Dionne Warwick Tells Radio Stations: If You Play My Music, Pay Me for My Music

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Dionne Warwick performing in 2018. Photo Credit: Raph_PH

About six weeks after publicly backing the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), New Jersey-born singer Dionne Warwick has called on Congress to pass the legislation – and taken aim at the lack of recorded royalties paid by traditional radio stations.

The 80-year-old “I Say a Little Prayer” vocalist reiterated her support for the American Music Fairness Act in a USA Today op-ed, which the 14-year-old musicFIRST also distributed as a press release. A2IM, the AFM, the Recording Academy, the RIAA, SAG-AFTRA, and other prominent organizations yet founded musicFIRST, which aims to impose new performance fees on local radio stations.

To be sure, traditional radio stations are required to pay royalties solely on the publishing (not recorded) side – a legal reality that has long elicited pushback from the above-listed entities. Inversely, broadcasters continue to advocate in favor of leaving the existing framework in place, for obvious reasons, and the years-running dispute has produced no shortage of legislation.

Building upon the latter point, the American Music Fairness Act, its authors indicated in a formal release, “is a response to the Local Radio Freedom Act championed by the National Association of Broadcasters,” a Washington, D.C.-headquartered representative of some 8,300 terrestrial radio and television stations. Needless to say, the AMFA would require traditional radio stations (not just their digital counterparts) to pay royalties for the use of recordings.

On the other hand, the almost decade-old LRFA – which lawmakers reintroduced earlier this year – makes clear that Congress “should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge…relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station.”

Now, as initially mentioned, Dionne Warwick – who appeared alongside Sam & Dave co-founder Sam Moore and the Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey at a press conference in favor of the AMFA – has doubled down on her support of the legislation in an 800-word op-ed.

After briefly recapping her six-decade music career, Warwick emphasizes that “disappointingly one thing has remained the same” across the 60-year stretch, referring to the idea that “radio stations still aren’t paying artists for their work.”

From there, the to-the-point text mentions Warwick’s professional relationship and friendship with Frank Sinatra (“a warrior for music fairness”), the reduced role that albums play in driving artist revenue today, and the fact that many music fans discover new tracks and acts on streaming services (which pay recorded royalties, of course) as opposed to AM/FM stations.

“I urge Congress to pass the American Music Fairness Act and listen to the artists,” the piece states towards its conclusion. “It’s time to right this wrong. It’s time to rectify this injustice and give artists their due. It’s time to pass legislation that finally levels the playing field and ensures fairness for working musicians.”

Given the prolonged nature of the battle over traditional-radio royalties, it remains to be seen whether Congress will in fact pass the American Music Fairness Act. On this front, the National Association of Broadcasters, forgoing a PR-minded op-ed like that penned by Warwick in favor of hard data, revealed in a release late last month that a bipartisan group of 169 representatives and 22 senators had already co-sponsored the Local Radio Freedom Act.

2 Responses

  1. I'll Never Love This Way Again

    Few US terrestrial radio stations play Dionne Warwick anymore, except the extreme oldies stations, and there’s not many of those left as the audience for that kind of music is dying of or has gone deaf.

    If stations were forced to pay royalties to the recording artists, in addition to the songwriters who are paid today, a lot would stop playing music and switch to more irritating content like Sports Talk Radio.

    • Idiot Detector

      Lots of assumption from you. Take a look at playlists and charts for DW to see how much airplay she actually gets (hint: a lot). It matters. The audience, contrary to your lame guess, is very much alive and has grown to younger generations. Good music lasts.