April 16, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—The president of the American Federation of Musicians said at the musicFIRST press conference on Monday, where Congressman Jerrold Nadler announced he would be introducing legislation to ensure musicians receive royalties from radio broadcasters, that its high time for his members to be paid each time their music is played on the radio, whether on the Internet, AM/FM or satellite.
Congressman Nadler explained at the presser that the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015 would require big radio broadcasters such as Clear Channel and Cumulus Broadcasting to start paying royalties, but without jeopardizing smaller broadcasters and college radio stations.
“This legislation contains the most sweeping protections for smaller and local broadcasters that any such bill has ever included. Under this bill, radio stations with revenues below $1 million per year would pay only $500 a year in royalties, and college and public radio stations would pay royalties of $100. Large radio conglomerates will no longer be able to hide behind smaller and public stations to perpetuate this injustice,” said Nadler.
He noted that the only countries in the world that do not pay artists for radio play include the United States, Iran and North Korea.
“When American artists’ songs are played in Europe, or in any other place that provides a sound recording right, which is almost every other place, these countries withhold performance royalties from American artists since we refuse to pay theirs,” Nadler said.
In the accompanying video, we asked AMF’s international president, Raymond Hair, about the current music licensing system that dates back over 100 years.
“It’s always been the same. It’s been this way for 100 years, going back to the Copyright Act of 1909 when we weren’t included as [content] creators. Back then the problem was antiquated technology that actually promoted us more than displaced us. But terrestrial radio has had that exemption for nearly 100 years, and it’s time to end that loophole,” said Hair.
Hair noted, just as SAG-AFTRA’s and musicFIRST’s national executive directors told us in respective video interviews, that most people would be shocked to learn why the music industry underpays the bulk of struggling musicians.
“The public doesn’t know what goes on behind the scenes with the entire industry that doesn’t pay musicians what they should be getting. That’s why we’re going to be making a big splash with this legislation in Congress and try to get it enacted so that we are paid for what’s played on AM/FM terrestrial radio,” said Hair.
Should the legislation pass in Congress, Hair said the most immediate benefit to musicians would be payment when they’re music is played on AM/FM terrestrial radio.