The musicFIRST NAB Battle Rages On


And that’s nothing new. Part of musicFIRST’s existence is to knock heads with radio and try to gets its paws in the pockets of hard-working radio owners.

As we reported earlier this week, as another new Congress begins its work, the National Association of Broadcasters has quickly worked members to introduce resolutions in both houses opposing what the NAB cleverly calls a new tax on radio stations. It’s been a constant fight for radio to keep beating down organizations like musicFIRST who’ve been trying to get radio to pay artists for airplay. These efforts continue despite some of music’s biggest artists, such as Garth Brooks and Vince Gill most recently, constantly thanking radio for making their music popular with fans.

musicFIRST spokesman Trevor Francis claims the The Local Radio Freedom Act falsely asserts that paying artists for their work is a “tax.” “Here we go again. The NAB will dedicate months and spend millions accumulating names on a motion that falsely protects “local radio” and that will never become law. Meanwhile, the radio marketplace continues to change for NAB’s members, and not for the better. The NAB may want to focus less on lobbying in D.C. and more on how radio can provide music fans the innovation they want in today’s digital world.”

The NAB shoots back that passage of the LRFA is not the actual intent of the resolution. “The intent of the resolution is to demonstrate broad, bipartisan opposition to new performance fees on local radio. Why is this important? Because having well over 100 members of a new Congress already on record opposing a performance fee sends a strong message to Congressional leaders that an attempt to pass a bill imposing these new royalties would not pass. In the last Congress performance fees on local radio stations were never part of congressional deliberations of the Music Modernization Act because a majority of the House of Representatives signaled their opposition through co-sponsorship of the LRFA. NAB will again be working to add additional co-sponsors of the LRFA resolution in coming weeks and months, and we are cautiously optimistic that the 116th Congress will agree not to impose a job-killing performance fee on local radio.”

The NAB says the fact that musicFIRST and other pro-performance royalty advocates have been lobbying fiercely and emailing Representatives and Senators to not sign onto the LRFA is a sign this effort is working. “musicFirst can’t have it both ways; it can’t spend time and money lobbying members of Congress NOT to sign the LRFA resolution, and then claim the resolution is meaningless when members of Congress actually sign on.”

In a cover story interview back in January, NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said the performance royalty issue will continue to be the “preeminent” issue facing radio. “Ever since I have been here, I have been thankful the radio industry has given me and this great NAB staff the elbow room to continually remain in conversation and discussion with the performance industry. This is a relationship where we need each other, but can’t surrender our business just to their demands. We don’t charge them for advertising, and they don’t charge us for music, as they would like to. The whole industry of music is evolving, and we need to stay engaged in conversations with them. I have been encouraged earlier this year that we were making progress, but I am less encouraged at the present time. Until we are able to come up with some compromise, as between the digital and terrestrial platforms, we are going to keep fighting and winning that issue, hoping in the fullness of time there can be a resolution that moves music forward and keeps radio prospering into the future. The beneficiary is not just radio, but the American people. Our door is open on this, and we continue to have informal discussions with the record labels and performers in hopes of reaching an agreement that works for both sides.”

Why is Smith less encouraged these days? “Just because of the nature of the conversations we have been having. There are times we think there is an understanding, and then the next time we meet it is apparent that that understanding has receded. This is an ebb and flow, but ultimately there is a community of interest, so everyone who cares about music — and we do at radio — must continue to talk and to search for solutions so both sides can win. Until that is found on their side — which is just as complex as our side, with all the different parties, interests, and balance sheets — we need to stay engaged in discussions with them until the better angels of our nature come to the fore and show us how to resolve this endless conflict.”



  1. There’s a lot of misinformation in this discussion. The main thing to know is that AM/FM stations that stream are paying royalties to artists & labels. The thing those stations don’t feel is fair is paying those royalties twice, once for digital and again for analog. The other smaller issue within the NAB is that smaller radio stations don’t want to pay any royalty, and they will not be a party to any such agreement. In fact some even quit the NAB ten years ago when an agreement seemed to be in reach. So any agreement will have to exempt small radio stations, and the recording industry refuses to accept that.


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