The issue is the battle over performance royalties. A bipartisan slate of Representatives is on board a bill sponsored by Gene Green (D-TX) and Mike Conaway (R-TX), called the "Local Radio Freedom Act," which would halt the attempt to impose a new fee which broadcasters think of as a performance tax in recognition of the vast promotional value recording companies get from free radio airplay. 53 lawmakers were on board when the bill was introduced, and the number of co-sponsors as of 11/20/07 has swelled to 104.
Meanwhile, the Music First Coalition is offering to promote items from the NAB Store, such as NAB T-shirts and wine charms, rather than use cash to buy them, since the promotional value is just as good. "According to the NAB, playing a song on the AM and FM dial is more than enough compensation for the hard work and talent of the performers, background singers and session musicians who bring the music to life." To reciprocate, Music First has placed a downloadable NAB coupon on its website and hopes that NAB will honor it.
RBR/TVBR observation: Instead of repairing its business model, the recording industry is grasping wildly in whichever direction it thinks there may be some loose cash. Funny how this wasn’t such a big issue until the internet caught the industry napping on its business model. At a recent Senate hearing it appeared that there was bipartisan support for doing something, so this is another one of those communications issues which defy normal party and ideological boundaries, but at the very least, the senators seemed to consider the issue to be complex and destined for the slow track. As for Music First, musicians have our sympathy, but it is our belief that their bone of contention is with the labels, not broadcasters.
Airplay does drive sales, while according to many accounts the artist/label relationship is in serious need of repair. What about legislation preventing labels from using copyright ownership as a bargaining chip when negotiating a contract with a new act — that might help musicians enjoy the fruits of their labors more than a trickle from performance fees.