Crowley Lays Out Plan to Come After Radio


NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt knows battling those who want to add a fee to play music on the radio will be one of his biggest battles, as it was for former NAB CEO Gordon Smith.
musicFIRST Chairman Joe Crowley has revealed his step-by-step plan to get radio to pay by the end of 2022.

Crowley calls the relationship between radio and artists now an injustice and expects President Biden to sign the Music Fairness Act into law by the end of this year. Radio has always said the relationship is a win-win with radio stations all across the country providing free airtime to artists on a government regulated media. On a regular basis artists thank radio for playing their music and their number one goal is to get their music to the masses by making it to radio. Despite the onset of streaming and YouTube artists know that if they ever plan to make the big money they have to make it on radio.

Here’s Crowley’s plan of attack on you from a column he wrote on the musicFIRST website…

(By Joe Crowley) First, any solution to the decades-long injustice perpetrated by the outdated radio loophole must actually fix the problem: ensuring artists are finally paid — in real money, not “promotional value” — when their music is played on AM/FM radio.

The broadcasters’ argument that they shouldn’t be required to pay for using artists’ intellectual property because doing so “promotes” the artist to potential new audiences was never particularly persuasive, but it’s outright laughable in 2022 where streaming and digital platforms are the primary way new music is discovered,, sales of physical media are virtually nonexistent, and many artists have been unable to tour in over two years due to the pandemic.

Artists work hard to make the music that broadcasters use to line their pockets. The least Big Radio can do is share some of those profits with the people who made them possible so they can feed their families.

Second, radio stations of all shapes and sizes have profited off the backs of artists — and that’s wrong. If you use someone’s work, you should pay them for it. Period. That’s a bedrock American principle. But musicFIRST appreciates the precarious position that truly local radio stations find themselves in. These stations are an important part of our communities, and many struggle to survive in an era of continued consolidation by billion-dollar corporate broadcasters.

These local stations need affordability and certainty to enable them to thrive well into the future — and that’s what the American Music Fairness Act provides. The legislation provides protections for truly local stations — those that bring in less than $1.5 million in annual revenue or whose parent company brings in less than $10 million per year — ensuring they will pay no more than $500 per year for as much as music as they want to play. That’s just $2 per day for unlimited music — and some smaller and noncommercial stations would pay even less.

The National Association of Broadcasters will claim that artists can’t be paid without it hurting local radio. Nothing could be further from the truth. AMFA provides a fair and certain path to ensure that both music creators and local radio stations can have a bright future.

Third, the legislation cannot rob Peter to pay Paul. What do I mean by that? During the House Judiciary Committee’s AMFA hearing in February, NAB president Curtis LeGeyt repeatedly said that broadcasters want to “grow the pie” when it comes to royalties. And while that might sound like an anodyne sentiment on its face, LeGeyt’s “grow the pie” approach is nothing but a transparent ploy to let broadcasters pay less digital royalties in exchange for radio royalties.

Let me explain: While broadcasters like iHeartRadio are currently not legally required to compensate artists when they play their songs over traditional radio airwaves, they are required to pay them royalties when those songs are played over streaming apps or other digital offerings. When LeGeyt talks about the need to “grow the pie,” he’s talking about decreasing these digital royalties in an attempt to offset any cost of long-overdue radio royalties to his Big Radio bosses. If the NAB got its way, corporate broadcasters might start paying artists for AM/FM airplay, but only if they get a “digital discount” to pay less for online streams.

This is bad for artists. Fewer people are listening to AM/FM radio than ever. Meanwhile, the number of people getting their music from streaming and digital platforms is skyrocketing. Those trendlines will only deepen in the years ahead, with radio listenership continuing to shrink while streaming platforms’ market share rises. As such, any “digital discount” would enable broadcasters to claw back money they’d otherwise be required to share with artists in a digital-first future — meaning that LeGeyt and the NAB are effectively trying to screw over artists in a whole new way over a much longer time horizon.

