Category: Industry, music

In 1970, I was 11 years old — and the music I loved was seared into me and laid the seeds for the artist I would ultimately become.

A few years ago, I recorded an album called the “Listening Booth: 1970” honoring many of those songs — putting my own stamp on them as an adult and, I hoped, shining some new light on these giants of our musical past. Artists like John Lennon, Smokey Robinson and Van Morrison.

The record did OK and every so often a small royalty check comes in when digital radio stations play one of my tracks. I am grateful for it. Yet amazingly, I have only just learned that, even though I get paid when my new recordings are played, the artists who laid down the 1970 originals that inspired me in the first place get paid nothing when their own versions are played.

That is simply unfair and unjust. The digital radio companies hide behind their lawyers and say a quirk of federal law allows them to use those great old songs, and all songs recorded before Feb. 15, 1972, without paying. Right or wrong doesn’t enter into it for them, I guess. Business is business. Oh, baby, it’s a “Wild World” indeed.

State courts have been slowly fixing this problem — reminding the radio folks that, even if they can twist federal law to use these iconic records without paying, state law also protects a musician’s work — and some digital radio companies are getting the message and considering settlement. And now a group of artists — including giants like Elvis Costello, Martha Reeves and my friend Rosanne Cash, and unsung heroes like Miles Davis’ drummer John DeJohnette — have banded together to support a federal law that would fix the problem for good and for everyone: the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015.

This bill would remedy other injustices in the radio business. Most people are shocked to learn that AM/FM radio doesn’t…read more