2015 is shaping up to be the biggest year in the fight for fair pay for music creators in recent memory.
In 2014, famous artists and up-and-coming artists spoke up in louder and louder voices demanding fair pay for their work – and for all music on all platforms. They are hearing what you have been saying for years – that all music has value and all creators deserve fair pay wherever their music is used.
In Congress, the powerful Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, has begun an examination of music licensing reform. With your hard work this year, the need for an AM/FM performance right has emerged as a central issue of this examination. This review has seen multiple Members of Congress speak out and oppose the shameful status quo where AM/FM radio pays performers and copyright owners nothing for airplay.
At one hearing, Congressman David Cicilline said he could not think of another industry where someone’s property is “appropriated wholesale” for someone else’s profit. Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Chairman Daryl Issa denounced the scandal that “radio doesn’t pay a cent to performers” and said the founding fathers never would have thought “promoting the useful arts included using someone’s work for free.” Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler debunked the central myth underlying the flawed status quo, explaining to his colleagues that “the idea of ‘free airplay for promotion’ is not credible.”
The table is set for action and the stakes couldn’t be higher. The Copyright Royalty Board is considering new digital streaming rates that will be the foundation of creators’ pay for years to come. Glenn Peoples of Billboard warned “It’s not hyperbole to say the future of digital music in the U.S. – or at least a great part of it – rides on the outcome of the webcasting royalty rate proceedings now underway.” In the courts, artists such as the Turtles have joined with copyright owners to bring an end to digital radio’s appallingly greedy refusal to pay any royalties at all for pre-72 recordings.
Meanwhile, Big Radio is not only dug in opposing fair pay on AM/FM, it is going after digital royalties as well. The National Association of Broadcasters had the gall to demand a “significant rate reset” (a rate cut, for those of you who don’t speak with big radio’s detachment from fairness) in a filing with the Copyright Royalty Board. That would erode existing streaming royalties that have become so critical to so many artists. A day later, an article in The Hill announced that Tim Westergren and Pandora have started a PAC for political giving.
Due to all of your hard work – your tweets, your blogs, your Facebook posts, and your emails – our issues are gaining traction in Washington and in the media like never before. These issues will be front and center in 2015. Your continued engagement will make the difference in our fight for fundamental fairness for music creators moving forward.
Thanks for all you do to value music,