Tag Archives: legislation

American Music Fairness Act: Long Overdue Royalty Payments for Recording Musicians

You’re an active, successful session musician who grew up and learned by listening to your favorite players, then yourself, and your session buddies, over AM/FM radio every day when you drove your car. But in this new world of subscription radio, you’ve cut back listening to music on terrestrial radio because the last time you checked your bank statement, you still have not received a dime from the thousands of broadcast radio airplays you know are happening all across the country and overseas. This is despite the fact that your single, or your entire album, sat at the top of the Billboard 100 charts or played on European stations for years.

Technology has changed music delivery systems and the COVID pandemic has decimated your ability to make a living in the live music arena. That’s right. When the live well dried up, there were absolutely no royalties and no income stream coming in from AM/FM radio plays, even though people still hear you on terrestrial radio.

Why? Because broadcast radio still sells the fantasy that the exposure you get on their stations for your creative property doesn’t merit paying you for it. This is despite the fact that these stations make billions of dollars in annual advertising revenue that keep this conglomerate and their shareholders deep in the black, year after year. They still tell the lie that their exposure of your creative product will buy you a loaf of bread when you need it. I personally can’t remember when playing for free, or just for the experience, earned me a living wage.

You’ve had it. That’s why you tuned out terrestrial dial and went subscription. That’s where your money is coming from with today’s airplay. The AFM is in lockstep with the biggest names in the music industry to right this generations long abuse of your copyrighted product. The Federation continues its decades long effort to get broadcasters to pay you what you deserve. This year, the campaign is on a fast track to finally make a difference.

Photos: Greg Dohler

On Thursday, June 24, the musicFIRST Coalition, in conjunction with the global law firm Squire Patton Boggs, kicked off our campaign to introduce the industry’s newest legislative bill, the American Music Fairness Act, at an outdoor press conference on Capitol Hill. The American Music Fairness Act, co-sponsored by Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Darrel Issa (R-CA), is bipartisan legislation supported by members of Congress, some community broadcasters, and their allies.

MusicFirst Chairman Joseph Crowley and AFM Legislative, Political, and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard with Ken Casey, bass player for Dropkick Murphys and member of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA).

Also present, in support of the bill were: musicFIRST Chairman Joseph Crowley, a former congressional representative (D-NY); vocal superstar Dionne Warwick; Ken Casey of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) who is the bass player for Dropkick Murphys; and R&B legend Sam Moore of the R&B duo Sam & Dave. (Moore and Warwick also stood with us to affect the passage of the Music Modernization Act.)

The American Music Fairness Act will:

  • Ensure performers are compensated when their songs are played on terrestrial radio.
  • Treat competing music platforms the same and create a fair market value for music performance royalties by including terrestrial broadcasts in the existing Section 114(d)(1) of title 17 of United States Code.
  • Protect small, local radio broadcasters through an exemption for stations with less than $1.5 million in annual revenue and whose parent companies make less than $10 million in overall annual revenue. For less than $2 per day ($500 annually), small and local stations can play unlimited music.
  • Exempt qualified public, college, and other noncommercial stations (who would only pay $100 a year), and super small stations.
  • Support American artists abroad when foreign stations play their music, recognizing American artists’ performance right.
  • Protect songwriters and publishers, ensuring no harmful impact on the public performance rights and royalties payable to songwriters, musical work copyright owners, and publishers.

Special thanks to AFM President Ray Hair, AFM Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) Secretary-Treasurer Marta Bradley, Local 161-710 President and IEB member Ed Malaga, and the AFM recording and performing musicians who represented DC recording artists at this historic event.

AFM Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard with AFM Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) members Patrick Plunk, David Lonkevich, Marta Bradley, Laura Knutson, Jeff Knutson, Peter de Boor, Rhea Bradley, Will Bradley, and Doug Rosenthal.

Pitch in and help your brothers and sisters—follow the AFM on Facebook and Twitter to join the campaign to pass this long-overdue bill and help with our other legislative initiatives—American Tax Parity Act (to restore artists’ tax deductions lost in the 2019 Trump Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) and the PRO Act (to update and reform American labor law).

House Passes PRO Act, landmark bill that would strengthen labor laws

The US House of Representatives on February 6 approved the most significant legislative effort to expand the rights of working people to organize since the Great Depression.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, known as the PRO Act, would amend some of the country’s decades-old labor laws to let workers quickly vote to form a union without employer interference, limit anti-worker tactics like employee misclassification, add penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who organize, and help workers secure a first contract. It would also weaken “right-to-work” laws in 27 states.

