Music industry blasts broadcasters over performance rights

Musicians and recording studios sent a letter to Capitol Hill this morning blasting broadcasters' latest advertising campaign.

The letter, sent to all members, is the latest jab in a long-running battle over royalties. The music industry wants broadcasters to pay singers and performers a royalty for playing their songs on the air. Broadcasters call the royalty a "tax" and say airing the music is free promotion for the artists.

Currently, only songwriters receive royalties. But as the music industry struggles more than ever to recoup costs in the midst of plummeting CD sales, singers and bands say they deserve a cut of the payments as well.

The Recording Industry Association of America, Music Managers Forum, American Association of Independent Music, and others say the promotional value of radio airplay has declined dramatically because audiences now get their music from so many other sources.

The Judiciary Committees of both chambers have passed the Performance Rights Act that would require broadcasters to pay the additional royalties. The National Association of Broadcasters has stepped up its lobbying and advertising campaigns on the airwaves to prevent the bill from moving forward.

NAB is also asking members to sign a resolution called the Local Radio Freedom Act.

Congress directed NAB and musicFirst, a coalition of studios and artists, to meet privately to try to work out an agreement.

"Is there any legitimate reason why broadcasters should be able to build a business using our music without our being paid or at least having the right to say no thanks?" the musicFirst letter asked.  "The answer, of course, is no."