Should Artists Be Paid for Radio Airplay?

SXSW Panels

Ballroom Dancing
Photo by Gary Miller

Should Artists Be Paid for Radio Airplay?

Austin Convention Center, Thursday, March 19

Suddenly, the usual symbiotic relationship between musicians and radio is at risk. Recording artists are asking to be paid for airplay, which is different from the payments already collected for songwriters. The radio industry is pushing back. Moderated by Terrie Bjorklund, a lawyer for the performers union American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, it pitted the two sides yet gave full flavor to what the conflict's all about. John Simson, representing Washington, D.C.-area SoundExchange, a clearinghouse for royalties collected for digital sources, gave a brief history of performance-rights payments that explained how radio came to be exempted. Scott Gillmore of Emmis Austin, a relatively small group of six stations, acknowledged that radio and music have a long-running, mutually beneficial relationship but observed that "the radio industry is under pressure from the economy and everything else from satellite radio to iPods, so this might not be the best time to discuss this." Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson pointed out that the problem is the broadcasters. "We understand that the playing field has changed recently," he said. "But radio won't even talk about it. Musicians' interests are being overlooked when all they want is to get paid for the use of their work."

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