Starting with Frank Sinatra on December 12, 1988–nearly 34 years ago to the day–artists have campaigned for fair treatment in line with the rest of the world and get a performance royalty for broadcast radio. The House Judiciary Committee led by the stalwart Rep. Jerry Nadler moved that goal a little closer this week by passing HR 4130, the American Music Fairness Act, out of committee.
Almost as significant as the vote were the comments by Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Darrell Issa (the remaining author of the bill after the wonderful Rep. Ted Deutch announced he would not run for reelection). Given the party change in the House next session, Rep. Jordan is the front runner for Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He was very clear that the committee will be taking up the bill if it doesn’t pass in the lame duck, because it is time to reject this unfairness. Rep. Darrell Issa summed it up: It is time for bipartisan compromise so that America is not in the same category as North Korea, Cuba and Iran, and reach a compromise on broadcast royalties–whatever the right number is it is not zero. And zero is what the National Association of Broadcasters intends to continue getting away with not paying.
This is not where we ended up before on prior versions of the legislation when zero was accepted as a possibility. We are in a much, much better place than before. I would say that’s for two reasons. First, because the legislation itself addresses radio’s objections and makes the NAB’s mean-spirited lobbying tactics ring hollow and cheap. That dog just won’t hunt anymore.
The other reason is because of a superb messaging effort by the MusicFirst Coalition under new management. MusicFirst under Joe Crowley took their job seriously and understood their job to be very simple: We win, they lose. Too often, lobbyists view their job as perpetuating the conflict so the money keeps flowing. You can tell when you are in one of those because the organization doesn’t seem to quite get it that when you have fewer points when the clock runs out, we call that losing. Even in Washington.
Turning this beast around was a tough job and the entire MusicFirst team deserves recognition and appreciation. We’re not done–there may still be some magic tricks left in this session. But as Congressmen Jordan and Issa said, if the bill doesn’t pass this session, they are committed to taking it up early next session and getting it passed in the House.
Godspeed to everyone who has worked so hard for so long to make this a reality for all of our artists and musicians who need it. It’s what Frank would do.
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