The House passed the bill with a vote of 224 to 194, mostly along party lines.

Prior to the vote, AFM International President Ray Hair sent a letter urging members of Congress to support the legislation and oppose any amendments offered during deliberations designed to weaken the bill.

Hair wrote:

The PRO Act strengthens the National Labor Relations Act by supporting the ability of working people have a voice on the job. The bill would update the National Labor Relations Act to allow workers to have a greater say in such important workplace issues as higher wages and retirement security. Once workers vote to form a union, the National Labor Relations Board could seek enforcement and relief in federal court allowing for swifter justice. In addition, the bill would prohibit employers from forcing workers to attend captive audience meetings designed to encourage workers from voting against the union. Companies and corporate officers would be confronted with stiff financial penalties for violating the law. 

The PRO act also establishes a mediation and arbitration process to prevent employers from avoiding the completion of a first contract. Historically, many employers attempt to stall first-contract negotiations in an effort to frustrate and in some cases stop the collective bargaining process, often after union organizers and negotiators have worked for years to finalize a first contract.

The bill also supports workers’ right to picket or withhold their labor in order to push for workplace changes. It also protects employees’ right to strike and prevents an employer from hiring permanent replacement workers and allows unrepresented workers to participate in collective action and class action lawsuits against unscrupulous employers.

Finally, HR 2474 eliminates state right to work laws which over the years have given more power to billionaires and special interest groups at the expense of lowering worker wages, eroding pensions and healthcare coverages in states where such laws have been enacted.

The bill now moves to the GOP-controlled Senate, which is unlikely to consider it. Republicans and business groups have forcefully opposed the PRO Act, claiming it would devastate businesses, eliminate privacy rights, and upset the national economy.


Exploit Legislative Relationships to Further Our Causes

One of the themes presented at our AFM Officer Training programs that take place just prior to our regional AFM Conferences is the importance of the relationships we create with our communities and our elected officials. In the last several months in Oregon, Local 99 has had the opportunity to deal with the trifecta of our legislators: city, state, and federal. I thought it worth sharing the stories as they highlight what can be accomplished with the help of those relationships.

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New Occupational Health and Safety Rules Protect Alberta Workers

For decades, Alberta has suffered higher worker injury rates than other jurisdictions in Canada. Bill 30 updated Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act for the first time since its introduction back in 1976.

“These long overdue Occupational Health and Safety changes will put workers at the center of the workplace health and safety equation by building an OHS system on three fundamental worker rights: the right to know about workplace hazards, the right to participate in workplace health and safety programs and policies, and the right to refuse unsafe work,” says Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan.

Other key changes in the new legislation include broader workers compensation coverage for workers who are either injured or killed on the job, as well as the continuation of pay and benefits when stop-work orders are issued.

Legislation Ends Ontario College Faculty Strike

A five-week college faculty strike in Ontario was ended when the government passed back-to-work legislation. The strike, which began on October 16, brought 12,000 workers from 24 colleges to the picket line in hopes of gaining job security.

About 80% of college faculty members are part-time workers being paid less than their full-time colleagues with far fewer benefits and little job security. Collectively represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the workers were demanding academic autonomy and longer contracts.

OPSEU is challenging the Ontario government’s Bill 178 back-to-work legislation in court, and disputing this blatant trampling of labor rights that forced the faculty back to work on November 21. Ironically, on November 22 the government passed Bill 148, which improves certain labor standards.

Cabaret Law Abolished After 91 Years

At the end of November, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation that will repeal the 91-year-old “cabaret” law that nightclub owners, performers, and the AFM have tried to eliminate since its inception.

The antiquated law prohibited dancing in bars and restaurants that did not possess a cabaret license and were originally created to curb speakeasies during Prohibition.

The law had long faced challenges and complaints about its uneven and discriminatory enforcement. All aspects of the law were repealed except for two safety requirements. Establishments must install and maintain security cameras, and if they employ security guards, they must be licensed.

“We want to be a city where people can work hard, and enjoy the city’s nightlife without arcane bans on dancing,” says de Blasio.

Streaming Funds Pension, Residuals in New Label Deal

I am pleased to report that agreement has been reached with the recording industry for a successor Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA). When ratified, the agreement will extend three years, from February 1, 2017 to January 31, 2020.

