MusicFirst Coalition Pens Letter to Congress on Radio, Copyright Concerns

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The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC. 

Music industry coalition MusicFirst, an advocacy group for artists and musicians that includes the RIAA, the Recording Academy and the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), among others, penned an open letter to Congress ahead of this week's presidential inauguration. Dated Jan. 18, the letter outlines the group's main aims in its pursuit of "market-based principles [that] drive compensation for all artists and creators whenever and however their music is played."

First in the crosshairs is the terrestrial radio industry, which under U.S. law does not pay performance royalties for songs broadcast on the radio. The terrestrial industry has long avoided such royalty payments by arguing that their platform offers free promotion for artists by playing their songs, a position that MusicFirst no longer believes -- and has not in its 10-year existence -- is enough to equal out payments.

"The imaginary argument that radio 'compensates' artists by promoting them in the era of social media, digital services and 24-hour entertainment news doesn’t hold up anymore," the letter reads. "Big radio makes billions by playing (predominantly older) music, pure and simple. In any other market-based arrangement they would have to compensate the owner of that music at market rate. Congress can very easily fix this."

The second topic of the letter involves copyright law, and the oft-litigated (these days) pre-1972 clause that exempts terrestrial radio and digital radio services from paying royalties on any recordings made before Feb. 15, 1972, which are not covered by the federal copyright law. A number of high-profile cases have addressed this in the past few years, most recently involving Flo and Eddie from the Turtles in a long legal battle with Sirius XM.

Lastly, the group is pushing for "a simple and market-based rate standard for all music services," noting that Pandora, Sirius XM and terrestrial radio are all subject to different rate payments. "We want every business that delivers music to consumers to thrive and grow, but they all should pay a market-based rate to the artists and creators that they depend on," the group writes.

Check out the full letter right here.