Friday, May 8, 2009

Should artists get paid for airplay?

That headline query is not as easy to answer as I would have thought. And it's all because a songwriter acquaintance shared information with me on the Performance Rights Act now being debated in Congress.

Below is the email message he forwarded to me from John Simson, executive director of SoundExchange and a longtime music industry insider. It's definitely worth reading, and particularly the article at referenced in the text. Yes, this is a one-sided argument, but it is a side that deserves to be heard.

Isn't it encouraging to see Congress taking up matters beyond Major League Baseball's steroid scandal? Here's the email:

Subject: URGENT ALERT: Support the Performace Rights Act!

Your immediate attention and action is requested.

Unlike most of the countries around the world, U.S. AM and FM radio broadcasters do not have to pay you when they use your music to make billions of dollars in advertising. In addition to the loss here in America, foreign societies keep the U.S. performer share because we don't have the same rights! You lose an estimated $100 Million per year in foreign royalties.

It is time for a change! A new bill, the Performance Rights Act, was recently introduced in Congress that aims to correct this inequity which has existed in U.S. law for over 80 years. Fixing this loophole will also help American recording artists receive their long overdue foreign money as well as royalties here at home. In the past months, Billy Corgan, Sam Moore (Sam & Dave), Herbie Hancock, Los Tigres del Norte, Sheryl Crow, Mary Wilson (Supremes), Judy Collins, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Tony Bennett, and many others have come to Washington to talk to legislators to try and change this unfairness. Add your voice to the 200 Founding Artists of musicFIRST (Fairness In Radio Starting Today), to the more than 8,000 foreign performers who have signed petitions and written letters in support of this campaign (McCartney, Ray Davies and Bono just to name a few).

It is really important that this coming Monday or Tuesday, May 11th or 12th that you pick up the phone and call your Representatives. Light up the switchboards in Washington and let them know it is important to support working musicians, featured and background alike, to support the Performance Rights Act.

We have provided step-by-step instructions, including direct phone numbers into your Members' offices and talking points. They can be found on the musicFIRST website (

Step 1: On May 11 or May 12 go to
Step 2: Click on the TAKE ACTION button located on the homepage.
Step 3: Enter your zip code in the box labeled CALL NOW
Step 4: Follow the prompts to locate your Members of Congress
Step 5: The program will provide the appropriate phone number, talking points, and a place for you to leave feedback. It will walk you through calling each of your Members of Congress and your Senator.

Pass on the message to friends, coworkers, and family so that we can make this Call for Action Day even bigger than the last one!!

In addition- there was a great article posted on April 29 that is definitely worth reading:

Please contact Alissa Van Deventer of the musicFIRST Coalition at with any questions.

John L. Simson
Executive Director


  1. FYI, the person (s) who wrote the song DO get paid for broadcasts unless they signed away their publishing rights.

    Artists get paid a royalty for each unit sold. In the past, the idea was that airplay helped sell records. But since hardly anybody buys records or CDs anymore, that model isn't really working.

  2. Paying musicians and song writers for airplay?
    Why, that's as crazy as ... paying bloggers for blogging!