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Tampa Bay area artists want royalties from radio stations

Local Radio Freedom Act
Posted at 5:47 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 17:47:43-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa's music scene has it all. Whether it's Nick Ewing playing his unique style of the violin or Albert J. moving a crowd with his words.

"They say the difference between a violin and a fiddle is one has strings, the other has strangs," said Ewing.

"I'm in the business of community and bringing people together," said hip-hop performer and promotor Albert J.

The pandemic made it almost impossible to bring people together for concerts — leaving it even harder to making a living in the music industry.

That's why many musicians are continuing to fight for radio stations to pay them royalties.

"It's very clear what the value of art is. If you didn't have it, our society would be vastly different," said Albert J.

But Florida congresswoman Kathy Castor is among those supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act, which would keep local radio stations from paying any new royalties.

The National Association of Broadcasters says those costs would "decimate the economics of America's hometown radio stations."

Industry experts say radio provides a promotional outlet for artists better than anything else, including streaming services, and they already pay millions in royalty fees to songwriters.

But these musicians say they should be compensated too.

"If we are going to be treated as if the artwork that we are creating is to be free. I'd like to see someone else work for free," said Ewing.

"I put 50-100 hours a week into my job, and you are basically telling me that somebody who is a bit more established gets to take all that hard work away from me," said Albert J.

Jorge Brea runs Tampa-based Symphonic, a company that distributes music to streaming services like Spotify and Pandora.

He says radio stations have made billions off the music they play, with none of it trickling down to the content creators.

"We are hoping that can change and fair play can occur. And competition can occur for radio and so forth just because streaming pays royalties, so why not radio," said Brea.

Representative Castor tells ABC Action News she supports local radio stations that she says provide essential services to our Tampa Bay area neighbors, particularly during national disasters, and new fees could jeopardize those services.

The National Association of Broadcasters and iHeartRadio are both among Castor's campaign contributors.

But both have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to legislators from both parties.