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Labels, NAB Escalate Efforts to Gain Congressional Attention

Performance fee fight heated up in public this week

The battle between record labels and broadcasters evolved into a dueling display of lobbying in Washington this week. They back different bills pending before Congress on the issue.

The National Association of Broadcasters placed a series of anti-performance royalty ads — NAB calls it a “tax” — in the Washington subway system at a stop near the U.S. Capitol Building. Commuters entering and exiting the subway system through the Capitol South station can see 45 advertisements promoting free, local radio.

The ads oppose an effort led by the Recording Industry Association of America to levy a new fee on radio stations for music aired free to listeners, saying the fee would bankrupt stations and ignores free promotion new music receives through airplay. The new fee is for airplay; terrestrial radio already pays royalties to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for recorded copyrighted music. The record labels say satellite, cable and Internet radio already pay performance fees and so too should terrestrial radio.

The NAB ads are part of a recently launched marketing campaign and direct America’s 235 million weekly radio listeners to visit to learn more about the issue.

Meanwhile Tony Bennett sang “The Good Life” at a music industry event promoting the performance royalty. At a private event sponsored by the musicFirst Coalition for lawmakers and other guests, Bennett called for passage of a bill to impose a performance fee on broadcast radio stations.

Guests included included Senate bill sponsors Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., according to an account in the Washington Post.