With CD sales tumbling, record companies and musicians are looking at a new potential pot of money: royalties from broadcast radio stations.
For years, stations have paid royalties to composers and publishers when they played their songs. But they enjoy a federal exemption when paying the performers and record labels because, they argue, the airplay sells music.
Now, the Recording Industry Assn. of America and several artists’ groups are getting ready to push Congress to repeal the exemption, a move that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually in new royalties.
Mary Wilson, who with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard formed the original Supremes, said the exemption was unfair and forced older musicians to continue touring to pay their bills.
The Recording Industry Association of America filed a $7.1 billion lawsuit against the nation’s radio stations Monday, accusing them of freely distributing copyrighted music.
“It’s criminal,” RIAA president Hilary Rosen said. “Anyone at any time can simply turn on a radio and hear a copyrighted song. Making matters worse, these radio stations often play the best, catchiest song off the album over and over until people get sick of it. Where is the incentive for people to go out and buy the album?”