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    Interesting email from David Byrne:

    I’ve been getting together in the last few months with a small group of musicians and writers who are concerned that there is no organization to represent us on many of the issues that affect us. More on that later. One issue that has been discussed recently is the payment of performance royalties on commercial radio broadcasts in the U.S.

    When many of us think of the song “Respect,” we think of Aretha Franklin. Many people are shocked to learn that Aretha never made a penny from all the radio broadcasts of her performance of R-E-S-P-E-C-T (this is because she wasn’t the composer.) It’s true—many musicians receive little compensation or struggle to pay bills despite having widely-aired recordings. Executive Director of The Jazz Foundation, Wendy Oxenhorn, recently released an eye-opening statement explaining why performance royalties on radio broadcasts are so vital:

    For nearly 14 years, I've been working to save jazz and blues musicians from eviction, homelessness and hunger. On a daily basis, legends who recorded with Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Chet Baker, Miles Davis are having to be saved. Even the legends themselves; including Odetta, Abbey Lincoln, Hank Jones, Elvin Jones, Ruth Brown, Etta James and so many others have been touched by the Jazz Foundation of America. Had there been radio royalties all these years, I can guarantee that many of the crises these great talents have had to face in their old age would never have had to exist.

    With its denial of a Performance Royalty to artists, the U.S. stands with a short list of countries that includes: Iran, North Korea, China, Vietnam, and Rwanda. Most other countries in the world pay out at least small amounts to performers for the use of their performances of songs on radio—a use that makes up the content of their broadcasts. To clarify, songwriters and publishers of songs do get paid a little bit, but there is nothing allotted for the folks who record and sing the versions of songs that we hear all the time and whose recordings are used to sell advertising on commercial radio.

    The failure to pay artists’ performance royalties in the U.S. means more than just the loss of U.S. radio royalty income for performers—there is also the lack of reciprocity to factor in. The U.S. doesn’t pay performance royalties to foreign artists either. These royalties are often collected by foreign organizations based on the airplay we get in much of the rest of the world, but that money never makes it back to us because foreign artists aren't getting paid for their U.S. airplay. Tit for tat. There’s a LOT of money sitting out there that could help the US economy, not just musicians. So, maybe it’s time for the U.S. to join most of the rest of the world. Some musicians who live here have their songs played on the radio in Europe and some are even big in Japan, but we don’t see anything from that. It’s a pretty silly situation that has existed for decades, and it’s time to correct it.