Rights on the Radio

Music & Politics

Volume CVII, No. 9September, 2007

Julia Smith

As many of you are aware, musicians receive no compensation when their work is played on over-the-air radio. Over the last 10 years, Congress established a performance right for satellite, cable and Internet radio. But virulent opposition from the broadcasting lobby has thwarted numerous attempts to expand the performance right to standard radio.

In the latest chapter in this ongoing battle, this spring the Copyright Royalty Board increased royalty rates for Internet radio, or Webcasting. Musicians whose recordings are played on Internet radio will now be compensated at a higher rate, which will be determined through a new system. The specifics of how these rates will be determined is too complicated to explore here; the most important thing to note is that it definitively means more money for musicians whose work is broadcast on the Web.

Online broadcasters claim the new rates will put them out of business and they have mounted a full scale lobbying effort to pressure Congress to overturn the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board. Congressional allies of the SaveNetRadio Coalition introduced the Internet Radio Equality Act, which would reverse the Copyright Royalty Board decision on Webcasting rates. The AFM, with assistance from Local 802, has worked hard to sink this legislation and to defend the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision.

The fight to uphold the increased rates is a part of a larger campaign the AFM and Local 802 are waging in pursuit of a full performance right. The AFM and its allies in the music business have formed the Music First Coalition, whose primary goal is to advocate for the creation of an on-air radio performance right for musicians. You can learn more about the Coalition at their Web site,


As I reported in my June column, we created a short online survey for members, with questions concerning political issues and the work of the union. The goal of the survey was to enable us to build our political program with more member input and participation. Thank you to the 291 members that took the survey!

Here is a summary of the results:

  • Almost all of the respondents (88 percent) marked health care as a very important issue.
  • The next highest was the war in Iraq, with 81.8 percent. (Although some members wrote in that although they were personally very concerned about the war, they didn’t think it should be a priority for Local 802.)
  • Many of the respondents (78.2 percent) listed arts funding as very important.
  • Not far behind were music education (72.3 percent) and opposing replacement technologies like virtual orchestra machines (67.7 percent).
  • As for the areas and levels of government in which Local 802 should be most active, the vast majority of respondents (87.4 percent) marked New York City politics as very important.
  • Next was New York State government and politics, which 62.4 percent or respondents listed as very important, and then national politics with 59.9 percent.
  • Between 35 percent and 40 percent of the respondents thought it was somewhat important for Local 802 to be involved in politics in the counties of Westchester/Rockland, and Nassau/Suffolk, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut.

In addition, 30 of you said you were interested in becoming a member of a Local 802 Political Action Committee. Thank you! Because so many people take vacations during July and August, we held off on calling the first meeting of this committee during the summer. I will be getting in touch with you about scheduling our first meeting for sometime in the fall.

To any members that didn’t take the survey but would like to become a member of the Political Action Committee — or simply offer input on our political work — please feel free to contact me at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.