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Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan, Hanson and more sign open letter calling on US Congress to pass new law on radio royalties

By | Published on Wednesday 2 November 2022

musicFIRST Coalition

Music industry campaign group the musicFIRST Coalition has published an open letter to members of US Congress calling on them to support and pass the American Music Fairness Act. It has been signed by more than 60 artists, creators and activists, including Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan, Hanson, Peter Frampton, Jackson Browne, Sammy Hagar, Pat Benatar and Sheila E.

If passed, the act would require AM/FM radio stations in the US to pay royalties to the artists and record labels behind the music they play, as well as to songwriters and music publishers. Unlike most countries in the world, this has never been required in the States, so traditional radio only needs licences on the songs side and doesn’t pay any money into the record industry.

“For decades now, corporate broadcasters have used an antiquated loophole to play unlimited music for free”, the letter states. “We have watched as giant radio corporations have continued to grow, raking in billions in advertising dollars while refusing to pay a single cent to us, the artists behind the music that attracts their advertisers in the first place and makes their entire business model possible”.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans stand with artists on this issue”, it adds. “A recent national poll commissioned by musicFIRST – the voice for fairness and equity for music creators – found that 61% of American voters believe it’s unfair that artists don’t get paid when their songs are played on the radio. And 70% support Congress taking action to address this injustice by passing legislation such as the American Music Fairness Act”.

Commenting on the publication of the letter, former Congress member Joe Crowley – who is also Chair of the musicFIRST Coalition – said: “We’re proud to stand with artists in their honourable fight to finally get the compensation they deserve for the use of their work on AM/FM radio”.

“Big radio corporations like iHeartRadio make billions of dollars in profit by filling their airwaves with music”, he went on, “and it’s only right that they should pay a fair share to the artists whose hard work makes their whole business possible. It’s just common sense. Artists support the American Music Fairness Act. The American public supports the American Music Fairness Act. And now, it’s time for Congress to make it law”.

Broadcasters like iHeart continue to lobby hard against any changes to US copyright law, mainly arguing that artists and labels who get airplay on their music stations get free promo and should be happy with that. That has always been the argument put forward by US radio stations – and has been a successful one to date – but in the digital age, radio arguably competes with streaming services, which do pay royalties when recordings are played, rather than driving people to them.

Read the letter and see the full list of signatories here.