This letter was read into the Congressional Record yesterday. It’s from the children of deceased R&B stars regarding the failure of pop radio conglomerates to pay royalties to their parents’ estates, and to all performers who are not paid for their records being played on the radio.
Seventy or more years into the life of classic pop, rock, R&B, country music etc no performers are paid when their hits are played on the radio. The writers of the songs are paid publishing royalties. But the singers and musicians get nothing. Every “oldies” station you love is essentially taking advantage of all the people on those records, whether it’s Johnny Cash, the Motown stars, crooners like Sinatra and Tony Bennett, or heavy metal groups. No one.
The letter was sent to Rep. Jerry Nadler, head of the House Judiciary Committee, in support of the American Music Fairness Act. It’s signed by the relatives/children/rights holders/heirs to Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, Issac Hayes, Clyde McPhatter, Dave Prater Jr. Billy Preston, Otis Redding, David Ruffin, Mary Wells, Jackie Wilson, Mary Wilson and niece of Bobby Womack together with John
Edwards, disabled former lead singer of The Spinners. As you’ll see in the letter, living artist Sam Moore of Sam & Dave and his wife, Joyce Moore, are offering to help in the compensation through their Soul Arts & Music Foundation.
The signers of the letter urge that it’s time to get this bill passed. It’s already 70 years late.
We the children/relatives/rights holders of the deceased legacy artists Nat King Cole, Natalie
Cole, Issac Hayes, Clyde McPhatter, Dave PraterJr. Billy Preston, Otis Redding, David Ruffin,
Mary Wells, Jackie Wilson, Mary Wilson and niece of Bobby Womack together with John
Edwards, disabled former lead singer of The Spinners, offer our collective testimony to The
Members of The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee IN SUPPORT OF
THE AMERICAN MUSIC FAIRNESS ACT
February 7, 2022
Chairman Jerrold Nadler and
The House Judiciary Committee Members
House Judiciary Committee Office
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
RE: THE AMERICAN MUSIC FAIRNESS ACT
Dear Chairman Nadler and All of The House Judiciary Committee Members:
Thank you so much for holding a hearing last week, February 2, 2022, to discuss and consider
the plight of the American recording artist, regardless of their genres, who have contributed so
much for so long to our country and world culture.
It’s untenable that when a song is played on an AM/FM station, only the writer of the song is
paid – not anyone else involved in creating the sound recordings they broadcast are
compensated. This lack of payment to the talent, the creators is due to an oversight that created
“a loophole” that Congress has allowed to exist since the phonograph recording was invented
together with a method to broadcast over the airwaves, the live performances embedded on them
80 or so years ago.
The question of how or why this “loophole” could have happened was asked a few times during
the hearing Wednesday morning. It came to be because whoever first walked into a radio station
with a recorded disc and a suitable method of playing it, made possible by the invention of the
victrola, making it possible to be heard with sufficient quality to be transmitted over the
airwaves, neglected or just didn’t know that they needed to come to Congress first. The
copyright laws needed to have been amended then to include, to embrace “The Creators”, the
artists, musicians, backing vocalists, producer(s) and engineer(s) with broadcast performances
compensation. Up until that time, radio stations would bring the big bands, The Glenn Miller‘s,
The Paul Whiteman Orchestra, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, Ella Fitzgerald, The
Andrew Sisters, Count Basie and Duke Ellington to name a few into their cavernous radio
studios to perform “live on the air” from their studio(s). All the talent were paid for those one–
off broadcast performances. It should be noted that at that time, the stations could not pre–record
or record performances to rebroadcast them because the technology had not yet been satisfactory
to do so.
Having this knowledge should make it easy to understand how the recorded disc suddenly and
immediately changed the landscape and how and why the artists suddenly became dispensable.
When you couple that with the failure to come to Congress and that for decades and decades
local radio was the media that every Congressional member had to rely on to get their message
out to their constituents, especially during election and reelection time. That created quite a
serious negotiating tool in the hands of the radio station owner– members of the NAB available
to use for decades. To be blunt, it’s been pretty easy for the NAB to block and refuse to
cooperate with making any modifications to the Copyright Act to correct the unfair exploitation
by the station owners of the artist group over all these decades.
“The Loophole” and the leverage has been up until now impenetrable.
It’s no secret that the AM and FM (Terrestrial Radio Stations), now primarily owned by large
corporations, earn billions of dollars from the advertising revenues broadcasting the live
recorded performances of our relatives, that were captured when they stood live, in front of a
microphone in a studio to create those sound recordings. It’s incomprehensible that not one
broadcast of those live captured performances of our parents, siblings and relatives or for that
matter any and all of the other artist who ever recorded their live performances on sound
recordings have never been compensated for those broadcast performances.
