Bill passes through the House of Representatives

On Thursday morning (Sept 22nd), Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the bipartisan American Music Fairness Act (AMFA) to Washington. The bipartisan bill was introduced last year by Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) and seeks to ensure that performing artists are paid for the use of their songs on the 8,300 AM and FM radio stations throughout the country.

Currently, recording artists and labels are paid when their music is played on streaming services and satellite radio, but not on any of the terrestrial radio stations throughout the country. The bill would require large broadcasters such as iHeartMedia, Audacy, and Cumulus Media to pay performance royalties for their use of sound recordings, while also providing relief for smaller stations or public stations via a modest annual flat fee.

Artists such as Dionne Warwick, Sam Moore, Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey and Dickey Bettes endorse the bill. Supporting organizations include the AFL-CIO, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the American Federation of Musicians, the Recording Academy, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SAG-AFTRA and SoundExchange.

The legislation, which is supported by 70 percent of Americans according to an April survey conducted by Survey Monkey, strikes a balance by creating a level playing field among music services while ensuring the viability of true, locally owned and operated radio stations. It achieves this balance by requiring broadcast corporations whose gross annual revenue is greater than $1.5 million – or stations owned by parent companies whose annual revenue tops $10 million – to pay fair-market royalties, while minimizing the impact on public and college stations by instituting an annual flat fee ranging from $10 to $500 depending on the type of broadcaster.

The AMFA is a response to the Local Radio Freedom Act that Steve Womack (R-AR) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) introduced in 2021 and is championed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), and bipartisan majority support in the House. The act is a resolution declaring that Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charges that create economic hardships for locally-owned radio stations, with more than 70 cosponsors in the House. Additionally, US Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and John Barrasso (R-WY) are leading a companion resolution in the Senate.

“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,” shares NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt.

“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. We are committed to working with lawmakers to find a mutually beneficial solution to this decades-old policy disagreement, but this one-sided AMFA proposal is not the answer. We urge the recording industry to return to the negotiating table in an effort to find common ground.”

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a companion bill (H.R. 4130) this fall, setting the stage for Congressional action by year’s end.