Lawmakers Introduce Long-Sought Legislation To Require That Traditional Radio Stations Pay Artists For Playing Their Music

Lawmakers are making another run at establishing a performance royalty for songs that are played over traditional radio, continuing a legislative battle that dates back decades.

Dionne Warwick appeared at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday along with Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) as they introduced the American Music Fairness Act.

The bill would require that AM and FM stations pay performers and labels when their songs are played over the airwaves. They said that smaller broadcasters would pay much less to ease the burden on their bottom line. Satellite and digital radio do pay the royalties.

But past efforts to pass legislation have stalled in Congress against opposition from broadcasters. In fact, at the press conference, Warwick recalled that she was first enlisted to advocate for the performance royalty 48 years ago by Frank Sinatra.

“That is how long I have been involved,” Warwick said.

She said that many people are surprised to hear that they don’t get paid when their music is played on traditional radio, “and when I say, ‘No we don’t,’ they look at me like I have two heads. They do known now that that is the truth.”

The National Association of Broadcasters quickly announced its opposition to the bill.

Its president and CEO, Gordon Smith, said that “for decades, broadcast radio has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the music industry, launching and sustaining the careers of countless artists, promoting album sales and streams, and helping to foster a robust music-creation environment that is the envy of the world.” As they have in past battles, the NAB has been lobbying for alternate piece of legislation, the Local Radio Freedom Act, with 138 sponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate.

Of course, listening habits have changed considerably since Sinatra’s efforts in the 1970s, as more users bypass FM and AM stations for streaming services and satellite. Both sides have tried to use that point to their advantage.

The closest recent resolution to the issue came in 2010, when the music industry and broadcasters reached a tentative agreement. But that deal ultimately fell apart in the face of opposition from stations.

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