Music Business

musicFIRST warns Congress of radio’s misleading narrative on rights to sound recordings

US advocacy group musicFIRST is calling foul on a letter sent by Reps. Kathy Castor and Steve Womack (and possibly crafted by the National Association of Broadcasters) encouraging those on Capital Hill to back the Local Radio Freedom Act, which would help cement the US practice of not recognizing performance rights for the use of sound recordings by terrestrial radio.

Guest post by Emmanuel Legrand of Legrand Network

US artists’ advocacy group musicFIRST has warned members of Congress about attempts to mislead policy-makers on the issue of performance rights for sound recordings on US AM and FM radio stations.

musicFIRST reacted to a letter sent by Representatives Kathy Castor and Steve Womack to their colleagues on Capitol Hill, urging them to support the Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA), which would enshrine into law that US radio stations should not be subject to new performance fees or taxes. The US is one of the last few countries in the world that does not recognise performance rights for the use of sound recordings by terrestrial radio.

The letter boasts about the strong relationship between the music industry and radio stations “where free music for free promotion has benefited both parties for nearly a century and continues to do so today.”

musicFIRST believe the letter was “crafted” by the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents over 10,000 radio stations in the US. musicFIRST claimed that it was “an attempt to secure congressional support for legislation that says artists, labels and other music creators should not be paid when their music is played on traditional radio.”

The letter, according to musicFIRST, contains a series of “false and misleading claims about traditional radio and how artists are discovered.” musicFIRST said one of the letter’s most outrageous claim was to imply that artists were satisfied with the relationship with  radio stations.

“Creators thrive when they get paid fairly for their work,” writes the organisation. “In addition, that the NAB has the gall to tell artists they are better off not getting paid is a remarkable expression of entitlement. Artists should get to make that decision – and not have to settle for ‘exposure bucks’ from multi-billion corporations.”  

It also objects to the assertion from the letter that FM/AM radio is the “top source” for how new artists are discovered. In reality, countered musicFIRST, creators are “much more likely to be discovered on sites such as streaming platforms or digital platforms such as YouTube or TikTok.”

In conclusion, musicFIRST quoted Jennifer  Dorning, President of the Department for Professional Employees at union AFL-CIO, who in a recent letter urged Congress to stand by music creators. “American terrestrial radio stations have long profited from playing songs without compensating the artists and musicians who performed these creative works,” she wrote. “These recording artists are not guaranteed a share of the advertising revenue their performances help generate.”

She added, “The LRFA would enshrine this injustice by mis-classifying fair payments for the use of recording artists’ works as a ‘tax’. Just as you would not consider nurses’ pay to be a tax on hospitals, you should not accept the premise, put forward by the LRFA’s supporters, that frees them of the responsibility to pay artists and musicians for use of their recorded performances.”

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