Radio, recording groups conduct dueling efforts over proposed music fee

WASHINGTON: Coalitions representing the radio and recording industries are urging legislators to reject and pass, respectively, the Performance Rights Act.

WASHINGTON: Coalitions representing the radio and recording industries are urging legislators to reject and pass, respectively, the Performance Rights Act.

The bill would require radio stations to pay a fee to artists when playing their music on air, although opponents counter that much of that fee would go to record companies. Traditional radio is currently exempt from such a fee, but satellite, Internet, and cable music providers pay one. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 21 to 9 in May, but further legislative action is required to make it law. Last month, 220 House members supported a nonbinding resolution opposing the measure.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), radio industry groups, and individual station-owners are urging legislators to reject the bill. The group is emphasizing to lawmakers, and the general public, that radio generates billions of dollars per year in music sales for record labels, and that the great majority of record companies are foreign-owned, said Dennis Wharton, EVP of media relations at the NAB.

He added that the organization and its allies are also highlighting that the measure would have what they believe is an adverse effect on a range of radio stations during a recession.

“I think that most people understand that the record label business is suffering, but it's not because of radio airplay of music,” he said.

NAB has held numerous Capitol Hill briefings, as well as other events, to make the organization's case to lawmakers. The group has also leveraged well-known radio personalities Tom Joyner and Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo to explain the effect the legislation would have on black and Hispanic radio, respectively, Wharton said.

NAB is also conducting media outreach to national general interest publications, wire services, local newspapers, and trade magazines about the issue, said Wharton. He added that the group, which is pitching Op-Ed columns to a number of newspapers, has also coordinated efforts with organizations including National Religious Broadcasters, National Public Radio, and college broadcasting organizations.

NAB has also launched the NoPerformanceTax.org, which includes an online petition, print, audio, and video public service announcements, and a history of the issue.

The Free Radio Alliance's Web site also features calls to action for consumers, including ways to reach members of congress and local newspapers. The Alliance also has a Facebook fan page and distributes news clips via its Twitter account, said Cathy Rought, spokesperson for the group and assistant VP at FD Public Affairs.

Individual broadcasters have also launched initiatives about the issue. Greater Media, parent company of 23 stations, launched HelpSaveRadio.org last month, which includes a petition and ways to reach members of Congress.

Meanwhile, MusicFirst, a coalition of recording industry groups in favor of the law, have emphasized to lawmakers that the act would remove a “loophole” exempting stations from the fees and provide compensation to artists. The group is also highlighting that most stations would pay $5,000 or less in annual fees, said Martin Machowsky, spokesman for MusicFirst and EVP at Edelman, which is working with the group.

“Our main message is that we are trying to create a law that is fair to the artists and musicians, fair to the other radio platforms, and also one that's fair to radio,” he said. “We have made more progress in Congress this year than has been made in the past 80 years.”

MusicFirst has also conducted a number of Congressional briefing sessions, leveraging the approximately 200 musicians who support its side of the argument. Its Web site also urges consumers to contact legislators and has sections for consumer education and for countering opposing arguments. The group also has a Facebook presence and Twitter account.

MusicFirst is also conducting media outreach to general interest, entertainment, and industry trade reporters and bloggers, and initiating meetings with newspaper editorial boards, said Machowsky, who added that the group is engaged with unions and other groups supporting its side.

He added that the coalition's members, including the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, and the Recording Industry Association of America, are leveraging their individual communications teams for the effort, as well.

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