Look out. Nancy Sinatra has her boots on again. The singer known for her 1966 hit "These Boots Are Made for Walking" is leading a parade of performers lobbying Congress today and Wednesday to get money for artists when their songs are aired on the radio. It's a campaign her dad, Frank, once led and that has struck pay dirt on the Internet and on satellite radio. The issue is a simple one: Sinatra and her gang want radio to pay performers when it plays one of their songs. The current and outdated law requires payment only to the songwriters and publishers. It's a fairness issue, she says.
"They're taking things from artists, musicians, sidemen, background singers—they are taking from them, but they are not paying them. That's not fair," she tells Whispers. It's really tough on old singers and one-hit wonders who performed other people's music. "A lot of them died penniless," she says. "It's all about fair play, basically. My dad started trying to get this done 30 or 40 years ago, and I'm picking up the ball now because it's not fair. We don't have a level playing field," she adds.
Broadcasters make a legitimate case: Playing a song is free publicity that promotes the sales of records and CDs; thus, performers already make money. But with oldies making up about 60 percent of the music on radio, listeners are just grooving to their memories and aren't buying old CDs, so performers are going broke, say the proponents of new legislation to pay them. Also, supporters of the bill say, terrestrial radio will simply be following satellite radio and Internet radio in paying performers, not just songwriters.
There's a hearing on the proposal Wednesday, and Sinatra is testifying. Several performers were with Sinatra today on the Hill, including members of the original rap band Sugar Hill Gang, famed for their tune "Rapper's Delight." If you're too old to know it, it's the Wedding Singer rap sung by the cute, old Ellen Dow.
Here's the list of performers and artists lobbying on the bill: