Last month a group of recording artists and organizations calling itself the Music First Coalition joined forces in order to seek royalties for their music when it gets played the radio. Their mission statement, according to the Music First Coalition website, is to “level the playing field and promote fairness among all types of radio,” adding, “Corporate Radio has had a free pass for too long.”
The movers and shakers behind the Coalition are several key recording industry groups (including the RIAA, Soundexchange, the American Federation of Musicians and the Christian Music Trade Association). Among the 100-plus musicians listed as “Founding Artists” on the website are everyone from such progressive-minded performers as Aimee Mann, Warren Haynes, Brian Wilson, the Dixie Chicks, Los Lonely Boys and the Thievery Corporation to the, er, less forward-thinking likes of Toby Keith, John Legend, the Pussycat Dolls, Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Don Henley, Barry Manilow and Alanis Morissette. On the surface, it’s hard to find fault with anyone who’s simply trying to get paid fairly for his or her work, much less banding together — strange bedfellows or no strange bedfellows — in the hopes that strength in numbers will prevail.
In fact, for years artists’ groups have been making noises about getting radio airplay royalties, so the Music First Coalition isn’t exactly singing a new tune here. And to date, broadcasters’ organizations such as the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have successfully argued that without radio airplay, artists wouldn’t be able to sell nearly as many records as they do — that airplay and music sales are positively linked.
A June 15 editorial by Radio Magazine weighed in on the matter, pointing out that both sides of the issue bear scrutiny while observing that portions of the Coalition’s stance were somewhat dubious:
“Music royalties have become a major issue in recent years. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act brought many of the previous loopholes to light. The NAB has already begun its campaign against the coalition’s efforts, and if its zeal in this case matches what the NAB has done in the satellite radio debate, there will be a great deal of attention on this issue. The NAB’s rebuttal to the coalition’s announcement singles out John Legend, a member of the coalition, who also participated in a terrestrial radio promotional campaign in 2005 where the artist thanked radio for its contribution to boosting the performer’s career.
“It’s true th