Victory over artists

In Las Vegas last week, National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith applauded his organization for killing legislation requiring terrestrial radio stations from having to pay royalties to the performers they use, royalties that the NAB formerly called a tax (“TV ads distort issue,” RN&R, Feb. 25, 2010).

The former Oregon U.S. senator said, “When I first arrived at NAB, we were fighting passage of the Performance Rights Act, a bill to levy a fee on local radio that had the momentum of a fast moving freight train. But because of some very smart leaders in both the radio and TV business, NAB was able to thwart this piece of legislation that could have devastated the financial model of free and local radio.”

The legislation would have required stations to pay the same royalties that other services, such as Muzak, already pay. Nevada’s U.S. Sen. Harry Reid was instrumental in defeating the royalties.

Nate Anderson of the online media magazine Ars Technica wrote, “Radio stations pay only songwriters for the music they play; recording artists get nothing (except publicity).” Two years ago in Las Vegas, performers protested outside the NAB convention with an inflatable pig and signs about “Piggy radio.”