‘Fair Play’ Gains Momentum on Hill

Recording Academy Grammys on the Hill 2017

(L-R) President of the Recording Academy Neil Portnow, musician Keith Urban, Recording Academy Chief Advocacy & Industry Relations Officer Daryl Friedman, and Chairman/CEO of SESAC John Josephson at the 2017 Grammys on the Hill April 5. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)

The addition of 15 bi-partisan co-sponsors to the “Fair Play Fair Pay Act,” H.R. 1836, has managed to create a sense of momentum for the music rights bill, which some feared would be lost amidst the storm of Russian intrigue and eco-unrest on Capitol Hill.

Recording Academy Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer Daryl Friedman said the group has “doubled down” on the effort to inform legislators on music licensing reform since the beginning of the year. “We view this progress as an important step toward closing loopholes that result in lost revenue for creators and our nation,” Friedman said.

The Fair Play Fair Pay Act addresses the inequity of U.S. artists not getting reimbursed for radio performance rights, which under U.S. law dating back to the rotary phone era is deemed “promotional,” thus of inherent benefit to artists. The Fair Play Fair Pay Act seeks to reform music licensing for sound recordings and close corporate radio loopholes.

It is estimated approximately $200 million of potential artist income is left on the table each year from overseas markets alone as a result of the outdated rule. While majority of other countries remit performance royalties, those countries are not required to submit payment to U.S. artists since U.S. law does not provide for radio performance rights compensation.

H.R. 1836, or FPFP, was introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on March 30, 2017, along with original co-sponsors Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), and Thomas J. Rooney (R-FL). The latest members of Congress to support the FPFP Act include Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Scott R. Tipton (R-CO), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Karen Bass (D-CA), Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY), Judy Chu (D-CA), Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Pete Aguilar (D-CA), and Darren Soto (D-FL).

Keith Urban selfie-promotion on Capitol Hill

Selfie Promotion: Keith Urban is swarmed by congressional reps at the 2017 Grammys on the Hill event. (Photo: Paul Morigi / Wireimage)

“We couldn’t be more pleased to see the momentum from Congress on Fair Play Fair Pay,” Friedman added, crediting industry initiatives that have included the annual Grammys on the Hill Advocacy Day and Grammys in My District with galvanizing working musicians across the country with a focused and unified message for their legislators that finally — after years of what seemed like howling in the wind about unfair laws governing recording rights — seems to be producing results.

Interestingly, the free-market politics of the Republican party seems to be something of a driving force in pushing recording legislation to the fore, which puts musicians in the awkward position of having to concede a champion in the Republican-led congress and the Trump administration. While the music community was vocal in its democratic support during the 2016 election cycle, business leaders in the music community are not shy in criticizing former President Barack Obama’s artists rights policies.

The broadcast industry and it’s NAB lobbying arm have energetically opposed attempts to reform the radio compensation rules, although in attempting to prop up antiquated laws that predate digital technology it seems they will ultimately be on the losing end of this battle, a point the Recording Academy gleefully acknowledged by pointing out that the NAB return volley — the Local Radio Freedom Act — “is a resolution, not a bill,” citing a quote to that effect by Radio Ink Magazine Publisher Deborah Parenti in a press release (the point being resolutions, unlike bills, are not potential law, and have traction only slightly greater than that of social media posts).

Last month the Recording Academy held its annual Grammys on the Hill Advocacy Day brought more than 100 professional music creators from across the country to Washington D.C. to visit with lawmakers and discuss legislative issues important to their business sector for generations to come.

The FPFP Act was a primary focus during meetings with members of Congress, Friedman said. Among those participating in this year’s Grammys on the Hill Advocacy Day: producer Peter Asher, The Four Tops’ Duke Fakir, contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Natalie Grant, Latin GRAMMY winners Jesse & Joy, Pentatonix’s Kristin Maldonado and a Cheap Trick contingent of producer Harvey Mason Jr. and Rick Nielsen, among many others.

The Recording Academy represents the voices of performers, songwriters, producers, engineers, and all music professionals. Dedicated to ensuring the recording arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, the Academy honors music’s history while investing in its future through the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. The group also advocates on behalf of music creators, supports music people in times of need through MusicCares, as well as celebrates artistic excellence through the annual Grammy Awards

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow is serenaded by hallway troubadours at the 2017 Grammys on the Hill. (Photo: Ricardo Savi /Getty Images)

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