Lawmakers debate royalty rights over songs played on broadcast radio

WASHINGTON D.C. — Even as streaming music becomes more popular, broadcast radio still plays the big hits from top artists. But those artists do not get paid each time their songs are played on AM or FM radio.

There’s now a push in Congress to change the century-old rule through the American Music Fairness Act, which would allow artists to collect royalties for songs played on broadcast radio.

Mary Travis, wife of country music star Randy Travis, testified before Congress to support the measure. She is her husband’s advocate following his massive stroke in 2013.

“This piece of legislation is essential to correct a 100-year-old issue,” said Mary Travis. “It’s time to do right by the ones that created that sound, that melody, that emotion.”

But the National Association of Broadcasters is pushing against changing the royalty rules. It argues the rules were made because of the mutually beneficial relationship between artists and radio stations.

“The promotional value received through local radio because of the fact that it is freely available and tethered to a local focus is unmatched,” said Curtis LeGeyt, President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.  “Billions of dollars in promotional value.”

LeGeyt argued requiring new royalties would financially cripple many local radio stations that are already struggling to stay afloat in the age of streaming.

“A new performance royalty could spell for the end for many local stations,” said LeGeyt.

“They also have to understand that artists are small businesses too,” said Mary Travis.

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