It’s pretty weird when you think about it: when you hear “I Will Always Love You” performed by Whitney Houston on AM/FM radio in the US, neither the Houston estate nor her label get paid. But songwriter Dolly Parton does receive compensation, along with her publisher. We love Dolly a ton, but this seems unfair. That’s because it is.
Things look much different in the rest of the world, where performers, labels, songwriters and publishers ALL get paid for radio play. Consider how certain genres of music—like jazz and r&b—are powered by performances. “Respect,” belted out by Aretha Franklin. “My Favorite Things” as interpreted by the great John Coltrane. Yet due to a weird loophole in US law that exempts radio stations from paying performers or labels, countless American artists have been unable to collect money owed to them for airplay here and abroad. The problem is particularly acute for performers who aren’t in a position to tour, such as older, so-called “legacy” artists. When it comes down to it, the lack of a public performance right for over-the-air broadcasting amounts to the government giving away music to the rest of the world for free.
Imagine a radio format that plays “twice as many songs” by only playing about half of each song, in an attempt to cater to “the needs and lifestyle of today’s multitasking, attention challenged listeners.” It may sound like a joke straight out of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, but it’s the actual concept behind QuickHitz, a syndicated radio format that is currently making news for all the wrong reasons. read more
On May 7, 2014, Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4588, the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act [PDF], which aims to get performers and labels paid when their music is played on AM/FM radio.
This proposed legislation is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it demonstrates the growing bipartisan consensus that performing artists deserve compensation when their music is used in over-the-air broadcasts. Second, it shows how members of Congress who have disagreed on many issues—including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—can come together to do the right thing by creators.
Post authored by Communications Intern Olivia Brown
To anyone who loves truly local radio as much as we do, the “Local Radio Freedom Act” — the latest in a series of Congressional rumblings related to copyright and royalty issues — may sound like a noble cause. But look past the doublespeak title, and you’ll find that one man’s “freedom” is another man’s free lunch. read more
Given how opposed the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has been to the concept of paying performing artists and sound copyright owners for the over-the-air broadcast of their work, we think this is pretty significant. Of course “significant” doesn’t mean inevitable. Let’s review the facts. read more
Today, the Federal Communications Commission published public comments on a petition filed by the musicFIRST Coalition. The original petition claims that certain radio stations are boycotting artists because of their support of a Public Performance Right for terrestrial (over-the-air) broadcasts. It also alleges that the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), has been airing "misleading" ads about the Performance Right, and that member stations have refused to accept paid commercial messages from musicFIRST -- a group including labels, musicians' unions, SoundExchange and hundreds of musicians. read more
On Thursday, June 11, 2009, the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet held a legislative hearing on H.R. 1147, aka the Local Community Radio Act of 2009. FMC arrived at the Hill bright and early to catch all the action.We know we've talked a lot about Low Power FM (LPFM) stations lately -- this is our second post this week -- but that's because there are so many exciting developments in the land of Low Power! read more
In the United States, royalties for public performances are paid to songwriters, composers and publishers. But what about the person who performs the song?
Consider this. When you hear Counting Crows’ recording of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on the radio in the US, Joni Mitchell – the composer of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – is compensated through BMI. But Counting Crows receive nothing for this performance.
However, if you hear the same performance on Sirius XM, or via a webcast, or on a cable music station – even on that terrestrial radio station’s webcast — both Joni Mitchell AND Counting Crows are compensated.
Why the difference? US terrestrial broadcasters are exempt from paying a public performance right for sound recordings. read more
On Wednesday, December 13, FMC released a quantitative, 152-page report of the history of radio consolidation called False Premises, False Promises. In honor of the occasion, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) attempted to discredit the release of an independent analysis—that is, one not written by the industry or its consultants—of the radio industry by distributing a pre-emptive press release that called our research “questionable” and filled with “dubious data”. This is FMC’s point-by-point rebuttal to the NAB’s specious claims. read more
A verbatim post of the press release that the National Association of Broadcasters issued before FMC released its study False Premises, False Promises on December 13, 2006. FMC also penned a response to the NAB. read more