HITS Act Reintroduced Congress
(L-R): Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS), Michael Lewan, Autumn Rowe, Kizzo Keaz

Photo: David Becker, Getty Images for the Recording Academy.


The HITS Act Is Reintroduced in Congress: A Vital Step Forward For Music Creators

This bill, which the Recording Academy helped craft, would modify current U.S. tax law to allow independent artists to deduct 100% of their production costs on new recordings upfront.

Advocacy/Feb 28, 2023 - 11:06 pm

Earlier today, the Help Independent Tracks Succeed (HITS) Act was reintroduced to Congress in a bipartisan and bicameral way by Representatives Ron Estes (R-KS) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

This bill, which the Recording Academy helped craft, would modify current U.S. tax law to allow independent artists to deduct 100% of their production costs on new recordings, up to $150,000, upfront rather than over a period of years. The goal of the HITS Act is to incentivize the creation of new music by lessening the financial burden and risk.

"Earlier this month at the GRAMMY Awards we celebrated the power of music on Music's Biggest Night, but we know it's important to build a music ecosystem year-round that supports all creators. The Help Independent Tracks Succeed (HITS) Act will aid independent artists, songwriters, and producers in creating new music that we can celebrate and enjoy," said Recording Academy CEO, Harvey Mason jr. "We are grateful to Reps. Estes and Sanchez, and Senators Feinstein and Blackburn, for reintroducing the HITS Act and we are optimistic this legislation will finally become law in this Congress."

Almost three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, artists are still dealing with the financial impact the pandemic and slowing economy have had on their livelihood and ability to create new music. The HITS Act is a long-term, low-cost solution that would allow creators to get back in the studio and produce more music.

After reintroducing the bill on the House floor, Rep. Sanchez stated, "Music is a fundamental part of our lives, shaping our memories and seeing us through both good times and bad. Yet the reality is that many small creators are struggling to make ends meet, especially after the pandemic."

She continued, "That's why I'm proud to re-introduce the HITS Act today. This bill will make it easier for independent creators to keep doing what they love most, without having to worry about putting food on the table." 

"The music from Nashville strikes a chord with folks across the nation," said Sen. Blackburn (R-TN). "However, the unique burdens faced by the arts community forced many to stop writing, performing, and producing altogether. The HITS Act will provide targeted tax deductions to support our musicians and allow them to get back to work."

Notably, the Recording Academy worked proactively this year to ensure that the HITS Act also applies to songwriters who incur costs when creating sound recordings for demos and other purposes, opening the door for growth throughout the entire music ecosystem. This new clarity has been welcomed by other stakeholders in the songwriter and publisher community, with many releasing statements in support of the HITS Act:

"The Nashville Songwriters Association International supports and encourages adoption of the HITS Act," said Bart Herbison, Executive Director of NSAI. "Independent creators, including individual songwriters, face unique financial challenges.  Allowing them to fully expense the cost of new studio recordings on their taxes in the year such expenses are incurred eases the financial burden and benefits the public because it encourages new recordings for music lovers to enjoy."

"We thank Senators Feinstein and Blackburn, and Representatives Sánchez and Estes for their work on this important legislation," said David Israelite, President and CEO of NMPA; Beth Mathews, CEO of ASCAP; and Mike O'Neill, President and CEO of BMI. "We are pleased to support the HITS Act because it will help songwriters, composers, and music publishers expedite expensing the cost of demos they create in the process of bringing their music to fans."

"The reintroduction of the HITS Act in 2023 is a much-needed step toward tax savings for recording artists, their label partners, and songwriters that will enable them to reinvest in new projects," said Dr. Richard James Burgess MBE, President and CEO of A2IM. "HITS will create jobs and increase the recorded output of American music creators. The exact same tax relief has long been available to other creative sectors, so we are thankful to our congressional champions who are steadfast in supporting the independent recorded music culture."

Currently, other creative industries, such as film and television, are qualified to fully deduct their production costs. However, the same rules do not apply to the music industry, leaving artists fiscally unable to create more work. The passage of the HITS Act, which was crafted with independent artists and small creators in mind, would alleviate this burden and grant the music community the same treatment as other creative industries.

Sen. Feinstein spoke to this discrepancy across creative industries stating, "While music helped so many get through the pandemic, creators struggled to make ends meet when they were unable to play live shows, and many continue to feel that financial pain. Our bill would provide relief by allowing independent musicians, technicians and producers to deduct a portion of their production expenses in the same year they occur, giving them the same treatment as film, television and theater productions have long had."

Rep. Estes (R-KS) also released a statement noting that, "Regardless of background, language or experiences, music moves our spirits and connects us to one another. While talented writers, musicians and producers are creating the sounds that bring joy, reflection and growth, they should be able to deduct their expenses in the year they are incurred. The bipartisan HITS Act is sound, common-sense legislation that supports our creative communities throughout the United States and encourages music makers of all sizes and notoriety."

