‘Big Corporate Radio’ Attacked By MusicFirst


The music industry coalition MusicFirst has penned a letter to members of the 115th Congress that slams commercially licensed AM and FM radio station owners for its “old facts and crony capitalist logic” in what it believes are unfair practices regarding royalty payments to organizations including SAG-AFTRA, SoundExchange, Recording Academy, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM).

RBR+ TVBR OBSERVATION (Full text below, for Members Only): MusicFirst? How about DollarsFirst? This coalition believes “Big radio makes billions of dollars by playing (predominantly older) music, pure and simple.” How much does crack go for in your neighborhood, MusicFirst?

The Jan. 18, 2017 letter assails broadcast radio for being exempt from paying performance royalties for the songs it puts on the air. Specifically, it argues that “terrestrial radio must join EVERY other platform that builds a business delivering copyrighted content and compensate artists for their music.”

As MusicFirst sees it, “10 companies control 50% of the U.S. market, and long-gone are the days when radio helped ‘discover’ performers. Only a small percentage of songs played on radio are new, and music fans overwhelmingly look to streaming and other platforms to discover music. The imaginary argument that radio ‘compensates’ artists by promoting them in the era of social media, digital services and 24-hour entertainment news doesn’t hold up anymore. Big radio makes billions by playing (predominantly older) music, pure and simple.  In any other market-based arrangement, they would have to compensate the owner of that music at market rate.  Congress can very easily fix this.”

What does MusicFirst seek, per se?

It’s asking members of Congress not to co-sponsor the “Local Radio Freedom Act.”

Furthermore, MusicFirst questions the fact that works made before Feb. 15, 1972 are not covered under Federal copyright law, calling it an “inexplicable anomaly … that even the Library of Congress can’t explain.”

It argues, “Older artists have been forced to chase large, profitable music services across multiple state courts in lengthy and expensive litigation to pursue basic compensation for their valuable catalogs.  Nearly every music service in the U.S. has discovered that this anomaly in U.S. law allows them to not pay for pre-72 music, so they don’t.  Simple legislation will address this.”

MusicFirst also takes aim at streaming audio services, as it seeks “a simple and market-based rate standard for all music services.”

It says digital services like Pandora use a market-based rate, satellite services such as SiriusXM “use a grandfathered below-market rate” while terrestrial radio “plays music for free.”

MusicFirst concludes, “We want every business that delivers music to consumers to thrive and grow, but they all should pay a market-based rate to the artists and creators that they depend on.”

RBR+ TVBR OBSERVATION: MusicFirst? How about DollarsFirst? This coalition believes “Big radio makes billions of dollars by playing (predominantly older) music, pure and simple.” How much does crack go for in your neighborhood, MusicFirst? In market after market, Top 40 radio stations thrive and serve as the principal conduit for music “discovery,” which in our view is an over-analyzed and a misunderstood research term that hyperfocuses on the music nerd and hyperfan of music. We’ve met them: the 21-year-old Middle Tennessee State University student who subscribes to Tidal is a great example of this music fan. But he’s one in a million. The truth is radio still shapes the popular artists of the day, MusicFirst. People need a curator, and they don’t have time to go “discover” new music. They need a trusted source and it is radio. Or Pandora. MusicFirst opines, “Long-gone are the days when radio helped ‘discover’ performers.” You are so wrong we want to call whoever didn’t sign this letter and scream ‘Liar, Liar, pants on fire,’ because you are so ignorant! As a music nerd, our Editor-In-Chief listens to Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW-FM 89.9 in Santa Monica, Calif., as thousands of Southern Californians do, from 9 a.m. to Noon every weekday.  Host Jason Bentley is a champion of new music and damn good curator, and that’s how we discover a lot of our new music. In the afternoon, we tune to KINK-FM or KNRK-FM in Portland, Ore. — plenty of new music there, and we doubt we’d just stumble upon Mondo Cozmo otherwise. So, before you hassle the new Congress with pleas for cash from an industry where Cumulus Media’s stock closed below $1 and iHeartMedia is not that much higher, think twice about the important role radio has in making your artists superstars — and making you and your brethren wealthy.


  1. As someone who has worked in both radio and record businesses, I have one thing to say to Music First. “BS.”

    Start trying to force radio to pay you performance royalties or higher percentages than ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, SHOULD cause radio stations to drop your songs. See how much money you make then…

  2. Should we forget that musicFIRST is simply a thinly veiled arm of the RIAA – you know, the guys who had sued children, dead people and grandmothers for allegedly sharing music? The big joke is that artists are getting rooked out of monies due them by so-called “administrative costs”netting them factional payouts. I’d love somebody to do an investigation for possible RICO violations the way these guys play fast and loose. They are the main reason I will no longer purchase new music, opting for old media where they no longer get a dime off its sale.

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