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All Play, No Pay, Artists Rally for Radio Royalties

All Play, No Pay, Artists Rally for Radio Royalties
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Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) introduces Fair Play, Fair Pay Act.

Music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora pay musicians every time they play their songs, but radio stations don't have to. That's the way it has always been, under the rationale that radio airplay benefits artists in other ways. But Congressmen Jerry Nadler (D-NY) called it unfair to artists.

"Forgetting the political pressure, it's the right, moral thing to do,” he said.

Nadler is introducing a bill in the House called the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act to standardize royalty payments across platforms and get radio stations to cough up money.

Nadler was joined by dozens of artists in the SAG-AFTRA union offices near Lincoln Center, including Cyndi Lauper, Elvis Costello, and Rosanne Cash. The four-time Grammy-winner Cash testified before Congress on the issue last year She says she doesn't need the money, but she worries about younger artists.

"If they can get paid, they can continue to create music,” Cash said. “I don't want that generation to disappear because they can't pay rent."

It was not just a musicians’ show, as representatives from the wider music industry showed support for the bill as well, like Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, who drew attention to the issue at this year’s Grammy’s.

Michael Huppe, President and CEO of SoundExchange, the non-profit that helps pay artists and record labels for airplay also spoke out. He said copyright law can be complex, but this issue is different.

“It is a message of basic fairness. All creators deserve to be paid on all platforms and technologies, whenever their music is used, period," Huppe said.

A similar bill failed to pass in 2009 when radio stations argued they could not afford to pay performers in the down economy. But Nadler said the radio industry would never give a “right time.”

“What other industry says we can’t afford to pay our workers; we want them to work for free?” he asked to cheers. “We got rid of that argument here in the U.S. in 1865”—a reference to the abolition of slavery.

The National Association of Broadcasters, of which WFUV is a member, opposes the bill, saying it would hurt the music ecosystem.