Besides significant gains in upfront payments—including yearly 3% wage increases, and improvements in pension contributions, health & welfare payments, and cartage payments—the agreement provides for significant additional payments to the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF), the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), and AFM & Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) driven by the companies’ digital streaming revenue.

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Our Revolution Aims to Topple TPP

Bernie Sanders has launched a full on attack of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pack through his new organization, Our Revolution. The organization is hoping to generate 50,000 calls to the US House. The group is urging people to call 1-844-311-2016 to be connected with their representative at the capitol. It is expected that President Obama will ask Congress to vote on the pact before his term of office ends.

“If TPP passes Congress, that’s it. It can’t be changed. TPP can’t be canceled unless all 12 nations pull out,” says Our Revolution Chair Larry Cohen.

TPP is opposed by Americans across the political spectrum. Donald Trump supporters dislike its impact on domestic jobs, while Hillary Clinton supporters dislike its corporate-friendly secret tribunals that can overrule national laws that protect the public. Our Revolution highlighted five problem with the agreement: 1) Outsourcing more jobs overseas; 2) US courts will be overruled; 3) Prescription drug prices will go up; 4) Environmental protection will be set back; 5) The agreement cannot be repealed.

AFM Solidifies Federal Arts Relationships

On August 25, AFM International President Ray Hair traveled to Washington, DC, to strengthen our ties with federal arts leaders. This full day of activity ended with solid gains in our relationships with two of our nation’s most historic and highly valued arts agencies.

National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chair Dr. Jane Chu graciously hosted a meeting with AFM President Ray Hair and myself

to discuss how the AFM and the NEA can work together moving the endowment’s agenda. Chu, who is an accomplished pianist, studied music growing up. She eventually received a bachelor’s degree in piano performance and music education from Ouachita Baptist University, as well as master’s degrees in music and piano pedagogy from Southern Methodist University. Chu also holds a master’s degree in business administration from Rockhurst University and a

L to R) NEA Chair Jane Chu, AFM President Ray Hair, AFM Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard, and NEA Music & Opera Director Ann Meier Baker at NEA headquarters in Washington, DC.

L to R) NEA Chair Jane Chu, AFM President Ray Hair, AFM Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard, and NEA Music & Opera Director Ann Meier Baker at NEA headquarters in Washington, DC.

PhD in philanthropic studies from Indiana University.

Our meeting was also attended by National Endowment for the Arts Music & Opera Director Ann Meier, who is an accomplished vocalist, with a long list of outstanding vocal and administrative credits. After some discussion between Hair and Chu about their undergraduate and graduate studies in the North Texas area, the conversation shifted to NEA programs and how these programs support a broad range of community arts and professional organizations that help support the careers of AFM musicians. Chu also gave a quick overview of her newest initiative “Creativity Connects,” which will examine how the arts are central to the nation’s “creativity ecosystem” and investigate how support systems for the arts have changed. The project also will explore how the arts connect with other industries.

In addition, the NEA celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year and Chu extended a personal invitation to Hair to encourage AFM members to participate in the agency’s “Tell Us Your Story” project. The goal is to gather stories about how the arts have influenced your life. The link to the project is http://arts.gov/tell-us-your-story. Hair strongly encourages all AFM members to visit the site and leave powerful stories about themselves and their artistic lives. We feel that AFM members have some of the most compelling stories in the industry. Take a moment to reveal yourselves.

Smithsonian Museum

(L to R) Curator of American Music John Edward Hasse with AFM President Ray Hair and AFM Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

(L to R) Curator of American Music John Edward Hasse with AFM President Ray Hair and AFM Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Later in the day, Hair followed up on a special invitation from Dr. John Edward Hasse, curator of American music at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. For decades, Hasse has interacted with the AFM and with AFM musicians, especially in the Washington, DC, area. His unique invitation included a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum with an eye toward partnering with the AFM to possibly acquire historic union documentation that outlines professional work by some of America’s greatest artists and prominent AFM members.

Aside from sharing background about some of the museum’s most precious musical artifacts, we visited locations within the museum that are being developed as new performance sites. However, one of the most important aspects of the visit included a discussion about how the Smithsonian can partner with the AFM to acquire relevant performance artifacts of the most renowned AFM members, past and present.

This is an exciting project and Hair has promised to work with Hasse on possibilities. AFM members with ideas must first contact Hair or myself. Of course, these artifacts will involve only materials of the highest value and quality and there is no guarantee of acceptance of every idea. However, your thoughts are always welcome. Feel free to reach out to our office.