‘Artists No Longer Thank Radio at the Grammys,’ Says Recording Academy Head in Blistering Op-Ed

Neil Portnow Grammys
Mike Nelson/ Epa/REX/Shutterstock

With the National Association of Broadcasters’s 2017 Radio Show conference underway in Austin, Tex., Neil Portnow, CEO of the Recording Academy, has criticized the radio industry in an op-ed for RadioInk, noting the sector’s failure to implement an industry standard for paying performance royalties to artists whose music is played on air.

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Portnow identified the issue as the driving force behind a widening chasm between artists and the radio industry, illustrated by the complete lack of artists thanking radio during their Grammy acceptance speeches; according to Portnow, thanking radio used to be standard in such speeches. Portnow also pointed out that the audience segment that listens to radio in the car is literally dying out, as new generations increasingly turn to streaming services on their cell phones and in the car.

“The lack of a radio performance rights is the only instance in our economy where one party can use another’s intellectual property without permission or compensation,” he wrote. “Every other broadcast platform in America (Internet, satellite, and cable) pays, as do radio broadcasters in every other developed country in the world. There are no arguments to support the continued exploitation of artists and use of music without any compensation to its makers.”

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Portnow painted an image of a brighter future with a proper performance royalty payout in place, where “radio and music could work together to develop a digital framework that’s fair to both sides across the board” leading to “a future where music fans still turn to radio, advertisers deem radio relevant, and music makers are paid fairly for their work.”

As head of the Recording Academy, which represents music creators, including artists, songwriters, producers, and studio professionals, and puts on the annual Grammy Awards, Portnow has long advocated royalty reform. He previously penned an op-ed titled “The Penny Paradox” in 2016 in which he also criticized streaming services for their notoriously low royalty payments to artists.

Under the current statutes, songwriters are paid for broadcasts of their songs, but the artists who perform those songs are not. There are several bills currently winding their way through Congress and the DOJ that address royalty reform, including the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which directly focuses on the broadcast royalty issue, and the Copyright Accountability Act, which seeks to make the Register of Copyrights a presidential-appointed, Senate-confirmed position.

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