Saturday, March 01, 2008

musicFIRST Press Release

In its entirety:
Three Days, Three Performance Right Questions


February 25, 2008

CONTACT: Marty Machowsky


WASHINGTON, D.C., February 25, 2008 – The musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition today released three questions that members of Congress should consider asking the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and corporate radio representatives during the industry’s three-day lobbyfest in Washington this week. Big radio’s number one priority is to defeat legislation to create a fair performance right on radio for recording artists, musicians and record labels.

“It’s time for the NAB and corporate radio to answer the tough questions about their refusal to pay artists and musicians,” said Doyle Bartlett, executive director of the musicFIRST Coalition. “AM and FM music radio stations earn $16 billion each year in advertising revenue. But not a single penny goes to the artists and musicians whose creativity, whose heart, whose soul and whose passion brings to life the music that listeners tune in to hear.”

“There are many questions that the NAB and corporate radio lobbyists can not possibly answer with a clear conscious,” Bartlett said. “Here are just three:”

1. How can you justify taking someone’s intellectual property and making $16 billion in annual advertising revenue off that property without compensating the creators and owners of the property? This runs against all basic notions of fairness and respect. You might expect this is places like Iran, North Korea and China where there also is no performance right on radio, but not in the United States.

2. Why do you deserve a competitive advantage in the music marketplace? Artists and musicians are paid when their music is broadcast on satellite radio, Internet radio and digital music services delivered through satellite and cable television. You pay them when you stream your broadcast signal online, or in the future, through Internet streaming on mobile phones. And artists and musicians are compensated in every other country that is a member of the Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) – countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, France, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Germany and Greece.

3. Which of your leaders is right: David Rehr, president of NAB, or W. Russell Withers, head of the Withers Broadcasting Group and chairman of the NAB Radio Board? Mr. Rehr calls paying artists for their work product a “performance tax.” Really, the loophole in copyright law he is trying to salvage is merely an elaborate payment avoidance scheme. On the other hand, when Mr. Withers was questioned before the Senate Commerce Committee during a hearing last year, he said, “I disagree with ‘performance tax.’ It’s a performance fee.” What is wrong with paying a fee for product that makes you money?

For decades AM and FM broadcasters have enjoyed an exemption from copyright law. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced the Performance Rights Act of 2007 (S. 2500 and H.R. 4789 ). The bills will close the loophole in copyright law and ensure that no radio platform is given a competitive edge over another and that all must pay a fair performance royalty to artists.

Creation of a fair performance right would compensate the performers, background singers, studio musicians and copyright holders for their talent and hard work when their recordings are broadcast on AM and FM radio.

NAB is hosting its annual State Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference runs three days, Monday, February 25th through Wednesday, February 27th. According to the NAB web site, the conference is “an annual event where broadcasters hear from prominent federal policymakers and meet with legislators to discuss issues that affect your business. The conference provides a unique platform to impact decisions made daily in the halls of Congress that can shape the future of the broadcast business for 2008 and beyond.”


People who love music understand that creativity, talent and hard work are required to bring it to life. The goal of the musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition is to ensure that aspiring performers, local musicians and well-known artists are compensated for their music when it is played both today and in the future. Of all the ways we listen to music, corporate radio is the only one that receives special treatment. Big radio has a free pass to play music – refusing to pay even a fraction of a penny to the performers that brought it to life. The musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition is committed to making sure everyone, from up-and-coming artists to our favorites from years-ago, is guaranteed Fair Pay for Air Play. For more information on the musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition please visit

Supporting organizations include: American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), American Federation of Musicians (AFM), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Christian Music Trade Association (CMTA), Music Managers Forum - USA (MMF- USA), The Latin Recording Academy, The Recording Academy, The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Inc, Recording Artists’ Coalition (RAC), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Society of Singers, SoundExchange and Vocal Group Hall of Fame.