RIAA To Traditional Radio: It's Time To Pay Royalties

The RIAA has a new “freeloader” in its sights, traditional radio stations. According to the LA Times, the RIAA is going after the federal exemption that allows broadcasters to avoid paying performance royalties to record labels and performers because radio play sells records.

“The creation of music is suffering because of declining sales,” said RIAA Chief Executive Mitch Bainwol. “We clearly have a more difficult time tolerating gaps in revenues that should be there.”

The National Association of Broadcasters responds,

“The existing system actually provides the epitome of fairness for all parties: free music for free promotion,” wrote NAB President David Rehr.

Our friend Howard Berman (D-California) unsurprisingly supports removing the exemption, “Given the many different ways to promote music now that didn’t exist as effectively when this original exemption was made,” he said, “the logic of that I think is more dubious.” —MEGHANN MARCO

Artists and labels seek royalties from radio [LA Times]
(Photo: Mickey G Ottawa)


Edit Your Comment

  1. B says:

    Well, the best outcome would be the RIAA drives ClearChannel out of business. However, the most likely outcome is this will be the end of independent radio stations.

  2. rmz says:

    So, the massive annual fees to the copyright agencies aren’t enough? Say goodbye to any and all small-time (i.e. college) radio stations.

    Wring out that money sponge some more, RIAA.

  3. Trai_Dep says:

    There’s actually a stronger argument for RIAA in this case. Clear Channel has done such a supendous job of gutting diversity in radio, while removing local DJs that might, you know, mention the song name/artist of what was just played, that people might reasonably ask, “WHAT promotion value?”

  4. eldergias says:

    Wow, does the RIAA realize that you are not supposed to poop where you eat? Hey, lets kill the radio stations, and stores playing music, and absolutely every medium of listening to music aside from people buying CDs or tacks online. That will get us money right? Wrong stupid. How will people know what songs they like and thus should buy? How will people know what artists they like and thus should support. No one walks into a store and buys random CDs of people they have never heard to see if they like them. You buy the material you already know you like, and since you are making it impossible for people to know what they should buy, you are going to make even more people stop buying music. Congratulations RIAA, you have ordered your own demise.

  5. SeattleGuy says:

    I wish this industry would wake up and smell the coffee. They are going to die choking in their own vomit.

    Or maybe I don’t want them to wake up…

    I already don’t buy new, mainstream music because of these jerks. Now, what will happen is that the college radio stations I listen to will play even MORE Indie music for me to discover and support further hastening the demise of the RIAA. They are killing themselves and don’t recognize it. Sweet justice.

  6. WMeredith says:

    Holy BALLS this just keeps getting better. Why on Earth would you not want anyone to listen to music, when you’re in the business of selling music?

  7. Wormfather says:

    People, there is good news.

    After the radio stations the RIAA is bound to go after MTV and that’ll be the end of that horrible place.

    …what do you mean MTV doesnt play music anymore?

  8. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Oh RIAA and their anticonsumer behavior. Maybe this is a good thing….nobody listens to their crap, nobody BUYS their crap, and they go out of business. Yay.

  9. lincolnparadox says:

    Not all music comes from the RIAA. Indie radio stations will just have to choose from non-RIAA catalogs. Heck, corporate radio stations may just do the same thing, if paying royalties gets too expensive.

    Where can you find non-RIAA music, you ask? Here’s a handy website…


    Now, you’re not going to find many artists in the Billboard charts. But you might find some music that you like.

  10. DashTheHand says:

    What the RIAA doesn’t realize is that the harder they fight, the more people want to disobey them. They’re also doing a good job of killing off music as a whole. Apparently they want a sterile future.

  11. eldergias says:
  12. @WMeredith: Perhaps the RIAA legal team is entirely staffed by beings from bizarro world.

    @SeattleGuy: There’s an indie station where I live that only plays mainstream music on April Fools Day. I guess they won’t even be able to do that now.

    @B: The independent stations can just switch to all independent music but I bet most of the Clear Channel stations won’t know how to do that so they’ll either increase the amount of ads they air or they’ll go under. If this passes it could be the best thing to happen to independent music (though on principle it shouldn’t).

  13. “The creation of music is suffering because of declining sales.”

    I typically don’t jump on any anti-RIAA bandwagon posts, but I really do love authoritarian quotes like that. It’s almost as if they think they’re the Alan Greenspan of creativity accross the US.

    Somewhere in the US there is someone not making music because a the RIAA isn’t getting their dues. An artists puts down the bagpipe, a little girl stops humming a tune, and a pervasive silence fills the void….

    …But not too much silence, otherwise you might owe a royalty to John Cage.

  14. dresden says:

    Who are these “artists” that support the RIAA so much that they wish to not be played on the radio? Is there a list somewhere? If so, everyone should make it a point to steal their music, regardless of how much it probably sucks.

