NAB v. RIAA: Who's best for musicians?


A recent lawsuit is pitting some of very big vintage artists (and their estates) against one of the biggest international record companies, Universal Music Group. The lawsuit, according to the Associated Press, seeks a total of 6.7M plus legal costs, and includes Patti Pate and the estates of Sarah Vaughn, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Les Brown, The Mills Brothers and Benny Goodman. The plaintiffs charge they’ve been cheated for years.

The issue arises as bills kick around Capitol Hill on the issue of performance royalties on broadcast outlets. Some on the Hill think the age old symbiotic relationship between broadcast and musicians where content is traded for promotion is not enough, and that a fee to musicians should be added. Other legislators are supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act, which would prevent such a move.’

"We welcome the debate over which side has been more ‘fair’ to artists — radio stations or RIAA-member companies. America’s hometown radio stations expose and promote musicians to 232 million listeners every week. Contrast that with decades-long exploitation of artists by foreign-owned record labels, demonstrated just this month in a $6 million lawsuit against Universal Music Group for ‘cheating’ artists like Count Basie and Benny Goodman out of royalties."

RBR/TVBR observation: Would a performance tax directly benefit musicians or would it be a subsidy for conglomerates who were asleep at the switch while the internet was making off with their business model? Obviously this group of artists has no reason to believe they will be treated fairly by the record companies. And if such a royalty is enacted, record companies will likely drive more and more stations to some kind of talk format while others treat playing music as a commercial and charge by the spin. Maybe musicians do deserve a better shake — a performance tax isn’t the way to make that happen.