With the Music Modernization Act passed – and (most of) the arguments over the funding of its new Mechanical Licensing Collective settled – the US music industry is turning its attention to another long-running legislative goal: performance royalties from terrestrial radio.

A new bill introduced in both houses of the US Congress this week, the Ask Musicians for Music Act (AM-FM), aims to secure royalties for artists from their traditional-radio plays. It was introduced in the Senate and House by US politicians Marsha Blackburn and Jerry Nadler, who also sponsored past, unsuccessful attempts to introduce similar legislation under the name of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act.

“Under the current patchwork copyright system, radio stations can use sound recordings over their airwaves while creators, who own a stake in sound recordings, receive no payment in return,” explained Blackburn’s announcement of the new bill. “The AM-FM Act would require all radio services to pay fair market value for the music they use, putting music owners and the creative community on the same level as other American workers.”

Music-industry bodies are swinging behind the new bill: the announcement included quotes from the Recording Academy, RIAA, SoundExchange and NMPA, with clear hopes of repeating the industry unity that pushed the Music Modernization Act through the legislative process and into law. “Music is essential to the radio business, but for far too long, AM/FM radio broadcasters have profited by using sound recordings without paying anything to their creators,” said RIAA boss Mitch Glazier. “Songwriters and music publishers support the AM-FM Act because music has value, and creators should be able to decide what is best with their intellectual property,” added NMPA chief David Israelite.

Make no mistake, though, the AM-FM Act will be a fight. US radio-industry body the NAB has strongly opposed past calls for terrestrial broadcasters to pay performance royalties, and it’s gearing up for a similar battle now. “NAB opposes the AM-FM Act, which could decimate the economics of America’s hometown radio stations that have launched the careers of countless musicians and exposed legacy artists to a new generation of listeners,” said its president and CEO Gordon Smith yesterday.

The NAB continues to back another piece of legislation, the Local Radio Freedom Act, which would oppose “any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge” for the performance of sound-recordings on local radio stations. While the body says its “door remains open to work with the record labels to find a holistic solution to this issue”, this has the makings of another knock-down, drag-out fight in the US Congress.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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