Music coalition pitches royalties

Artists, advocates support Performance Rights Act on Capitol Hill

The music industry and broadcasters amped up their rhetoric in the contentious battle over a proposed performance royalty, pitching lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as well as anyone else willing to listen.

At a press conference, the MusicFirst Coalition, which includes artists and record labels, announced the launch of its 2010 campaign for passage of the Performance Rights Act, which would require that broadcast radio stations pay royalties to performers when their music is played over the air. The event at the Rayburn House Office Building unveiled a newly expanded coalition, redesigned Web page and other plans to further the cause this year.

The featured artist was singer Dionne Warwick, who repped some 250 musicians who have lent their time and talents to the campaign for compensation from radio stations. Warwick offered apassionate plea for the legislation she said would finally compensate performers for their efforts.

The campaign will feature broader outreach activities this year including town hall meetings and grassroots campaigns in major cities nationwide, according to spokesman Marty Machowsky. Its ranks have also been broadened to include numerous sympathetic orgs including the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), National Congress of Black Women, National Puerto Rican Coalition, League of Rural Voters, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and National Assn. for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

Others on hand for the gathering included NAACP veepee Hilary Shelton; Susan Scanlan, chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations; Gary Flowers, CEO of the Black Leadership Forum; and Brent Wilkes, exec director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

If the musicians and friends had hoped to enjoy relative freedom from opposition to their quest, they selected a bad day for their shindig. More than 400 radio and TV broadcasters also gathered in D.C. this week for the National Assn. of Broadcasters’ State Leadership Conference, an event that always includes pressing the flesh on Capitol Hill for various legislative pursuits. For radio stations, there is no bigger cause than a “performance tax,” as the NAB’s well-heeled campaign refers to the proposed legislation.

“The unfortunate truth is that this legislation benefits foreign-owned record labels to the detriment of ‘struggling artists,’?” railed the NAB in its latest salvo against the campaign. It said some 256 congressmen and 27 senators are opposed to the bill.

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