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October 1, 2021Alfonso Pollard - AFM Legislative, Political, and Diversity Director
As noted in the August International Musician, we have begun an internal campaign to advocate for passage of H.R 4130, the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA). This performance rights bill is designed to provide royalty payments to artists, session musicians, and vocalists when their recordings are performed and broadcast over AM and FM radio.
AFM President Ray Hair has assigned AFM International Executive Board member and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy and Recording Musicians Association President Marc Sazer to work with my office to develop strategies and advocacy ideas to help move this issue through the United States Congress.
The AFM is a part of a broader group of music industry organizations known as the MusicFIRST Coalition that has pushed hard to enact legislation that would fairly compensate musicians when radio stations use their music. The coalition’s efforts have resulted in the most recent campaign to realize a performance right in terrestrial radio for performers, who, unlike composers and music publishers, have been without such rights since the inception of broadcast radio more than a century ago.
From the earliest days of recording and sound reproduction, there were never any performance rights for musicians and only limited performance rights for composers. Musicians were left out of the US Copyright Act of 1909, which created the first compulsory mechanical license, permitting reproduction of a musical composition without the consent of the composer who owned the copyright, providing the person adhered to the provisions of the license. It memorialized the composer as the owner of a mechanical performance right, but left professional musicians, who bring the composer’s ideas to life, without a right in the reproduction of their recordings. And as technology vastly improved the fidelity and popularity of recordings, the AFM was left to bargain restrictions over the use of them.
The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 (DPRA) granted intellectual property rights to musicians when their recordings are reproduced or transmitted digitally via noninteractive means (such as Sirius XM, free Pandora, etc.). But Congress has yet to establish a similar set of rights for musicians when their recordings are played on terrestrial radio. H.R. 4130, The American Music Fairness Act, would correct this inequity.
The MusicFIRST Coalition’s campaign toward adoption of the American Music Fairness Act is chaired by former congressman Joseph Crowley. MusicFIRST Coalition member organizations include the American Federation of Musicians, SoundExchange, the Recording Academy, A2IM, the Recording Industries Association of America, and SAG-AFTRA.
Americans believe everyone should be paid fairly for their work — and music is no exception. New polling from MusicFIRST shows that a majority of Americans want Congress to step in and pass legislation requiring corporate broadcasters to pay artists and musicians for playing their songs. Music is primarily responsible for attracting listeners, driving radio ad revenue for broadcasting companies such as iHeartRadio and Cumulus that make billions of dollars each year from AM/FM radio stations.
Passage of terrestrial radio performance rights legislation is one of our most important legislative objectives this year as we cannot be sure the congressional balance of power will not change in the upcoming mid-term elections. So, the time to act is now.
We want to thank the AMFA’s original cosponsors—Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL), Darrell Issa (R-CA), and our perennial performance rights champion, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)—for their unwavering support.
We also want to thank all who have participated thus far, particularly the members and officers of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC), led by President and AFM International Executive Board member Ed Malaga and Local 161-710 Secretary-Treasurer Marta Bradley, who are always on hand to assist with legislative-political action. Thanks also to Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) officers and member Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys, as well as all the talented artists who have worked so hard now, and over the years, to keep this legislation on the front burner.
Every AFM member can make a strong and lasting contribution to this effort by reaching out to federal legislators and asking for their support. Please encourage your congressional representatives to sign on as cosponsors of the bill.