Do You Know The Way To Get Fair Pay?

  • Multiple GRAMMY winner Dionne Warwick is greeted by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), left, as Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy, looks on during the GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day on April 3 in Washington, D.C.
    Photo: Leigh Vogel/WireImage.com
May 29, 2014 -- 10:23 am PDT

Dionne Warwick was in D.C. last month for our GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards and Advocacy Day. The GRAMMY-winning singer is also a citizen activist, passionate about fair pay for music makers, and committed to seeing a performance right on terrestrial radio. And as I've learned from lobbying with her, when Dionne speaks, Congress listens.

We know the terrestrial radio impasse will be resolved (and quietly, even broadcasters admit their free ride will come to an end), but while "old" radio desperately clings to its business model, "new" radio is paying royalties to performers. Digital services such as Pandora, SiriusXM and iHeartRadio are required to pay SoundExchange, the agency that then splits the money between all the copyright holders and artists, per the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995.

But even on the digital side, there's a hitch.

When Dionne's classic hits such as "Do You Know The Way To San Jose" are played on digital radio, Dionne doesn't get a penny. Why? Since sound recordings did not become protected by federal copyright until 1972, services such as SiriusXM are claiming pre-1972 works are not covered by the DPRA. Congress should address this inconsistency by granting federal protection to all pre-1972 works, as The Academy recently requested in its filing with the Copyright Office.

Today, Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.) and Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) (backed by SoundExchange and the Recording Industry Association of America) offered a short-term fix to close the loophole. The RESPECT Act would require royalty payments on pre-1972 works.

The bill is certainly a step in the right direction toward addressing the inequity, and we are gratified that Reps. Holding and Conyers are raising the issue. In the future, we'll still seek full federalization. But artists are losing money today and this bill addresses that.

With the Free Market Royalty Act, the Songwriter Equity Act, the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act, and now the RESPECT Act all introduced, it is time for our industry and Congress to unite around one common "Music Omnibus" bill, or MusicBus.

In the meantime, we hope SiriusXM, Pandora and others get the message from today's bill that mutual respect requires services that use the music to pay for the music. As Dionne would say, "That's What Friends Are For."