Royalties: The battle of Capitol Hill


The musicFirst Coalition trotted out a posse of nationally-known musicians to kick off the latest attempt to extract performance royalties out of radio stations. The two chairs of the Congressional Judiciary Committees Committees – Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Conyers (D-MI) — are on board, along with supporters from both parties.

The musicians coming out in support of the move included, Sheryl Crow, Herbie Hancock, Emmylou Harris, Patti LaBelle, Matt Maher, Los Tigres del Norte, Rob Thomas & Dionne Warwick.

Meanwhile, 16 members of Congress added their names to the list of those opposing such a move, including Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Charles Boustany (R-LA), Bruce Braley (D-IA), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Al Green (D-TX), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), Tom Petri (R-WI), Todd Platts (R-PA), Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), Peter Roskam (R-IL), David Scott (D-GA), John Shimkus (R-IL), and Greg Walden (R-OR).

NAB’s Dennis Wharton commented, "NAB welcomes an honest debate over whether radio stations or the record labels have historically been a ‘better friend’ to musicians. Since the days of Count Basie, there have been two constants in music: free radio airplay has propelled the financial success of countless performers, and those same artists have been systematically abused by the labels. For RIAA to now use artists as a shield in their quest for a performance tax is utterly cynical and hypocritical.”

RBR/TVBR observation: Wharton is absolutely correct to wonder who musicians should be siding with. Before Leahy and Conyers try to force radio companies to solve musicians’ fair compensation problems, it should be incumbent on them to line up some execs from the labels in their hearing rooms and ask them why so many recording artists have label horror stories, and why so many get so little from the sale of their work. Ironically, many of those sales are thanks to the free promotion provided by radio in the first place – a model you’d think the labels would be trying to preserve rather than destroy.