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FCC Must Do the Right Thing For Musicians

In a continuation of past efforts, musicFIRST and the Future of Music Coalition jointly filed comments on the status of competition in the marketplace for delivery of audio programming with the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Media Bureau. The comments, filed on April 27, 2020, relate to FCC Docket No. 20-60 and will help the FCC publish a Communications Marketplace Report to Congress later this year. The filing can be found here.

The comments to the Commission, completed on behalf of music creators and a wide array of music industry stakeholders, urge the FCC to consider music creators when analyzing competition between audio platforms and within each type of audio delivery platform in its report to Congress.

In the filing, the musicFIRST and the Future of Music coalitions point to the significant and unfair competitive advantage U.S. AM/FM radio stations enjoy compared to other audio platforms. Currently, AM/FM radio is exempt from the requirement under federal copyright law that audio delivery platforms pay royalties to music creators for the use of sound recordings. In citing data showing that AM/FM radio still reaches more listeners that any other platform and is by far the most listened to audio delivery platform in cars, the coalitions argued that AM/FM stations should compensate music creators for the use of their work just like all other audio delivery platforms do.

“The FCC’s inquiry is happening at a time when the plight of music creators and the contrast between big and small broadcasters could not be more stark,” said Trevor Francis of the musicFIRST Coalition. “We urge the FCC to expose big radio’s competitive advantages and draft its report to Congress through the lens of what is best for music creators, audio listeners and small broadcasters.”

“We can’t have a healthy competitive marketplace as long as the biggest radio companies continue to fight against paying musicians a cent while laying off local talent,” said Kevin Erickson, Director of the Future of Music Coalition. “It’s time for big broadcasters to pursue a different path by committing to treat musicians fairly and focusing on radio’s core strengths, as a live and local medium that speaks to unique community needs.”

Citing the history of large broadcasters purchasing multiple radio stations within given markets, the coalitions demonstrated that the owners of large AM/FM radio clusters within individual markets in the U.S. currently have substantial competitive advantages over owners of smaller clusters and individual independent stations within those markets. The coalitions stressed that small, music-driven independent radio stations have been and will continue to be harmed through additional consolidation of radio station ownership.

The coalitions also restated their opposition to attempts by the National Association of Broadcasters to loosen Local Radio Station Ownership Caps in the FCC’s current Quadrennial Review of Media Ownership Rules, saying doing so “would be disastrous for both the public interest and the recorded music industry.”

AFM is a founding member of musicFIRST which is a national coalition of the music community representing artists, unions, and record labels that supports paying music creators when their work is played on any platform.

About Future of Music: Future of Music Coalition is a national nonprofit education, research, and advocacy organization supporting a musical ecosystem where diverse artists flourish and are compensated fairly and transparently for their work