Signaling their support for hometown radio stations and their listeners, a bipartisan group of policymakers recently reintroduced the Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA). This congressional resolution opposes “any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge” on local broadcast radio stations – sending a strong message to record labels, which for years have tried to impose a congressionally mandated fee on local radio stations simply for airing music.
In announcing the reintroduction of the LRFA, the lead cosponsors – Reps. Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Steve Womack (AR-3) and Sens. Martin Heinrich (NM) and John Barrasso (WY) – praised local radio stations for delivering to their constituents essential local news, information and entertainment, as well as alerts during times of emergency.
These policymakers clearly understand the benefit that free, local radio provides to their constituents: it’s a lifeline in times of crisis and a connection to the community that cannot be replicated. Particularly in the past year, as the pandemic forced us all to stay inside and away from friends and extended family, local radio has been an outlet to keep Americans informed, safe and connected.
Local radio and the music industry have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for decades. Free airplay on the radio prompts listeners to buy music, increases popularity for established and new artists and creates marketing opportunities for record labels. Economists estimate radio’s free promotion is worth more than $2.4 billion to the labels annually. And despite numerous options, such as streaming, satellite radio and podcasts, local radio stations still have an incredible reach: more than 90% of Americans each week tune into their favorite local stations. Radio continues to be the #1 source for music listening and discovery, and this is why performers so often thank radio for giving them their start.
Radio stations already pay hundreds of millions of dollars each year to songwriters and composers – who don’t necessarily receive the same promotional benefits from radio as performers do – for the right to air their songs. And they pay tens of millions of dollars a year to record labels and performers for streaming (or simulcasting) their over-the-air broadcasts. Imposing new performance fees on local stations simply for playing music would have a devastating impact on the community. Not only would it threaten jobs, but the local information and community support stations provide as well. And it could have a major unintended consequence for artists: stations airing less music.
The broad, bipartisan support from more than 85 members of Congress and counting sends a strong message that an attempt to pass a new performance fee on radio would be a losing battle. Help us thank these policymakers for standing up for local radio!