For Performers



Big Radio’s Outdated Loophole
Big radio, which reaps billions in advertising revenues by exploiting music, is the only industry in America that is built on using the intellectual property of others without permission or compensation. For decades, AM/FM radio has denied the establishment of a performance right for artists, and has used the music of hard-working performers and producers without obtaining any form of permission or paying any compensation. Meanwhile, internet, satellite, and cable radio all recognize a performance right for artists, receiving their permission and paying royalties.

An Unlevel Playing Field
The corporate radio loophole makes broadcast radio the only industry in America that’s built on using the intellectual property of others without permission or compensation. Internet, satellite, and cable radio all recognize a performance right for artists and pay royalties. Establishing a performance right for sound recordings would require that compensation be paid to artists and rights holders whenever music is broadcast by AM/FM radio.

Inequity Overseas
In addition, U.S. artists are being deprived of income from overseas because the U.S. does not have a performance right reciprocal to those in other countries. Broadcasters in nearly every other developed country in the world compensate performers. The result is that the United States, which should be the standard bearer for intellectual property rights, is among countries that do not recognize these fundamental rights, such as China, North Korea and Iran. The lack of performance right costs the American economy and artists more than $200 million a year. When American music is played overseas, other countries collect royalties for American artists but never pay those royalties because we don’t reciprocate.

A Bipartisan Solution for Music Makers
The American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), introduced by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is a bipartisan bill that ensures artists, performers, producers, and other music creators are able to earn fair market rate when their music is played on AM/FM radio. The American Music Fairness Act would create parity across music platforms, so that billion dollar radio conglomerates pay royalties just as their digital, streaming, and online competitors already do. By establishing a performance right, the bill would also unlock hundreds of millions in overseas royalties owed to American artists. And, the American Music Fairness Act would protect truly local and community broadcasters with special exemptions that would enable small broadcasters to pay as little as $10/year for sound recordings. 




In 2015, the Recording Academy and its members helped secure important regulations to help musicians travel with instruments. Use the information on this page to help you and your instrument travel safely and securely. These rules apply to travel on any U.S. air carrier.

Before You Book

  • Make travel plans as far in advance as possible and enroll in your airline’s frequent flier or loyalty program so that you can take advantage of any options for early check-in and priority boarding privileges.

  • Know the dimensions of your own instrument, familiarize yourself with the airlines’ carry-on policies, and remember that the sizes of overhead bins vary with different kinds of aircrafts. Remember that the airline is only obligated to accept your instrument if there is enough space for it at the time you board the aircraft

  • Let the airline know that you will be traveling with an instrument and which of the three ways you plan to transport the piece (see below). Book the seat directly beside you if you are buying a seat for your instrument. While airlines may not charge more than the seat price for an oversized instrument, there may be a fee for obtaining pre-flight seat assignments.

  • Before you travel, print out this copy of the Final Rule regarding Carriage Of Musical Instruments. Keep it with you for easy reference if you encounter an airline employee who is unfamiliar with the rules.

At The Gate

  • Make sure you arrive at the gate early for flights if you plan to carry on your instrument. Overhead storage space is at a premium and is available to all passengers on a first-come, first-serve basis. The airlines are only required to treat a musical instrument like any other piece of carry-on luggage. So, while an airline cannot discriminate against your musical instrument, it has no obligation to prioritize it either.

  • If you are bringing a large instrument as in-cabin cargo, don’t bring bungee cords or your own paraphernalia to strap your instrument into the seat. The flight crew will have appropriate equipment to safely secure the instrument.

  • Have a copy of the DOT final rule, just in case you encounter a dispute at the boarding gate over how to transport your instrument. Remain calm and ask for a customer service supervisor. Do not challenge or become hostile with the flight crew. Remember to always be polite and respectful.

After You Land

Click here for the pdf version of the Department of Transportation’s final rule.

  1. Small instruments as carry-on baggage:
    Your instrument should be packed securely in a carrying case and be small enough to stow in the overhead compartment or under your seat like any other carry-on baggage. As long as the instrument fits and there is enough space for it at the time you board the plane, the airline must accept it and the airline cannot charge additional fees simply because you have a musical instrument.

  2. Large instruments as in-cabin cargo:
    For an instrument that may be too large to stow in the overhead bin but too valuable or delicate to check with the rest of the baggage, travelers may purchase a second seat to stow the instrument as in-cabin cargo. This is an acceptable option as long as the instrument is in a carrying case and can be safely secured to a standard airline seat. However, if an airline does not already have a program that provides for the purchase of a separate ticket for cargo, the airline does not have to specifically accommodate a musical instrument.

  3. Large instruments as checked luggage:
    If an instrument is too large to carry on or occupy its own seat, an airline must accept the instrument as checked baggage as long as it complies with federal size and weight guidelines. Specifically, the sum of the length, width, and height of the instrument (including the case) cannot exceed 150 inches and the weight of the instrument cannot exceed 165 pounds. If the instrument exceeds these measurements, the airline may still accept it but the airline is not required to do so and the instrument may be subject to additional fees.

