Entertainers Demand Cash From Broadcasters

02.25.09 | FL News Team

Entertainers are asking Congress to force radio stations to pay for playing their music.  Radio has, for decades, paid royalties to song writers in exchange for airing their compositions. Singers featured on records haven't demanded payment and radio hasn't offered because there was an understanding that radio play translated into record sales and big checks for the entertainer.

Now Thomas Lee, international president of the American Federation of Musicians, claims thousands of recording artists, session musicians and background singers are having a hard time making ends meet. Before a Congressional hearing Tuesday he told lawmakers if, quote, "difficulties they face make life as a creator unendurable, there won't be any music."  Lee says, quoting again, "there must be compensation systems in place that are sufficient to support musicians if we really want to foster music in our culture." 

Legislation that would require terrestrial radio broadcasters to pay royalties to singers and musicians has been proposed several times in Congress but has never passed. The most recent is a bill introduced by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy earlier this month.

Requiring AM and FM stations to pay entertainer royalties could cost the radio industry nearly two-and-a-half-billion-dollars a year by some estimates. Under an agreement made between the Copyright Royalty Board and satellite radio, Internet radio and cable TV broadcasters those outlets are already paying royalties to entertainers.