NAB is not pro Bono when it comes to royalties


The frontman for global rock act U2 and the National Association of Broadcasters have been trading potshots over the issue of performance royalties. Meanwhile, artists had a US senator in tow when they stated their case at a Miami town hall meeting. And both sides were claiming new supporters on Capitol Hill.

“While we have many friends at radio, and appreciate the many things that radio has done for our band over the years, we believe it’s only fair that when radio makes money by playing a recording artist’s music and selling advertising, the recording artist should be compensated just as songwriters are already,” said Bono. He added that while his band is doing OK with or without royalties, “…there are many young recording artists out there who can no longer earn a living from the sale of their music, or from touring or selling merchandise…yet they remain a vital part of radio playlists throughout the USA. They should not be denied their fair share.”

The NAB’s Dennis Wharton countered, “The irony is that it will be the less-established performers who will be hurt most by a performance tax. If radio stations are forced to pay to play music, program directors will be less likely to take a chance playing unknown artists and will instead stick with established musicians like Bono. New artists and niche formats will suffer, and Bono and Britney Spears will become wealthier.” This is the same Bono, pointed out NAB, who thanked Boston radio station WBCN-FM for initially  breaking U2 in America, and said, “We depend on radio.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) appeared with several musicians at a town hall meeting in Miami supporting the measure. One of the oddities of this debate is that the measure draws both support and opposition from all points on the ideological spectrum.

RIAA-backed musicFIRST said that House Education and Labor Committee George Miller (D-CA) is now on board with them, giving them their eighth house committee chair. NAB countered with 15 new signatories to the Local Radio Freedom Act, which would block imposition of royalties, bringing the total to 173.

NAB also has a radio ad which will run in Washington DC and is available for other radio stations to download and play at will.

RBR/TVBR observation: NAB is getting close to critical mass to bring this nonsense to an end. 45 more supporters for Local Radio Freedom should do it. Meanwhile, how about scheduling that long overdue hearing on the dysfunctional relationship between musicians and labels?