Today's reintroduction of the HITS Act demonstrates the support these members of Congress have for the music community and their understanding of the importance of reviving the music ecosystem. The Recording Academy looks forward to working with Congress to ensure the passage of this key piece of legislation.

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Sen. Marsha Blackburn (TN)

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Sens. Alex Padilla and Marsha Blackburn Introduce The American Music Fairness Act In The Senate: Here's What You Should Know

This new bill will ensure that artists, performers, producers, and music creators are fairly compensated when their songs are played on terrestrial radio stations.

Advocacy/Sep 23, 2022 - 08:06 pm

On Sept. 22, Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the bipartisan American Music Fairness Act to ensure artists and music creators receive fair compensation for the use of their songs on AM/FM radio.

This legislation will hold corporate radio broadcasters accountable to pay artists and producers for their music just as other music services– like satellite, internet radio, and streaming platforms– already do Identical legislation (H.R. 4130) has already been introduced and received a hearing in the House, setting Congress up for action this fall.

"We commend this bipartisan bill led by Reps. Deutch and Issa, and we thank them for joining us in the fight for fair pay," said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. "Artists create music that can bring us together and heal us, and they deserve to be paid when their work is played on FM/AM radio."

Earlier this year, Governors and Trustees from the Recording Academy's Los Angeles and San Francisco Chapters sent a letter to Sen. Padilla asking the freshman senator to introduce the American Music Fairness Act in the Senate.

In a statement, Sen. Padilla said, "For too long, our laws have unfairly denied artists the right to receive fair compensation for their hard work and talent on AM/FM broadcasts."California's artists have played a pivotal role in enriching and diversifying our country's music scene. That is why passing the American Music Fairness Act is so important. It's time we treat our musical artists with the dignity and respect they deserve for the music they produce and we enjoy every day."

Senator Blackburn, meanwhile, has long championed the rights of creators. Prior to arriving in the Senate, Senator Blackburn led the effort to establish performance rights for artists in the House of Representatives. 

Upon introduction of today's bill, the Senator said, "From Beale Street to Music Row to the hills of East Tennessee, the Volunteer State's songwriters have undeniably made their mark… However, while broadcasters demand compensation for the content they create and distribute, they don't apply this view to the songwriters, artists, and musicians whose music they play on the radio without paying royalties. Tennessee's creators deserve to be compensated for their work. This legislation will ensure that they receive fair payment and can keep the great hits coming."

Currently, and historically, terrestrial (AM/FM) radio stations do not pay artists for the music they play on the radio in the United States. This is because of an antiquated loophole in copyright law that allows AM/FM radio stations to play music while rightly compensating the songwriter, but not also the artists who perform the songs or the studio professional behind the sound recording. The AMFA also includes protections for songwriters to ensure the new right does not encroach on songwriter royalties.

In 2019, music broadcasters made over $10 billion by selling ad revenue, yet did not pay artists for the product – the music – that generates this revenue. The American Music Fairness Act rights this wrong by requiring major radio stations to fairly compensate all artists for their property.

The American Music Fairness Act also works to ensure that AM/FM stations are no longer the only music platforms that do not compensate artists for their music. It is long overdue for terrestrial radio stations to pay royalties to artists just like streaming services, satellite radio, online radio, and every other platform that profits off copyrighted content.

The American Music Fairness Act would establish fair market value for radio performance royalties similar to how the law currently works for other music platforms.

Additionally, the American Music Fairness Act will protect small, local broadcasters with dedicated protections and exemptions. Under the American Music Fairness Act,  radio stations that fall under $1.5 million in annual revenue and whose parent companies fall under less than $10 million in annual revenue overall would be exempt and pay a special rate of less than $2 per day ($500 annually) to play unlimited music. Other exemptions under the bill would apply to public, college and other noncommercial stations as well as super-small stations in general, who would pay as little as $10 per year.

Finally, the American Music Fairness Act supports American artists whose music is popular in other countries with a performance right. The AM/FM radio loophole currently harms American artists when foreign radio stations play their music overseas. Foreign countries routinely hold royalties that should go to US artists due to the lack of American terrestrial performance copyright.

Moreover, the US is one of the only countries that do not require a performance copyright for terrestrial radio. That means there are hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars, owed to American artists, being left on the table around the world. The American Music Fairness Act would ensure that foreign countries pay US artists when their songs are played overseas.

The Recording Academy offers a ringing endorsement of this historic advancement of the American Music Fairness Act, and promises to continue to work tirelessly to advance the interests of all music people.

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Photo: David Becker / Getty Images


An Inside Look At The Recording Academy's Congressional Briefings During GRAMMY Week

Ahead of the 2022 GRAMMYs, the Recording Academy’s Advocacy team illustrated to members of Congress the importance of music legislation and how it has a real impact on all music people

Advocacy/Apr 21, 2022 - 06:53 pm

Over GRAMMY Weekend in Las Vegas, the Recording Academy's Advocacy team gathered with a bipartisan group of Members of Congress including Reps. Ted Deutch (FL-22), Ron Estes (KS-04), Steven Horsford (NV-04), and Linda Sanchez (CA-38) as well as senior congressional staff from the House Ways and Means and House Judiciary Committees to discuss the importance of music legislation and how it has a real impact.

This applies not only to the artists that make up Music's Biggest Night, but countless other music creators who also work tirelessly to make a career out of their passions.

The Advocacy team jump-started its congressional briefings with remarks and a performance from GRAMMY nominee John Popper of Blues Traveler. Poppernot only showed his talent on the harmonica with a rendition of the National Anthem — he also discussed his experience throughout his long career in the music industry. The Blues Traveler frontman also discussed his public support for the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA).

The briefing continued with a songwriter panel consisting of three GRAMMY-nominated women — Emily Bear, Tayla Parx and Whitney Phillips. These songwriters and composers touched on many important topics, including the challenges that face women in the industry, how the pandemic affected the way they create, and the difficulties of making a living as a songwriter.

Tayla Parx, who has been in the industry since she starred in the film Hairspray at a young age, detailed the importance of making your voice heard as women — and how it has not been uncommon for her to be the only woman in the room during the creation of a song.

Whitney Phillips added to that point, describing how others have tried to take or diminish her ideas with the expectations that she wouldn’t speak up — a sentiment the other women echoed.

Additionally, the panel discussed the effects of COVID-19 on the music industry. Emily Bear, who went on to win the GRAMMY for Best Musical Theater Album for The Unofficial Bridgeton Musical, talked about her experience writing a full musical during the pandemic with her writing partner Abigail Barlow, while documenting the entire process, and going viral, on TikTok.

Phillips, who moved back home during the pandemic, did not let COVID stop her from creating new music — she only changed how she did it. Just as the Members of Congress in attendance all had to learn to operate via Zoom, so did the music industry.

One of the key things the panel discussed was the difficulty in making a living as a songwriter. Each woman echoed that most people they know are unable to let songwriting and producing be their only source of income because the compensation they receive is so little. And before the discussion wrapped, Bear played on the keyboard displaying her incredible talent.

Following the panel, the delegation traveled to The Hideout Studios in Henderson for a studio tour and production demonstration led by Academy members Zoe Thrall and Kevin Churko of the Hideout Studio, along with multi-GRAMMY winning producer Josh Gudwin, and Autumn Rowe and Kizzo Keaz, who won GRAMMYs on Sunday as producers of Jon Batiste’s We Are, which won multiple GRAMMYs at the 2022 GRAMMYs, including one for Album Of The Year.

While en route, Todd Dupler, Acting Chief Advocacy and Public Policy Officer, briefed the delegation on the HITS Act and the support it would provide artists so they can afford to create music both at home and in studios such as the Hideout.

Once the delegation arrived, Churko and Thrall shared with the delegation how their studio has seen drastic changes over the last couple of years. As the pandemic slows, people are ready to get back into the studio, but over the last two years, many artists began creating music remotely. Churko also did a quick demonstration of some of the studio’s production tools.

Rowe and Keaz, who have worked together for many years, discussed the struggles of not getting fair compensation and credit for the work they write and produce. This highlighted to members of Congress the importance of passing legislation such as AMFA, so artists will see proper return on their hard work. While Gudwin described the uniqueness of producers being their own employer, while also being an employee, yet lacking any semblance of traditional benefits or job protections.

Following the discussion, Rowe, Gudwin and Keaz surprised the delegation by putting Members of Congress and staff into the recording booth to record vocals.

The next day, the delegation got a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for the 2022 GRAMMYs telecast to wrap the weekend. The delegation got a firsthand look at how the music industry is more than just the famous faces or voices they know and love, but also made up of countless behind-the-scenes workers who bring crucial expertise to creating successful and memorable performances.

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Photo: C Brandon


How The Recording Academy Advocates For Legislation That Could Help Generations Of Black Artists

The American Music Fairness Act and HITS Act have the potential to benefit generations of Black artists — furthering work done by the Recording Academy's Advocacy team and others

Advocacy/Feb 25, 2022 - 10:01 pm

Every year during Black History Month, the Recording Academy shines an extra bright light on the contributions and successes of Black artists, past and present. However, the work of Black artists should be championed year-round, and their contributions to popular culture honored through systemic change. As Black History Month comes to a close, the Recording Academy's Advocacy team looks ahead to pending legislation that would benefit Black artists in the long term. 