  15. Papercutninja says:

    Judging by ALL the radio stations by me (NYC), only Kelly Clarkson, Fergie and Gwen Stefani will benefit from this.

  16. kpbabb says:

    Maybe its just me, but I see this as a good thing. If the RIAA is stupid enough to kill off most of the free radio experience, there are a lot of people who will be very upset. And a lot of those people are not the people who are dealing with the RIAA online right now. A lot of my family listens to the radio, a lot of people I know listen to the radio, and if the RIAA is stupid enough to make it so these radio stations have to sell more advertising time to stay open, then the listeners will be upset enough to actually take action against the RIAA due to their draconian measures dealing with the distribution of legally acquired music throughout the US, and maybe the RIAA will finally die, like it should have years ago.

  17. eldergias says:

    All- Radio stations will have to pay royalties RIAA when playing Indie music too (so says one article):

    Indie RIAA Royalties

  18. @eldergias: Dude, WTF?!?!

  19. joopiter says:

    Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood how it works, but isn’t SoundExchange set up to collect royalties on everything REGARDLESS of whether the artist is a member of the RIAA? Then if the artist wanted the royalites paid to them, they had to pay to become a member of SoundExchange? If that’s the case, and the RIAA gets its way with exacting more blood money from broadcasters, then there’s actually no way to avoid the RIAA if you want to listen to the radio.


    Feel free to refute this if it’s actually bogus. I won’t take it as a defense of the RIAA. ;)

  20. ShadowFalls says:

    The creation of music is not suffering, the artists ave gone independent as they don’t want to be owned by the music cartels. This way they see profits from their work, and with the internet, they can get equivalent if not better exposure.

  21. riggs says:

    I’m waiting for the RIAA to send someone to stand in my living room and make me hand over a dollar whenever I turn on my stereo.

  22. joopiter says:

    @eldergias: Sorry eldergias, I missed your post which basically said the same thing as I wrote. :)

  23. @eldergias: “Hey, lets kill the radio stations, and stores playing music, and absolutely every medium of listening to music aside from people buying CDs or tacks online. That will get us money right?”

    My thoughts exactly.

    “How will people know what songs they like and thus should buy?”


  24. gafpromise says:

    “The creation of music is suffering because of declining sales,” said RIAA Chief Executive Mitch Bainwol. “We clearly have a more difficult time tolerating gaps in revenues that should be there.”

    Hmmm, clearly they have enough disposable revenue to keep paying their attorneys for all the overtime they’ve been putting in lately!

    Yep, don’t feel at all sorry for them. The times they are a-changing, and RIAA’s going to have to figure out how to work within the new order of things. Ya can’t put this horse back in the stable now!

  25. TheBigLewinski says:

    Ahhh, self castration, RIAA is cutting off their own balls. What a bunch of dumfucks.

  26. TedSez says:

    Won’t the payola companies — I mean, PR companies — that were illegally paying radio stations to play their “hits” going to have to up their fees to make up for this? I guess it’ll all even out in the end.

  27. crayonshinobi says:

    Assumptions taken from the article: radio play of music = advertising; advertising = sales revenue for RIAA

    So, if radio stations play more commercials, this reduces radio play of music, which in turn reduces advertising of music, which in turn reduces RIAA’s revenue. (This might be the real reason the RIAA is seeing “gaps” in their revenue stream, as radio is at least 70% advertising these days)

    So in reality, the RIAA should be paying the radio stations to play more music and less commercials.

    And in that way, everyone wins.

    If the RIAA thinks radio play ≠ advertising, then I look forward to their imminent and assured demise.

  28. kenposan says:

    Doesn’t this scenario set up a payola thing again? Think about it: right now it is free advertising every time a song is played. But if the RIAA wants fees, than the station may want to charge a fee for playing (advertising) the song. Hmmmmm.

  29. lincolnparadox says:

    @eldergias: Ok, what about live shows. Just have people play music, in the studio, over the airwaves.

    Is that live performance from an indie artist covered too?

  30. mopar_man says:

    It’ll be nice to have a change of pace and have most over-the-air stations play indie music. I may actually listen to the radio again instead of having the same shitty music jammed down my throat day after day.

  31. Trackback says:

    You have some cream on the corner of your face. — guy who Tony Soprano beat up. You might as well download some more Spoon. Legit sleeper candidate for 2007 announces.  It’ll be interesting to watch whoever the Republican candidate is cozy up to Hispanics. Dumb whales.

  32. mac-phisto says:


  33. IshmealMathers says:

    It’s a sad day when satire becomes reality. And ya, I got it from Fark, its just a damn good point.

  34. eldergias says:

    @lincolnparadox: From my understanding of it, a royalty only need to be paid when a recording music is played. So I guess it would totally depend on how the streaming music flowed. If it was buffered at all one could say that recording is taking place, thus they would have to pay royalties. We are not there yet, but I would not be surprised in the least if we got there eventually.

