Senators Introduce American Music Fairness Act
On September 22nd, 2022, Senators Alex Padilla and Marsha Blackburn introduced the American Music Fairness Act, a bill that would require broadcast corporations to pay royalties to creators for AM/FM radio plays. The legislation will ensure that radio broadcasters pay their equal share of royalties much like how other music platforms already pay to use artists' music.
Senator Padilla commented on the announcement of the act saying “For too long, our laws have unfairly denied artists the right to receive fair compensation for their hard work and talent on AM/FM broadcasts.” Padilla further clarified his opinion on the act, stating “It’s time we treat our musical artists with the dignity and respect they deserve for the music they produce and we enjoy every day.”
The American Music Fairness Act is backed by the AFL-CIO, the American Association of Independent Music, the American Federation of Musicians, the Recording Academy, the Recording Industry Association of America, SAG-AFTRA, and SoundExchange.
The bill serves as a counter to the Local Radio Freedom act which was introduced by Senators Steve Womack and Kathy Castor last year.
The Local Freedom Act is supported by the National Association of Broadcasters and aims to keep radio stations royalty-free as it could create economic difficulties for local radio stations. The NAB president and CEO Curtis LeGeyt released a statement on the American Music Fairness Act shortly after it was announced, stating “NAB remains steadfastly opposed to the AMFA, which disregards the value of radio and would undermine our critical public service to line the pockets of multinational billion-dollar record labels.” LeGeyt also turned his attention toward members of Congress who support the LFA, stating “NAB thanks the 250 bipartisan members of Congress, including 28 senators and a majority of the House, who instead support the Local Radio Freedom Act, which recognizes the unique benefits that radio provides to communities across the country and opposes inflicting a new performance fee on local broadcast radio stations.”
While the American Music Fairness act is primarily targeted toward larger radio stations, many local stations could be severely affected by the new financial burden. Carol Gregory, the general manager of Baker Media in Fort Smith was disappointed, saying that local
radio stations already pay companies to use music. Gregory broke down the situation more saying “All of these companies collect money from all terrestrial radio stations nationwide and a small percentage of that money goes to the artists.”
Gregory then spoke about how the Local Freedom Act actually benefits artists, stating that “by keeping radio stations royalty-free it would allow stations the freedom to play more music and get that music to listeners who buy the songs, albums, and concert tickets that directly benefit the artists that create it. The money that stations would save from paying all these companies and agencies could be put to better use by giving listeners a much better listening experience through better equipment, more ways to be digitally available, and more local content,”.
While the American Music Fairness Act seeks to provide royalties to artists through radio stations, it consequently forces a heavy financial burden onto local radio stations that gain their popularity through new music. The toll of this possible responsibility will likely be used to argue against the act in hopes to maintain quality free radio broadcasting.