By Jon Decker
Today, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced long-overdue legislation to protect the rights of artists in the music industry. Under current law, when a performer’s song is played on a streaming platform, such as Spotify, or on a satellite radio service, such as SiriusXM, they are entitled to compensation. However, when the same song is played on terrestrial AM or FM radio, the station can simply take the song permission without paying the performer anything.
Broadcasters have always defended this arrangement by arguing that they provide the marketing for music that listeners then go out and buy. But as the industry has been turned upside down by technology, record and CD sales have plummeted and that argument has become badly outdated.
Senator Blackburn’s bill rectifies this by simply requiring broadcasters to receive permission from artists before airing a song – which would allow artists who want the free exposure to get it, while others would choose to negotiate for compensation.
The central opposition to Senator Blackburn’s legislation comes from broadcasters who of course want to continue profiting off the labor of others without having to compensate them.
Ironically and hypocritically, the broadcasters are also fighting tooth and nail to prevent reform of the retransmission consent law, which requires cable and satellite operators to compensate the broadcasters for their content – even though it is broadcast free-to-air.
Kudos to Senator Blackburn for standing up for the rights of artists. It’s time to end terrestrial radio’s free ride and put in a level playing field with competing music services, while giving artists compensation for their work.
By Jon Decker