Musicians takes stand against ‘tax’

NAB decision irks music community

Musicians to broadcasters: Look it up!

The National Assn. of Broadcasters has labeled a radio performance royalty sought by the recording industry a performance “tax,” and in an attempt to counter that strategy, a music lobbying group sent NAB prexy David Rehr a copy of the American Heritage College Dictionary “to help the NAB more accurately understand the meaning” of the word.

“Mr. Rehr and representatives of the NAB have been publicly calling the payment of fair royalties to hard-working musicians a ‘tax’ in an effort to confuse members of Congress and others,” the Music First coalition said Monday. “The dictionary sent to Mr. Rehr defines tax as ‘a contribution for the support of a government required of persons, groups or businesses within the domain of that government.'”

In a statement, vocalist Martha Reeves, a founding member of Music First, said: “As an elected member of the Detroit City Council, I deal with tax issues all the time. A performance right is not a tax. It is fair compensation for artists and musicians who, through their voices, their inspiration and their hearts and souls, bring music to life on the radio. It is compensation earned by artists and musicians that is long overdue.”

Songwriters and music publishers receive royalties any time one of their recordings is broadcast on radio, but performing artists do not.

John Simson, exec director of SoundExchange, which collects digital performance royalties, said the NAB “will do anything to avoid paying artists.”

NAB exec veep Dennis Wharton responded: “Radio broadcasters currently pay nearly $500 million a year to songwriters and music publishers. Now, in an effort to bail out a failing business model, the Recording Industry Assn. of America is seeking a tax on local radio to the tune of billions of dollars.

“It is undeniable that free airplay of music on America’s hometown radio stations generates millions of dollars in annual revenue for both artists and the foreign-owned record labels. This proposed massive transference of wealth into the legal coffers of RIAA to fund more litigation against college kids and grandmothers would be unfair, unwise and unwarranted.”

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