Radio Faces a Battle Over Music

Radio stations have a new problem to add to their woes. They’re being challenged by a proposal by record labels and artists to require them to pay up to $500 million more in royalties for the priviledge of playing their songs.

Radio stations already pay out hefty fees to songwriters and music publishers to license the tunes. But big names like Sheryl Crow and Tony Bennett are trying to woo Congress to support a bill that would assess the additional fee, pushing some overleveraged radio stations to financial brink.

For the music industry, winning a new levy like this would prop them up after decades of declining CD sales, and a losing fight against piracy. Each side is fighting hard, the radio people saying they are the ones who promote music, and the musicians saying that without them radio is nothing.

One lobbyist for the music industry claims radio’s promotional value is on the wane. So many people get their music from so many different sources, she says, ‘music promotes radio,’ not the other way around. But Boston’s famous radio programmer Oedipus retorts, ‘Can you imagine the outrage if radio stations demanded to be paid for playing a song? After all, it is a commercial for the band.”

According to the story in the WSJ, the House Judiciary Committee could vote on the bill as early as next week. Stay tuned, and keep listening!