NAB exec takes on labels


Dennis Wharton, EVP at the National Association of Broadcasters, took note of a story in the Washington Post about Herb Feemster of Peaches and Herb fame. In a letter to that newspaper, Wharton noted that while broadcasters helped make him famous, Feemster had to sue his label to get paid. In this, Wharton pointed out, Feemster is not alone – so it makes no sense to charge broadcasters a performance tax while the labels aren’t even paying their own artists properly.

Wharton wrote:

The May 29 front-page story “For R&B Star, Day Job’s the Real High Note” provided a fascinating look into the life of Herb Feemster, the local musician whose hit songs “Reunited” and “Shake Your Groove Thing” helped propel his duo, Peaches and Herb, to international fame. And buried within the article was an important fact worth emphasizing.

Mr. Feemster had to sue his record label to recoup unpaid royalties. He is merely the latest in a long line of recording artists who have filed lawsuits against their record labels after allegedly being cheated out of royalties.

Indeed, the record labels’ systematic exploitation of prominent musicians – from Prince to Poison to the estates of Count Basie and Benny Goodman — has been well-documented.

Despite the labels’ longstanding practice of mistreating musicians, they are now seeking to charge free, local radio stations a new fee — a performance tax — in the name of “fairness to artists.” What they don’t tell you is that the fee will direct more money into the coffers of the record companies than it will to a song’s featured musician.

America’s hometown radio stations welcome the debate over which side has been a better friend to recording artists: local radio stations, which musicians routinely thank for providing free promotion and boosting their careers, or the record labels, which artists allegedly cheated out of royalties routinely sue.

Dennis Wharton

Executive Vice President, Media Relations

National Association of Broadcasters