For additional information, visit the links below:

FAQs Provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation
Full Text of the Final Rule as Printed in the Federal Register



Recording Academy work clarifies rule for musical instruments containing ivory.

In February 2014, the Obama Administration took action to combat the African elephant poaching crisis by crafting regulations to impose a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory. The music community has championed conservation and artists have been outspoken in the effort to save these beautiful animals. At the same time, the Academy sought to ensure that the Administration’s rules would not have any unintended consequences for musicians who possess older instruments, such as violin bows or guitars, that happen to contain small amounts of ivory but have no impact on the illicit ivory trade.

For the next two years, the Recording Academy, working with partner organizations like the League of American Orchestras, NAMM, and the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, engaged constructively with The White House, Congress, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the U.S. Department of the Interior to make certain that the final ivory regulations included reasonable accommodations for pre-existing musical instruments that contain small amounts of ivory. The Administration released the final rules on June 2, 2016 and took into account the concerns of the Recording Academy.

The final rule affirms that musical instruments do not contribute to elephant poaching or the illegal ivory trade. In announcing the rule, USFWS Director Dan Ashe stated, “We listened carefully to the legitimate concerns raised by various stakeholder groups and, as a result, are allowing common sense, narrow exceptions for musicians, musical instrument makers and dealers … to trade items that have minimal amounts of ivory and satisfy other conditions. These items are not drivers of elephant poaching and do not provide cover for traffickers.”

International Travel

The final rule removes a restriction on international travel with musical instruments purchased after Feb. 25, 2014 that legally contain African elephant ivory. Musicians who purchased instruments after Feb. 25, 2014, that legally contain ivory are eligible to apply for a travel permit. Under the new rules, a musical instrument that contains African elephant ivory may qualify for a travel permit if the African elephant ivory contained in the instrument meets all of the following criteria:

  • The African elephant ivory contained in the instrument was legally acquired and removed from the wild prior to Feb. 26, 1976

  • The instrument containing worked ivory is accompanied by a valid Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) musical instrument certificate or equivalent CITES document

  • The instrument is securely marked or uniquely identified so that authorities can verify that the certificate corresponds to the musical instrument in question. A photograph may be used to identify an item, in place of a mark, as long as the photograph allows a border official to verify that the certificate and the item correspond

  • The instrument is not sold, traded, or otherwise disposed of while outside the certificate holder’s country of usual residence

Commercial Activity

The final rule also allows for domestic interstate and foreign commerce for musical instruments that contain “de minimis” amounts of ivory of less than 200 grams of ivory (less than in most musical instruments, including pianos) that were legally crafted and legally imported. Allowances are also made for qualified antiques, 100 years old or older. Sales within states (intrastate commerce) remain subject to any additional state commerce laws. For instruments less than 100 years old, the following requirements would apply:

For instruments located within the United States, the ivory must have been imported into the United States prior to Jan. 18, 1990, or was imported into the United States under a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) pre-Convention certificate with no limitation on its commercial use;

For instruments located outside the United States, the ivory must have been removed from the wild prior to Feb. 26, 1976;

  • The ivory is a fixed or integral component or components of a larger manufactured or handcrafted item (e.g. tuning pegs) and is not in its current form the primary source of the value of the overall item, that is, the ivory does not account for more than 50 percent of the value of the item

  • The ivory is not raw

  • The manufactured or handcrafted item is not made wholly or primarily of ivory, that is, the ivory component or components do not account for more than 50 percent of the item by volume

  • The total weight of the ivory component or components is less than 200 grams*

  • The item was manufactured or handcrafted before July 6, 2016

*USFWS offers the following guidance regarding the 200-gram limit:
“When we proposed the 200-gram limit we had a particular suite of items in mind. The following types of items may qualify for the
de minimis exception: many musical instruments (including many keyboard instruments, with ivory keys, most stringed instruments and bows with ivory parts or decorations, and many bagpipes, bassoons and other wind instruments with ivory trim) … A piece of ivory that weighs 200 grams is slightly larger than a cue ball. The 200-gram limit is large enough to accommodate the white key veneers on an 88-key piano.”

Some bagpipes and instruments with multiple keyboards may fall outside of the 200 gram limit.


The final rule includes the following important clarification about federal enforcement priorities, making clear that musicians acting in good faith will not be the target of enforcement activity:

“Our law enforcement focus under this rule will be to help eliminate elephant poaching by targeting persons engaged in or facilitating illegal ivory trade. While it is the responsibility of each citizen to understand and comply with the law, and that is our expectation with regard to this regulation, we do not foresee taking enforcement action against a person who has exercised due care and reasonably determined, in good faith, that an article complies with the de minimis requirements.”


Taking aggressive steps to end the scourge of elephant poaching is vital. The Obama Administration agreed with the Academy that it can accomplish this important goal without impacting the livelihoods of working musicians who rely on often irreplaceable musical instruments as the tools of their trade.

The final rule takes effect on July 6, 2016.

For more detailed information, consult the following links:

USFWS News Release
USFWS Q&A Document on the Final Rule
Text of the Final Rule