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A Chorus Calls for Song Rights

Dionne Warwick with recording artist Matt Maher after a news conference on Capitol Hill yesterday. (Marissa Newhall/The Washington Post)Enlarge Image

Fairness: So hot right now! A cluster of high-wattage celebs -- Patti LaBelle, Sheryl Crow, Will.I.Am -- gathered on Capitol Hill yesterday to lobby for the Performance Rights Act, legislation that would close a copyright law loophole for radio airplay . . . and, what do you know, put more money in their pockets.

"This is not a liberal or conservative issue, it's a fairness issue," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told a gaggle of journos at the Rayburn Building, before yielding the mike to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), an accomplished musician in his own right, and then Herbie Hancock.

And look who's here: It's Dionne Warwick! Clad in a brown cardigan, beige baseball cap, purple sunglasses and yellow pants tucked into brown riding boots, Warwick had a few choice words of her own (video here).

"I'm going into my 48th year in this industry, and for that period of time my recordings have been played worldwide with no amount of compensation coming to Dionne Warwick," she said. "I think it's about time that I do get paid."

Guess that means she can relate to all the people who got stiffed at the American Music Inaugural Ball she was supposed to host last month. You know, the one at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel -- hundreds of dollars per ticket, canceled at the last minute? Our colleague Marissa Newhall chased Warwick out into the hallway yesterday for an update.

"Honey, that's something we're not gonna talk about," she said with a dismissive wave before disappearing into an elevator.

Which means all those thousands of dollars are still unaccounted for. A note on the ball's Web site reads, in part, "We will respond to every letter or e-mail. We are a very small staff working tirelessly to serve you as quickly as possible" and gives a post office box number for Warwick's foundation.

But no ticket buyers or volunteers contacted yesterday have heard a peep. "Nothing from them -- no phone call, no nothing," said a North Carolina lawyer who spent more than $900 on tickets. She has heard from her bank and an officer from the D.C. Police's Fraud Division investigating the debacle.

And, yes -- we, too, are still waiting to hear back from Warwick's promoters.

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By The Reliable Source  |  February 25, 2009; 1:02 AM ET
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