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This Is a Simple Issue of Fairness

MusicFirst: 'We are ready to work with NAB and craft the solution as partners'

Jennifer Bendall
MusicFirst and its member organizations care deeply about music. We are amazed by the lack of respect the National Association of Broadcasters pays to the artists, musicians and rights holders who bring music to life and listeners’ ears to the radio dial.

We are also amazed by how dismissive they are of Radio World’s suggestion that music and radio work together to create a fair performance right on radio.

We could easily object to Radio World’s June 3 editorial (“Time for a Cease-Fire“) as the NAB did, but we saw it as an invitation to a new, open dialog on the issue.

Let’s talk

Like the NAB, we share a passion for music and we care deeply about its future.

The musicFirst coalition is a genuine coalition with equal leadership representing artists, musicians and rights holders. We are and have always been willing to wipe the slate clean, just as Radio World suggests. We have also been willing to come to the table and negotiate. Always have.

But the NAB refuses to do any such thing. They have constantly refused our overtures to sit down and talk. They have said no to members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, who have encouraged them to negotiate with us. Instead, the NAB continues to run a disingenuous campaign against the Performance Rights Act, spreading lies and misinformation to the general public and challenging the character and integrity of members of Congress who support it.

What the NAB must acknowledge is that the Performance Rights Act is not about fixing a failed business model — nor does it come down too heavily on radio.

Artists and musicians have been fighting for a fair performance right on radio for more than 70 years, since it was denied them by a 1939 federal court decision. The Performance Rights Act is about fairness to artists, musicians and rights holders, fairness to other radio platforms and fairness to AM and FM music radio.

This is not a “new” fight brought on by the record labels, as NAB would like to claim. This is a simple issue of fairness. Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, especially when others use it to make billions.

The NAB claims “not the time, not the issue.” But when will the time be right? Artists, musicians and rights holders have been waiting decades to get paid for their musical creations — creations that allow radio to sell billions of dollars in advertising revenue each year.

And let’s not forget that our leaders in Congress have worked diligently to make sure that the Performance Rights Act includes special accommodations for nearly 75 percent of music radio stations in the country. Small stations will pay $5,000 a year or less to clear the rights for all the music they use. Some will pay as little as $500. Noncommercial and NPR stations will pay $1,000 or less. And most stations will not have to pay anything until three years after the bill is signed into law.

We have always been prepared to roll up our sleeves and get to work for a fair solution. The NAB has acknowledged that they are not. We will continue to work with our champions in Congress to pass the Performance Rights Act; we will not unilaterally disarm. But we are ready to work with NAB and craft the solution as partners, partners that respect each other’s important contribution to music radio.

The author is executive director of the musicFirst Coalition.

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