Broadcasters defend radio stations’ free music

Broadcasters are defending radio stations’ ability to play music without paying musicians as Congress looks to update the copyright system.

Late Tuesday, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) released a new study arguing that musicians sell more songs when radio stations play those songs.

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"This study highlights clearly the enormous value that radio airplay provides in promoting music and generating music sales," NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton said in a statement.

"Local radio remains the premiere platform for exposing new music and generating sales for record labels."

According to the study — conducted by Nielsen and commissioned by NAB — increased radio airplay has “an immediate” impact on a song’s sales and drives on-demand streaming of that song.

The study noted to a strong correlation between radio airplay and sales, which is even stronger for country, Latin and Top 40 music.

The study announced Tuesday also pointed to a previous Nielsen study, which found that 61 percent of people discover new music through AM/FM radio stations. 

Currently, AM/FM radio stations do not pay musicians to play their songs over the air, a facet of the current copyright system that some lawmakers are determined to change. 

Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced a bill earlier this year to require AM/FM radio stations to pay musicians for the songs they play.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) — the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property — has said he wants to require radio stations to pay musicians as part of a sweeping music licensing reform bill he hopes to introduce in the coming weeks.

While some criticize the current music licensing system for allowing radio stations to profit from playing songs without paying the musicians who recorded those songs, broadcasters often tout the value of radio airplay to musicians.

A majority of the House supports a broadcaster-backed resolution that would keep Congress from forcing radio stations to pay “any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge.”