We’re not going to fall for that. The button you push on your car stereo shouldn’t determine whether an artist gets paid. Whether it’s on AM/FM radio or a streaming app, you’re listening to the same song — and it should be treated the same under the law.

Fourth, other creators shouldn’t be harmed. Despite Big Radio’s complaining about how the very notion of paying when they play music, broadcasters are already required to pay some royalties for radio airplay — to the songwriters who wrote the song.

Songwriters and their publishers should get paid when their songs get played. That is fair and should not change. We’re just asking for performers to get the same treatment.

However, as part of their “grow the pie” strategy, the NAB is likely to propose redistributing these publishing royalties as part of any new construct — again, as an attempt to cut costs for their corporate broadcasting bosses.

We won’t stand for that. We’re going to fight to get performers paid when their music gets played — but that money absolutely should not come out of songwriters’ pockets. Big Radio needs to open their wallets and pay all creatives a fair wage for their work. We’re not going to let them pit the creative community against ourselves.

Fifth, and finally, any solution must be legislative in nature. At its core, the radio loophole is a problem of bad, outdated law — and the only way to fix it is to pass a new one. Any solution must be legislative in nature, not some private handshake deal between the involved parties.

Here’s why: Virtually every developed nation on earth pays artists for radio airplay — except the United States. And that comes with a cost. Currently, foreign governments withhold roughly $200 million in annual royalties from American artists because our government doesn’t reciprocate and pay their artists. That money needs to come back home — but it can’t until we change our laws. That is why legislation is essential.

At the end of the day, our position is simple: Artists must be paid for their work, and we must provide certainty to truly local radio stations. That’s just basic fairness.

The music community has always been ready to negotiate in good faith — as long as corporate broadcasters were willing to do the same. It’s time to end this injustice.




  1. Gee, I wonder who has been more friendly to artists through the years:

    The record labels, who routinely are sued by artists for cheating them out of royalties;

    Or radio stations, who break new artists, help jump-start their careers, sustain the careers of legacy artists on oldies stations, help them sell concert tickets, merch, etc.

    Indeed, Radio has been just so awful to artists that the record labels hire people to encourage stations to break payola laws.

  2. So, it’s really time for the big labels to go away and be replaced by two organizations devoted solely to distributing royalties to the creators and performers of music! After all, just as the digital age has been altering the broadcast scene, so has it changed the way music is written, published and recorded.

    One does not need a multi-million dollar studio to record music and master albums. Even a device as diminutive as a smart phone can record and post process sound making everyone a podcaster. Very good sounding digital audio mixing boards with lots of built-in processing, even expensive sounding microphone emulations are within price reach of hobbyists. Most of us broadcasters have high quality DAW software running in our production rooms that back in the 1990’s would have been way too expensive to own.

    Many recording artists have bypassed the record labels, often starting their own and using home studios to create their recordings. They deserve to get the royalty checks, not the big record companies.

  3. To clarify, there is no “radio loophole.” There never was. Back in the 1930s, when every other country set up structures for royalties, the record companies in the US were opposed to radio airplay. They sued radio stations for playing music, and they put warnings on records that they could not be played on the radio. Then they lost all of the court cases related to radio airplay, and the final judgement was that playing music on the radio was allowed. But the record labels never pursued any royalties in Congress and never set up a system by which the royalties would be collected. There was no loophole. The only aspect of music covered under the copyright act is for songwriters. That’s how the law was written, and it hasn’t changed. What MusicFirst wants is a new royalty, one that doesn’t currently exist. In order to create this new royalty, they need to get Congress to sign a new law. The problem is that the law they want passed is completely unfair to radio, and they don’t want to discuss ways to make their law fair. They just want it signed and implemented. Congress is not going to do that.

    One more thing: Crowley keeps talking about paying the artists. He does not represent the artists. The artists are not the ones pushing for this royalty. Crowley gets paid by the record labels. The recording industry owns MusicFirst and is pushing for this royalty. The money collected would go to the labels, and they would disburse it to everyone else. That’s really what this is about. A big windfall for record labels.


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