Among such proposed legislation is the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), which would close the century-long loophole that has enabled AM/FM radio to play music without paying a royalty for sound recordings. While radio has grown to become a multibillion-dollar business, not a single cent has gone to the legion of artists behind the mic, in the booth, or on guitar —many of whom are Black music makers— involved in the creation of the sound recording.

These artists — from the trailblazing jazz acts of the '20s and '30s, to '50s pioneers of rock and roll, to the countless Motown treasures — have defined American music and culture. Yet they do not receive compensation for their contributions. This injustice has hindered the success and longevity of generations of Black artists, musicians and studio professionals, as well as their heirs.

Radio royalty payments would be of particular necessity to Black artists, who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Americans for the Arts, 69 percent of BIPOC artists became unemployed as a result of the pandemic, losing 61 percent of their income. Comparatively, white artists had a 60 percent rate of unemployment and 56 percent loss of income.

The issue of rectifying nonexistent royalty payments has had broad support. Many leading Black artists have come to Washington, D.C., over the years to fight to end this injustice, including the late, great Mary Wilson of the Supremes. Last summer, Dionne Warwick and Sam Moore went to Capitol Hill to introduce the American Music Fairness Act, and major producer Boo Mitchell testified on the issue earlier in February in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

"This week is the 50th anniversary of Reverend Al Green's legendary Let's Stay Together album, which was produced and recorded and mixed here at Royal Studios by my father, the late Willie Mitchell," Mitchell said at the hearing, noting that the album's title track was a No. 1 hit and added to the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. "My father, who passed away in 2010 tragically, never received a penny from radio for his work. And shamefully, neither have the other great Memphis musicians and vocalists who created this work."

Mitchell continued, "Time is running out to fix this injustice for the artists of my dad's generation … These artists aren't looking for free promotion to sell records or to go on tour. They simply want to be compensated for their work."

Following the House Judiciary Committee hearing, children of deceased Black legacy recording artists wrote a letter in support of the American Music Fairness Act. This letter outlined the importance of closing the loophole that allows terrestrial radio to get away with not paying artists for their work, as well as the incorrect nature of the National Association of Broadcasters' (NAB) arguments against the passage of the AMFA.

"For us, to hear the NAB claim that passage of a bill that finally would compensate hundreds if not thousands of black artists would somehow put small minority owned radio stations that couldn't afford $500 a year out of business, thereby devastating low income communities where Black and Latino reside is intolerable," the letter stated.

The letter also argued in favor of the bill’s protections for small, local and community radio stations that earn less than $1.5 million annually. In the letter, the heirs even offered to cover a station’s "$10, $100 or $500 only annual fees" paid through the 501(c)(3) The Soul Arts And Music Foundation, founded by Sam Moore and his wife, Joyce.

If the American Music Fairness Act becomes law, these royalty payments would provide overdue funds to artists across the country and serve as one large step toward ending systemic inequities for artists of color. Ending these disparities is at the core of the Recording Academy's Advocacy efforts.

Similarly, the Help Independent Tracks Succeed (HITS) Act is another effort that will provide much-needed, immediate relief to independent artists while benefiting them in the long term.

The HITS Act would allow artists, musicians, producers, and studio technicians to deduct the entirety of their recording expenses, up to $150,000, on their taxes for the year incurred. The HITS act passed the House in 2021 as part of the Build Back Better Act and is currently being considered in the Senate.

"We have an opportunity where every other business has all these tax laws and things that have been passed," Kevin Liles, co-founder and CEO of 300 Entertainment, CEO of Elektra Music Group, and Recording Academy member, noted of the importance of the HITS Act during a panel discussion about Black-owned small businesses.

Liles continued, "If you think about the small artist, the small producer, the recording studio — if we give them a kind of a cap, $150,000 basis, they could write off 100 percent of the cost as an expense. That little thing alone could keep the light on. It could have somebody else get another piece of equipment."

The HITS Act is another proactive step Congress can take to help the music community recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since the onset of COVID-19, the Recording Academy has mobilized its members to advocate for better protections and provisions for Black artists and Black-owned small businesses in the music ecosystem.

During the Academy's Summer of Advocacy in 2020, thousands of Recording Academy members successfully pushed Congress to provide targeted relief to minority-owned businesses by providing dedicated funding for underserved businesses so that they had direct access to the support and capital they deserved. The HITS Act would be another step towards recovery for Black artists and businesses, and reflects the Academy's advocacy efforts to provide economic relief and equity that encourage creative success in years to come.

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