The MusicFirstcoalition.org is working hard to help pass legislation intended to provide long overdue royalty payments to recording artists. In December 2007, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers sponsored legislation to force radio stations to pay record companies and performers for the music they air. Hal Ponder, the AFM’s Legislative Director in Washington, has been working with legislators to turn the groundbreaking bill into law, and affect a seismic shift in the way musicians are paid when their work is broadcast.
Historically, side musicians who have no composers’ or publishing rights have had to accept session fees only to witness their music being aired continuously on the radio and on television (and increasingly on other electronic media) with no access to royalties. Broadcasters profit handsomely from this injustice, all the while reaping the benefits from the sale of commercial airspace. Advertisers also make a killing while musicians are left out in the cold with nothing but their initial session fee and no rights to future use of their music.
In September 2008, a NYC jazz group led by trumpeter Jimmy Owens and featuring Vic Juris, guitar; Larry Ridley, bass; and Winard Harper, drums played for a special meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus honoring Congressman John Conyers, Jr. The event, which was held in Washington, D.C., was hosted by the American Federation of Musicians, and Conyers, who is a longtime supporter of jazz and a friend to the arts, was made an honorary member of the AFM. After the program, Owens and company pressed the issue of performance rights.
In June, Local 802 members Bob Cranshaw and Charles Tolliver flew to Washington for a “walk through” of Capitol Hill and met with influential legislators urging them to support the broadcast royalties initiative.
Events such as these are an extremely effective way for jazz musicians to get involved in advocacy on a national level. Opportunities to campaign for this cause and others like it are available through the offices of Hal Ponder, the Legislative Director of the AFM. One important way to help out is to join musicFIRSTcoalition.org.
For more information, go to www.musicfirstcoalition.org or call the AFM Legislative Offices at 202 463 0772.