For years, music publishers and radio stations have battled over the fact that radio stations don’t have to pay anything to the artists for playing their songs. That battle makes sense–radio stations don’t make money unless people listen, and people want to listen to songs owned by artists–but it makes sense the other way too–songs become popular, still, through the radio, so it’s free promotion.
However, the battle between the groups reached a weird federal level this past week, when the American Federation of Musicians, the Recording Academy and SoundExchange sent a letter to the deficit reduction supercommittee, asking them to start selling off radio and television “spectrum”–the bands that transmit radio and television signals–to any company that wants it, in an attempt to raise revenue.
It’s kind of a backwards way of trying to force radio companies to overspend for their operating costs, and it might make them unable to continue to run the kind of business they’ve been running for free. But radio stations have been paying less than their fair share of the operating costs of their stations, relying on kick-backs on cheap spectrum from the government.
So basically, musicians want radio to pay, and force users to move to places like Internet radio, a venue where artists actually get paid of their work. It’s an interesting battle that could get uglier if the debt supercommittee decides to sell of spectrum. Read more here.