Musician Group Alleges Retaliation by Radio Stations Over Performance Rights Act

Associated Press
Thursday, June 11, 2009

Which top-selling artist purportedly had a new single yanked from some radio stations playlists in retaliation for supporting royalties for musicians?

No one involved will name the recording artist, but the no-play treatment by several radio stations is alleged in a complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission and obtained by the Associated Press. The complaint claims recording artists are being threatened and intimidated.

In the filing, the musicFIRST Coalition says the top-selling artist recently released a new album and, in April, spoke in support of an effort to require radio stations to pay musicians royalties similar to those paid to songwriters.

Soon after, the filing said, "Several stations within a major radio broadcast group notified the artist's label that they would no longer play his single on the air."

Representatives for musicFIRST refused to identify the artist. The complaint said artists asked to remain unidentified "to protect against further reprisal."

One of the more outspoken artists on the matter has been U2's Bono. In April, Bono issued a statement on behalf of pay for musicians, saying: "It's only fair that when radio makes money by playing a recording artist's music . . . the recording artist should be compensated just as songwriters are already."

The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents about 6,500 radio stations nationwide, denied any attempt by stations to retaliate or intimidate artists. A statement by NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton called the complaint a "stunt" and said artists who support royalties, such as Will.I.Am, get great play on the radio.

Will.I.Am's group Black Eyed Peas is "currently Number 1 on Billboard's Pop 100 Airplay Chart with the song 'Boom Boom Pow,' " said the statement. The single was distributed in May, and the group's new album, "The E.N.D." was released in June.

The filing by musicFIRST also alleges unfair treatment of other artists by radio stations in Florida, Delaware and Texas. It does not identify any of the stations but accuses them of unlawfully putting their own financial interests above their obligation to serve the public. The group asks the FCC, which regulates the public airwaves, to investigate.

The controversy centers on legislation in Congress that would require radio stations to pay musicians royalties. Satellite radio, Internet radio and cable TV music channels already pay fees to performers and musicians, along with songwriter royalties. AM and FM radio stations just pay songwriters, not performers.

The NAB opposes the bill, called the Performance Rights Act. The group says it amounts to a tax on U.S. radio stations and threatens thousands of jobs.

The filing by musicFIRST, made late Tuesday, also said:

-- A Delaware radio station boycotted all artists affiliated with musicFIRST for an entire month.

-- Before an interview, an artist was pressured by a Texas radio station to state on the air that the Performance Rights Act would cripple radio stations.

Other artists involved with musicFIRST include Don Henley, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera and Wyclef Jean.

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