Tag Archives for " NAB "
Almost from the beginning of the industry, recording artists have complained about not being compensated for radio airplay. Sure, songwriters get paid, but artists and labels never receive a dime. This is a phenomena unique to the United States, since in most other countries artist compensation has long been settled. While legislation to pay artists has been put forward from time to time over the years, the powerful NAB has managed to squash it every time. However, a new bill that thinks outside the box on the subject may finally bring the broadcasters to the table.
Last week a bipartisan bill called the PROMOTE Act (Performance Royalty Owners of Music Opportunity To Earn Act) was reintroduced to Congress with an interesting twist that could make radio broadcast very interesting for a while. The bill gives a label the right to pull its music a radio station if it chose to do so. Of course, the reason that it would do that is so that the broadcaster would ultimately pay for the privilege of airing it.
This could be interesting if a label pulled its big hits off a station, but imagine if it pulled its entire catalog? On the other hand, do artists feel secure enough knowing that a large group of potential fans might never be exposed to their music?
Broadcasters have always maintained that although artists and labels don’t get paid from radio airplay, what they do receive is substantial promotion in return which could make or break a career. This has been true through the decades, and is even true today as radio is still the number one place that people discover new music. That said, with streaming music having more and more influence on the typical listener, that perspective might be changing (Ed Sheeran and Drake haven’t seemed to need it lately).
If a major radio station suddenly wouldn’t have the latest Maroon 5, Taylor Swift or Katy Perry single, would that force listeners away and into streaming’s waiting arms? If it were your career, would you be willing to risk eliminating a huge potential audience as part of the battle to force broadcasters to pay?
These are some of the deep questions for all involved, but should the bill pass (and there’s no guarantee that it will), it will make radio a lot more interesting than it is today.
Radio is still a big part of an artist’s success, but did you know that an artist doesn’t get paid for radio airplay in the United States? Songwriters get paid from money collected from broadcasters by ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, but there’s no mechanism in place for an artist to get paid for the same airplay.
As an example, the Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” is the most played song on the radio ever, with more than 15 million plays since its release in 1964, yet the group never received a dime from all that radio play. The writers (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector) got rich, however.
Unbelievably, the U.S. is one of only 4 countries in the world that doesn’t pay artists for radio airplay. More unbelievably, the other 3 are North Korea, Iran and China, none of which are exactly known for their artistic freedom or copyright protections.
So what’s the problem in the U.S.? Lobbyists, to put it simply. The National Association of Broadcasters is very powerful and contributes to many political campaigns, so they’ve always managed to quash any legislation that gets introduced to Congress.
The NAB has always threatened that radio and television stations would go bankrupt and be forced to go off the air if legislation was passed mandating them to pay artists for playing their songs, all while the industry was raking in billions of dollars of profits.
Sadly, this situation won’t change soon, mostly because radio is in a true downswing (especially AM) with advertisers moving their money away from radio to social media instead (streaming platforms do pay artists for airplay, by the way).
Radio still helps break a song as millions of people continue to listen at work and in their cars, but it’s mostly from the top 1% artists or those backed by the major labels. It’s irrelevant to young artists and bands since airplay is out of reach.
While the rates seem low, music streaming is an artists friend, since at least you get paid something. Because unless you’re the writer, you’re not going to see any money from radio airplay. And at least online is a place for a young artist to build an audience, since local radio (once the champion of local music scenes everywhere) barely exists anymore, and many colleges have shed their terrestrial radio stations.
For a deeper look into the subject, check out this article on Medium from CD Baby’s CEO Tracy Maddux.