Wednesday, September 5, 2012

AFM President Ray Hair on Radio Royalty Fairness

Ray Hair, International President of the American Federation of Musicians, recently spoke out in response to internet radio legislation currently being crafted in Congress. Led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the "Internet Radio Fairness Act of 2012" aims to level the playing field for digital radio services by holding them all to the same set of standards when determining the royalty rates that they are required to pay to content owners (currently, internet radio services are required to pay much higher rates than satellite or cable radio services).

While the concept seems fair in principle, the initially proposed solution calls for a reduction in the royalties paid by internet radio services to align with the lower rates paid by satellite and cable services. If passed, this would be a major setback for content owners. As Hair notes, "instead of ensuring that terrestrial radio stations pay musicians fairly – just as many digital radio stations already do – it would allow the digital platforms to pay musicians less too, at rates far below market value. The bill would effectively unleash a race to the bottom, with radio platforms competing to see which can pay musicians the least. Rather than emulating the one corner of the digital music industry that seeks to give artists their fair share, it attacks that example at the expense of struggling artists -- all with the goal of further enriching companies that already make their money off  artists’ backs."

Hair goes on to make several other arguments in favor of more pro-artist solution to radio royalty equity, and includes terrestrial radio broadcasters (who currently pay nothing to recording artists and labels, unlike digital services who pay songwriters, publishers, artists and labels) in his challenge to "support the musicians that give life to the songs we love, and bring joy to the world." As Hair states, "paying musicians isn’t an inconvenience to radio’s business model – it’s an essential part of it."

Read Ray Hair's full op-ed from The Hill's Congress Blog

Read more about the legislation-in-oppgrogess here:

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