The American Music Fairness Act would finally require the Terrestrial Radio Stations to
compensate all American artists for their performances, their talent, their essence, their souls
embodied on the sound recordings. The passage would also open the doors so all recording
artists, regardless of their country of origin would be compensated and in so doing opens the
floodgates to the millions and millions and millions of dollars the American recording artists
have been unable to collect all of these years because there has been no reciprocity. The overseas
compensation should be literally life–changing for so many artists and their families.
AM/FM radio stations are the only media that does not compensate artists for their musical
performances. AM/FM radio is the only industry group that feels it can take intellectual property
created by others and simply use it for their personal pecuniary gain without permission or
compensating the creators. It is decades long overdue for the Terrestrial Radio Stations to stop
their practice of using the artists talents like their property reminiscent of their being their
indentured servants, lacking in rights and respect.
Let us also be clear, we are more than mildly alarmed and disappointed that many of you have
co–sponsored or signed on in support of the NAB’s LRFA.
Our opposition to LRFA is based on several reasons because their resolution and bill reinforces
the continued practice of using our family members and their peers, by exploiting, without
compensation, all American recording artists.
Quite frankly, it makes it more offensive to us that you would continue to allow the use of the
talents of our parents and other family members, all of whom are black legacy recording artist.
For us, to hear the NAB claim that passage of a bill that finally would compensate hundreds if
not thousands of black artists would somehow put small minority owned radio stations that
couldn’t afford $500 a year out of business, thereby devastating low income communities where
black and Latino reside is intolerable.
Congressman Darrell Issa, during the hearing, made it very clear that Sam Moore and his wife
Joyce, through the 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, The Soul Arts And Music Foundation, would
pay for any of those $10, $100 or $500 only annual fees of the designated small or small local
neighborhood FCC licensed radio stations that earn not more than $1,500,000 annually or less.
Any of those specific designated stations that could not pay some or all of those $10, $100 or
$500 amounts can be covered through an application through a hardship grants program that
would be immediately implemented at the Foundation. Sam and Joyce Moore have indicated
that, if it’s necessary that commitment could be written into the actual bill language for a period
of the first two years forward of the passage of the American Music Fairness Act with an annual
re–evaluation by The Foundation to continue the program. They believe that a two–year
assistance program window should be more than sufficient incentive to the radio stations.
It feels like we have to remind everyone that all of our parents and our relatives and most of their
peers began their careers during the height of segregation and The Jim Crow Era which
represented a time in our country where treating blacks as second–class people without any of the
rights they were to be endowed with as Americans because in those days segregation was
unfortunately the norm in society. While those policies thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
(himself a vocal performing recording artist whose estate has also never been compensated for
the broadcasts of his recorded speeches), do not exist anymore except perhaps i where the last
vestige of it seems alive and well in reality and the mentality of Terrestrial Radio.
Our moms and dads faced incredible discriminatory barriers, yet, they persevered, produced an
amazing body of creative musical artistry that remains cherished to this day by all Americans
and the world. Sadly, a world that collects but does not pay over the compensation they collect
that is not distributed to our families because there is no reciprocity, because of “the loophole”.
Congress has failed for decades to correct the wrong by never passing a broadcast performance
right for the broadcast of our parents live performances that were captured on tape and turned
into sound recordings.
It wasn’t made clear enough during the hearing or above in this letter, that the monies, the
hundreds of millions of dollars collected annually in the name of every single American
recording artist, including our parents, around the rest of the world and captured on a country–by–
country collection society basis, eventually gets reinvested into those individual countries’ arts
and cultural programs. In other words, our parents, all of their peers and every American
recording artist is actually paying to foster and support The Arts including educating the children
of those countries about their cultural history.
On the other side of that coin, many of us have lived hard. An example Stacy Womack
Henderson’s little sister Sugar was four (4) years old when their mom, Mary Wells passed away
in 1991. Stacy, in her early 20’s took custody of Sugar. At the time, Stacy was living in a one–
Thanking you in advance for your consideration and cooperation in making our request reality.
Authorized 2 signature pages of the adult children/relatives/rights holders of Nat King
Cole, the sisters of, Natalie Cole, Issac Hayes, Clyde McPhatter, Dave Prater Jr. Billy Preston,
Otis Redding, David Ruffin, Mary Wells, Jackie Wilson, Mary Wilson, Cecil Womack and niece
of Bobby Womack together with John Edwards, Sam and Joyce Moore are annexed and attached