Radio stations would pay for music under House bill

October 1, 2013

Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) introduced a bill Monday that would require radio broadcasters to negotiate with musicians for the rights to play their songs. Watt’s bill – which he called the free market solution – was applauded by members of the music industry and decried by broadcasters. 

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Watt’s bill would put the U.S. on a level playing field with the rest of the world, according to Casey Rae, interim executive director of the Future of Music coalition, a musician advocacy group.

Because the U.S. does not have a performance royalty right for musicians when their songs are played on radio stations, “American artists are currently unable to collect royalties owed to them when their music is played abroad,” he said.

“There’s no other export that the US would give away freely in the global marketplace, and it’s high time that America joins the rest of the developed world in compensating artists for airplay.”

Though some radio broadcasters, such as Clear Channel, are working with record labels to reach licensing agreements on their own, Watt was critical of those agreements.

“What these deals really highlight is the uneven patchwork of rights that infects any effort to negotiate in the market as it stands today,” he said.

The bill’s supporters echoed Watt’s criticism of the licensing deals.

“The biggest radio conglomerates like Clear Channel are touting private market deals, but these arrangements don’t ensure fair compensation to artists, nor do they address the millions of dollars left on the table overseas,” Rae said.

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