/or released it on a streaming platform, this is how passing the MMA will improve your music creator/producer/performer life” as a part of their non-stop rally of support for this bill? And what about the musician unions? If they want musicians to support the MMA, why haven’t they provided any examples of how a session musician (or lead singer) who played/sang on a track that is now released on a streaming service will benefit?
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST: THE “LANDMARK” DATABASE WILL MAKE OR BREAK THE MMA’S (THE MLC’s) SUCCESS
Over the last four years, SoundExchange members have sent many thousands of letters to Congress asking for reform of our music licensing laws. When Congress held hearings at the start of its lengthy copyright review in 2014, it was my honor to represent music creators as a witness before the House Judiciary Committee asking that they modernize our laws by requiring fair pay for all music creators whenever their music is played.
Today, I’m happy to report that our work together is paying off.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the comprehensive
Music Modernization Act (H.R. 5447) by a unanimous vote, 415-0. This is
an historic victory that happened because of our collective efforts. It happened because of the industry- wide unity and legislative consensus we worked so hard to achieve. And it happened because of our efforts to help lawmakers understand how important music reform is to you — the music creators who are the lifeblood of our industry.
In 2017 alone, our artist partners and advocates utilized our letter writing campaign to send thousands of constituent letters. United States Senators from all 50 states and Members of Congress from 419 out of 435 districts across the country received letters asking them to support music creators by supporting music licensing reform legislation.
Because of your hard work, we’re on the cusp of success. The fight isn’t over though, and our focus now shifts to the U.S. Senate.
While several pieces of music legislation have been introduced in the Senate, there is not a single comprehensive package yet. We are encouraging our Senate allies to bring these many issues together into a single, comprehensive Music Modernization Act, like the bill passed in the House, to include:
**The CLASSICS Act (S. 2393) to ensure equal treatment for legacy artists who recorded music before 1972;
**The AMP Act (S. 2625), which builds on SoundExchange’s existing process for honoring letters of directions for producers and sound engineers; and
**The mechanical licensing reform bill (also called the Music Modernization Act). Lawmakers need to hear your voice to make this happen.
I encourage you to read this special advocacy edition of SoundByte to learn more and to find out how you can get engaged.
Thanks to our SoundExchange family for everything you have done to support our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. Let’s continue our work together to make history.
Yours in Music,
President & CEO
[And Apple leads Spotify in another metric, too. Apple has not filed a single “address unknown” mass NOI–not one. Spotify has filed millions.]
[An internal Apple] memo, obtained by Variety, [contained] the latest subscription milestone achieved by the three-year-old service. Apple Music now counts more than 40 million paid subscribers in 115 countries. With some 8 million auditioning the service via free trials, the service is gaining ground on its competitors — namely Spotify, which went public on April 3 — at a monthly growth rate of 5% (versus Spotify’s 2%), per a recent report in WSJ.
SoundExchange’s CEO talks licensing reform and the CLASSICS Act.
A promising occurrence is unfolding in the U.S. Congress: bipartisan agreement on meaningful legislation. Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are working on a broad and impactful measure to modernize and improve many of the rules that govern how music is used in the digital era. This bipartisan consensus will benefit music creators, digital services and fans.
This situation has progressed in large measure because the music industry and digital service providers — often divided — similarly worked together to craft a unified package of reforms. More than 20 organizations representing artists, songwriters, composers, record labels, music publishers, performance rights organizations and streaming services (such as Pandora) support these bills and are asking Congress to pass them as part of a unified piece of music legislation in 2018. SoundExchange endorses this package, in line with our ongoing efforts to make our country’s music licensing system more just for everyone.
There is, unfortunately, one significant naysayer: SiriusXM. In advertisements and recent statements by the company, SiriusXM says that the legislation should be rejected because it fails to address a glaring inequity in our public policy: that broadcast radio does not pay performers for the use of their sound recordings, while SiriusXM does.
SiriusXM is right about broadcast radio. This system is unfair. Broadcast radio should absolutely compensate creators of sound recordings. For far too long, terrestrial (FM) radio has used the music of hard working artists to attract listeners to their stations, while paying those artists nothing for their work.
But this is not a reason to abandon an industry wide agreement on legislation addressing other important issues.
[Editor Charlie sez: Songwriters should note the increase in digital and physical sales and remember that the last rate hearing continued to freeze mechanical royalties on physical and permanent downloads at 9.1 cents minimum statutory–where it has been set since 2009 and will remain until 2022. Inflation alone would peg that rate at 11 cents today, if it hadn’t been frozen and increases for inflation just keeps the rate the same. So what that really means is by freezing the rate at 9.1 cents in 2009, the rate has actually decreased for inflation. That means that the mechanical rate has actually decreased by approximately 20% since 2009.]
Bandcamp is reporting a record year for 2017. Here are some highlights:
- Digital album sales were up 16% vs. a 20% industry decline)
- Track sales up 33% vs. a 23% industry decline
- Merch sales up 36%.
- Growth in physical sales was led by vinyl (up 54%) and CD sales up 18%
“Meanwhile, standalone music streaming companies continued to lose money in 2017,” the company wrote in a blog post chronicling its “stellar” year. ” The seemingly inevitable upshot of these two trends is that the majority of music consumption will eventually take place within the subscription rental services of two or three enormous corporations, who can afford to lose money on music because it attracts customers to the parts of their businesses that are profitable.”