SoundExchange’s CEO says it’s time radio starts paying all music creators fairly for their work.
On Monday, a group of radio broadcasters penned a letter in support of the National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) push for deregulation of the $14 billion radio industry. Their letter was based on the NAB’s petition to the FCC this past June, in which the NAB sought to allow expanded broadcaster ownership of radio stations (i.e., increased consolidation) throughout the country. The NAB’s justification: broadcasters must adjust their business model to the realities of the new streaming world.
As a representative of the many creative parties who help craft music, we are frequently on the opposite side of issues from the NAB. And while I can’t comment on NAB’s specific requests, I was delighted to find so much common ground in their FCC filing in June….
I agree with the NAB that the law should “finally adopt rules reflecting competitive reality in today’s audio marketplace” and should “level the playing field” for all entities in the music economy.
If radio truly wants to modernize, it can start by taking a giant leap into the 21st century and paying all music creators fairly for their work. Stop treating artists like 17th century indentured servants, just so radio can reap bigger profits. If radio wants to have rules that reflect the music industry of today, then that should apply across the board.
We should resolve this gaping unfairness to artists before we begin talking about allowing radio to consolidate even further.
Last month, 200 music creators gathered outside The Capitol for a song and demonstration asking for fair pay. Kathy Sledge led the group, singing the 1979 hit “We are Family,” a song I had the privilege to co-write and produce for Sister Sledge. At the time, it seemed like just a fun conclusion to GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day.
But given recent developments in Congress, “We are Family” now feels like a policy statement.
Terrestrial radio gets a free ride and an advantage over its digital competitors. Performing artists, background musicians and other rights holders of sound recordings receive absolutely no compensation when their music is played over the air on AM/FM radio. The bottom line is that terrestrial radio profits from the intellectual property of recording artists for free. Almost every other country compensates performing artists for radio play. The shortlist of countries that don’t includes Iran, North Korea and the United States. It is a disgrace that needs to be remedied, and it is well past time that we align ourselves with the rest of the free world.
That is why there is growing support for the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, legislation I introduced with my colleague, Vice Chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce Committee Marsha Blackburn(R-Tenn.), to create a uniform system where radio services compete on a level playing field, and all performing artists are fairly compensated.
Last week a bunch of artists including Roseanne Cash, David Poe and T Bone Burnett rose up on Capitol Hill to ask for the support of brave Members of Congress for the Fair Play Fair Pay Act–artist pay for radio play. This will require the Members to stand up to Google’s raw lobbying power and the insidious pressure from the National Association of Broadcasters which is either an act of great political courage or political suicide. We won’t know which until the Members take a swing at the bullies.
Here’s the text of T Bone’s speech:
The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech.
For most of us here, that’s at the very core of who we are — the freedom to speak, to sing, to create, to tell stories.
But the First Amendment does more than that — it says all Americans have the right to “petition their government for redress of grievances”.
That’s why we’re here today– from all over the country, from all kinds of music, from all walks of life.
Creators and artists petitioning our government.
Demanding change in a music economy that isn’t working.
Petitioning this Congress to step up and update the obsolete laws that have made such chaos of the business side of music.
Doing what we can to right wrongs that have plagued creators for decades — from the player piano dance halls to today’s infinite cyber jukeboxes.
Reminding the digital entrepreneurs- the iTopians- that they are partners in this brave new music ecosystem — not in charge of it.