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Veteran Artists Gather on Capitol Hill to Fight For Royalties

Roger McGuinn, Martha Reeves, Richie Furay, Mark Farner, Gene Chandler, Sam Moore and Otis Redding's daughter, Karla Redding, went to the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington to hold a press conference on the current copyright laws that deny payments to artists whose records were released prior to 1972.

Prior to 1995, artists did not receive any royalties for the playing of their recordings on the radio or in public places. Only the composers and publishers received payments. The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 changed the landscape for artists and record companies.

Unfortunately for many veteran artists, there is a loophole in the legislation and amendments made to it that allows any track recorded prior to February 15, 1972 to be used without payment so, when you listen to something by Beyonce or Coldplay, the artist receives a small payment for that privilege where, if you listen to the Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man or Gene Chandler's Duke of Earl, the artist receives nothing.

This is now a major point of contention with service like Pandora and Spotify where music by those artists can be called up at will by any listener, creating a worldwide jukebox with no compensation to the original singer and/or band.

May 29 marked the launch of Project72, an initiative to get a bill before congress to close this loophole. According to a post by McGuinn's wife, Camilla:
An example of the injustice:

In 1967 The Byrds recorded "So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star."
In 1979 Patti Smith recorded "So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star."
In 1985 Tom Petty recorded "So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star."
Patti Smith and Tom Petty receive a performance royalty for "So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star", the BYRDS do not!

When Roger told the Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, the above mentioned fact he was alarmed and declared it another "donut hole." A case of discrimination of the older generation.

That example isn't as big a deal for us as it is for some of the other artists from the 50s and 60s generation because we continue to work, thanks to fans who support live music, but there are artists for whom the rigors of the road make it essential to have those royalties paid. Some of the artists are no longer with us and now their children's legacy has been taken from them.
The bill that has been created is bipartisan, co-sponsored by five Republicans and five Democrats. While this would seem to be one of those "no brainer" situations that should fly through to passage, nothing is guaranteed in Washington, especially with strong lobby groups from the music industry.  We at VVN Music ask you to contact your representatives and ask that they support the Project72 bills so that our great veteran artists can continue to get paid for their work.

For more information, here is the press release by SoundExchange from Thursday:
WASHINGTON, DC – May 29, 2014 – SoundExchange was joined by dozens of recording artists today to launch “Project72,” a campaign to ensure equal treatment for musicians and rights holders with sound recordings made prior to 1972 from digital radio. Project72 is launching in conjunction with today’s introduction of The RESPECT Act, by Representatives George Holding (R-NC) and John Conyers (D-MI). Their legislation would require digital radio services to pay royalties to pre-1972 artists when their music is played by companies that use the statutory license administered by SoundExchange.

Project72 puts a spotlight on the fact that the biggest digital radio providers in the world are not paying royalties to musicians who recorded music before February 15, 1972. Based on their interpretation of state and federal copyright law, these multi-billion-dollar companies believe that they can use pre-1972 recordings for free, forever. SoundExchange estimates that this practice deprived legacy artists and record labels of more than $60 million in digital royalties last year alone.

“We applaud Representatives Holding and Conyers for taking this step toward righting a wrong being done to pre-72 artists whose music has inspired all of us. The RESPECT Act rightfully requires digital radio to treat all sound recordings equally, regardless of the date they were made,” said Michael Huppe, SoundExchange president and CEO. “It’s time we show respect for the legends of Motown, Jazz and Blues, and those who gave birth to Rock n’ Roll. Their work is still a massive force on radio and is the foundation of the music we listen to today.”

Project72 kicks off with an open letter, signed by more than 70 recording artists, calling on digital radio to treat all sound recordings equally and to “pay for all the music they play.” Artists and bands urging these services to “do right by legacy artists” include: The Allman Brothers Band, The Beach Boys, Roseanne Cash, Melissa Etheridge, Al Green, B.B. King, The Moody Blues, Cyndi Lauper, Martha Reeves, members of Steely Dan, The Supremes, The Temptations, Three Dog Night, and many more.

Many of the artists who have joined the campaign have pre-1972 recordings of their own and speak about the issue from personal experience. Others are post-1972 artists who believe these legendary artists have inspired and paved the way for them. Together they are all saying, “This is a matter of respect.”

“Music is my passion and my purpose, but it is also my livelihood. But, for many artists of my time who are no longer able to tour, the fact that performers with sound recordings made prior to 1972 are not being paid by certain digital radio services is a serious concern. It’s urgent that we address this growing issue now,” Martha Reeves, of Martha & The Vandellas.

“Every artist wants to create timeless music. It’s great to have SoundExchange fighting for my rights, as time passes and the music lives on,” Tommy James, of The Shondells.

“This music is our legacy. Under the current system, it feels like they are taking it away from us,” Richie Furay, of Buffalo Springfield.

Show respect for our roots and stand up for music by asking Congress to end this unfair practice. Support Project72 by tweeting “All music deserves respect, all artists deserve fairness. Join Project72 #RespectAllMusic”

Learn more or join the movement at - See more at: www.project-72.exe.