Music Is the Lifeblood of New Orleans: Let’s Pay the People Who Make It Possible

Percy “Master P” Miller

Master P is one of the most successful rappers and producers of all time, but like any other recording artist, he’s never earned a dollar in royalties for when his recordings get played on U.S. radio stations. This is because for as long as radio has existed, U.S. Law hasn’t required stations to pay the performers on songs, only the songwriters. It’s a uniquely American phenomenon as markets in many other countries have paid both creators for years. (make smaller font)

Master P thinks the answer comes from the passage of the American Music Fairness Act, which would update the law and allow recording artists to start seeing radio royalties as well. Master P is one of many artists including Jackson Browne, Gloria Estefan and Peter Frampton who’ve now called for the passing of the bill and for the standard to change.

No place in the world has influenced music quite like New Orleans. Visitors flock to our city from all over the world to experience our vibrant and diverse music scene that spans every genre imaginable – from jazz to gospel to blues to rock to hip hop, and more. They all come to take part in the festivities characterized by the powerful music that defines the Big Easy.

Now imagine if we only celebrated music, but refused to pay the artists that make it all possible? That would be insane. But that’s exactly what big radio has been doing for decades. Most people don’t even know that it’s happening, but it’s true: No matter how popular a song gets or how many times it gets played, the artists and musicians on the track have never been paid for the use of their work on AM/FM radio – and it’s all legal, because of an outdated loophole in the law. This keeps hundreds of millions of dollars a year from flowing into the hands of hard-working artists and musicians in the United States, and as technology continues to evolve and creates even more barriers for artists getting paid, fixing this old piece of legislation has never been more critical to pass.

And the solution is simple. Congress has introduced bipartisan legislation – the American Music Fairness Act – that would finally pay artists when their music is played on AM/FM radio. Passing this legislation would bring economic justice to generations of music creators that have suffered because of our outdated laws.

I’ve been fortunate to see my music reach more people than I ever could’ve imagined as a kid growing up in Calliope Projects. My songs have been played on the radio hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of times over the past three decades, but me and my fellow artists who made those songs have never gotten a single penny for our performances.

But this is far bigger than me. Because for every recognizable artist like me, there are thousands of everyday artists out there – from background vocalists to studio musicians to sound engineers – who are just doing their best to make a living by making the music we all love. I’m going to be OK regardless, but what about the people whose names you don’t know who put their heart and soul into helping artists like me make the records you love? They may not be able to pay their rent or put food on the table for their family because radio refuses to pay them for their work – and that’s where this problem has a real impact.

It’s time for change, and we all have a part to play. We recently launched a new effort to help elevate the grassroots voices of artists and their allies, and ensure our voices are heard by the people with the power to finally fix this injustice. I hope you will join us. Because if enough of us speak out, I’m hopeful that our elected officials will do right by artists by passing the American Music Fairness Act into law.

As we see Jazz Fest festivities come to a close in New Orleans, we’re reminded that everyday artists are the lifeblood of our communities. They shouldn’t have to choose between feeding their families and chasing their dreams. Each and every one of them deserves our respect. Each and every one of them deserves to live with dignity. Each and every one of them deserves to get paid for the use of their hard work.

And each and every one of us can help make that a reality – by using the same voice that sings along to music on the radio, the same voice that calls out for more at the end of a set, to remind our legislators of the importance of providing the artists that make the soundtrack to our lives with the basic fair pay they deserve.

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