Musicians want pay for radio play

Recording artists take aim at industry

A coalition of musicians has been organized to solicit payment for having their performances played on radio — and the National Assn. of Broadcasters immediately fired back, threatening to fight any of the organization’s attempts to generate legislation.

The org, MusicFirst (the latter part stands for “fairness in radio starting today”), is asking that the radio industry be held to the same standards as satellite, cable and Internet radio.

Mark Kadesh, executive director of MusicFirst, said the org is pushing for legislation that would close the “corporate radio loophole” and require compensation to artists.

Founding members include more than 100 recording artists, among them Christina Aguilera, Jimmy Buffett, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Don Henley, Toby Keith, John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, Martha Reeves and Mary Wilson.

Currently, payments from radio airplay are made only to songwriters and music publishers. The U.S. is the only Western free-market nation that does not require radio stations to pay artists and labels when they broadcast performances on the radio, according to the organization.

“The recognition in American law that the performance of music on AM and FM radio has value — and that artists’ contributions to that value must be acknowledged and compensated — is long overdue,” said AFTRA national executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America has been touting the idea of a tax charged to radio stations that the NAB has said it will aggressively fight.

“Congress has long recognized that radio airplay of music generates millions of dollars in revenue for record labels and artists,” said NAB exec veep Dennis Wharton. “Were it not for radio’s free promotional airplay of music on stations all over America, most successful recording artists would still be playing in a garage.”

Kadesh noted, “Corporate radio is the only medium that refuses to pay performers even a fraction of a penny for their voice and creativity. This campaign is about making sure everyone, from up-and-coming artists to our favorites from years ago, is guaranteed fair treatment when their music is played.”

The NAB, in providing its side of the story, reissued a pro-radio promo tape that John Legend recorded in 2005, praising radio’s efforts in establishing his career. Legend is among the artists in MusicFirst.

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