How A Music Industry Coalition Has Courted Congress

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Perhaps the hottest issue on Capitol Hill facing broadcast radio stations to emerge in the first 90 days of the Trump Administration is the review of compensation to recording artists for the airplay of their songs.

While legislation co-sponsored by Reps. Brad Deutch (D-Fla.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) seeks to “fix a decades-old inequity in copyright law that allows terrestrial radio stations to play music without compensating performers,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) — Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet — and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), have re-introduced the “Fair Play Fair Pay Act.”

This bill seeks to create “a modern and uniform system of rules governing music licensing for digital and terrestrial radio broadcasts.”

Specifically, “Fair Play Fair Pay” — co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) as well as Issa and Deutch — would create a terrestrial performance right “so that AM/FM radio competes on equal footing with its internet and satellite competitors who already pay performance royalties.”

Enter Sirius XM, which has become the poster child for royalty inequities. The musicFIRST coalition in early March made their position clear by asking its “friends” to tell Congress to “Say No! to Big Radio.” The organization asserted, “Music fans are increasingly tuning out radio in favor of SiriusXM or streaming services like Pandora or Spotify that offer more access to more music without the endless commercials and repetitive songs typically found on the FM dial.”

The pro-artist rights group, whose mission statement is “ensuring music creators get fair pay for their work everywhere it is played,” also asserts that “the 10 corporations that are responsible for 50% of radio revenue [are] trying to protect the subsidies they get from Washington, D.C. that keep them from paying working artists when they play their music on the air and sell it for millions in advertising profits.”

The musicFIRST coalition was founded a decade ago and includes 12 rights organizations, most notably SAG-AFTRA, the Recording Industry Association of AmericaSoundExchange, the American Federation of Musicians, and the Christian Music Trade Association.

A visit to the musicFIRST website paints a vivid portrait of how it seeks to reach it goals: All change leads through Congress. Tweets from Reps. Issa and Deutch appear front and center on the home page. Those seeking to take action are directed to tell their elected officials in Congress to support the Fair Play Fair Pay Act.

The lobbying — and influence peddling — is clearly in full-throttle mode for musicFIRST.

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