Musicians want radio stations to pay to play tunes

Sheryl Crow, will.i.am, Herbie Hancock and other entertainers on Tuesday urged Congress to force radio stations to pay performers when their music is broadcast.

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 do not pay performers' royalties, just songwriters.

"People deserve to be paid when somebody else uses their property," Hancock said.

He and the other musicians, including Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle, appeared at a news conference on Capitol Hill on behalf of the musicFIRST Coalition. The group is pushing legislation that would require radio stations to pay musicians royalties similar to those paid to songwriters.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which opposes the measure, said a fee would put thousands of radio jobs at risk. The association also argues that stations drive listeners to buy music and concert tickets.

"NAB welcomes an honest debate over whether radio stations or the record labels have historically been a 'better friend' to musicians," Dennis Wharton, the organization's executive vice president, said in a written statement.

Hancock said people tune in to the radio because of the music.

"Just as radio promotes music, music promotes radio," he said.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced bills that would make radio stations pay the artists when their songs get airtime.

Advocates say the bill accommodates smaller commercial stations, which could pay $5,000 a year. Public radio, college stations and other noncommercial stations could pay $1,000. Larger stations' rates would be set through a government regulatory board, which would determine the fair market price for the use of the songs. The smaller stations could also choose to have their rates set by the board.

Warwick said she hasn't been compensated while her songs played around the world for 48 years.

"I think now is about time that I do get paid," she said.

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