“Respect” was Aretha Franklin’s breakthrough hit. She covered Otis Redding and made that song her very own. Since Aretha recorded “Respect”, in 1967, it has been played on the radio more than 7,000,000 times. For all that airplay, Aretha received not one dime.
Why is that? Because under federal copyright law, American radio stations pay royalties to writers and publishers of music, but not to performers. Several copyrights inhere in each recorded performance of a song; writers of words and music; arrangers and performers and record companies all have copyright in their part of the whole. Management of broadcast rights and collection of royalties on recorded music is handled by several rights management organizations, the most prominent of which are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) and SESAC (formerly, Society of European Stage Authors and Composers).
There have been many attempts by the recording industry to change the law, but those have been blocked by the very powerful National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the trade and lobbying organization for radio and TV broadcasters.
In the 1990s, with the emergence of digital recording formats, the recording industry succeeded in changing the law to enable performers to collect royalties when their recordings are played on Internet or satellite radio, but songs recorded before 1972 were exempted. Since then, several additional bills to cover pre-1972 recordings have been introduced in Congress, including the Respect Act (named after Aretha), in 2014. That bill has not been enacted, nor has a later bill, the Music Modernization Act, introduced in 2017. That bill was opposed by satellite broadcasters because it would not cover terrestrial broadcasters.
Given the powerful forces arrayed against performers, it is unlikely that copyright law will soon change in their favor when it comes to terrestrial radio. The picture is brighter in the digital space. SoundExchange collects and distributes digital performance royalties for performers and master rights owners. If you write or perform music, register with SoundExchange.
Here’s the link: https://www.soundexchange.com/about/