    My defiance is to not spend any of my money on music directly. I buy video games, but I almost always buy them used. I buy movies, but I will buy them used if I can, and most movies I buy are old ones anyway (Red Dawn anyone?). I bought my last CD 5-6 years ago, and don’t plan on buying anymore except directly from a band itself (I have a friend in a band and they are good enough to buy music from). I want to deprive the RIAA of my money, with minimal impact on my life, so I just buy used stuff (though now you can’t even buy used CDs in stores without paying the RIAA). No direct stream of money means the RIAA will get more desperate and attack more places (i.e. Radio stations). But in the long run they will just be losing money. Yeah, that will make them lash out more a try to sue in more venues, but eventually there will be nothing left to sue and they will still not have their direct income.

    A record label should start up a new lobby group/organization to replace the RIAA and handle all of its music through that group. I bet other labels would jump on.

  35. acambras says:

    That’s awesome.

    When I worked in a record store (late ’80s and early ’90s, when there were CDs, cassettes, and actual records), we used to get a lot of promotional copies of albums for in-store play — we’d play it, and customers would hear it, ask about it, and buy it. And many of the promos had stickers on them saying, “When you play it, Say it!” I suppose this was more for radio deejays than anyone else. Those stickers appeared on promos from many different record labels, so I figured they were part of an industry-wide effort.

    And now RIAA is trying to kill a great marketing tool (airplay) and shooting themselves in the collective foot.

  36. eldergias says:

    @acambras: Let them do so, and let them bury themselves. It will suck for consumers for a while, but when they are gone we will all be better off for it.

  37. BII says:

    My knee jerk reaction was to say “boo RIAA,” but then I thought of what my mama used to say: “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

    I hope the RIAA succeed in this and puts an end to de facto Payola. Perhaps music will rise from the ashes and commercial radio will become listenable once again.

  38. swalve says:

    The funny thing is that RIAA is nothing but a trade organization. I’d like to see the plumbers’ union suing people for unclogging their own drains.

  39. axiomatic says:

    If I were an artist I would be looking for a way out of my RIAA contract right about now.

    Truly the RIAA just needs to be put out to pasture, they’re done.

    I’m on my 7th year of no RIAA purchases and I don’t miss the bands trapped in the RIAA’s clutches.

    To the bands: I love you guys, but I don’t like who you are in bed with. Please go indie if you want my money again.

  40. rmz says:

    Up next: the RIAA moves to make all radio subscription-based and to outlaw free commercial radio.

  41. LTS! says:

    Seriously… this is funny.. and do you know why?


    Clear Channel is a member of the RIAA, however CBS/Infinity is not, Entercom is not, Citadel is not. Interesting that everyone is picking on Clear Channel in this thread when clearly Clear Channel would be part of this brigade… why might you ask?

    Purely speculation here.. but: let’s examine the timelines..

    Sept. 2006 – Clear Channel lobbies the FCC to relax ownership rules to allow 12 stations in a market up from the current 8.

    Nov. 2006 – Clear Channel sells 448 radio stations NOT in the largest markets.


    Today, the RIAA wants to impose royalties. Of course since Clear Channel is an RIAA member they have a say in this. But paying royalties would certainly hurt the other broadcasters who are NOT members of the RIAA. With relaxed ownership rules and a fresh influx of cash from the sale of smaller markets, Clear Channel positions itself to buy up 4 additional stations in the largest markets.

    Who loses here? You do.. of course. But doesn’t it seem a lot worse than that?

  42. joopiter says:

    @mac-phisto: Uh-oh. Does that apply to tunes stuck in your head? Because I’d rather go to jail than pay up for the Avril Lavigne “song” that’s been lodged in my head for two days.

  43. Rajio says:

    Ha. to me, this is like godzilla versus mothra. no mater what hapens, a monster I hate will get wounded before the end and with any luck, at least one of them will die. Also the fight takes place in the desert or at least in a city where nobody I know or care about lives. they can flatten the city of crappy mainstream radio for all i care – good radio will always survive in some form or another.

  44. mac-phisto says:

    @joopiter: let’s see. top 40 hit on replay over 48 hour period? that’ll be $672.00.

    does anybody else find it funny that clear channel is a member of the riaa?

  45. TPK says:

    One day closer to the coming IP revolt, where if it doesn’t keep you fed (food), warm (clothing), or dry (shelter), it doesn’t really count.

  46. bluemeep says:

    @Rajio: I dunno… Godzilla tends to have this issue about never really dying and Mothra is actually kind of a good guy as far as giant monsters go… Let’s get that three headed dragon whose name I never remember and that thing that looks kinda like a hedgehog in here. They’ll do it right.

    But in all seriousness…wow. Whoever it was that convinced the decision makers that directly attacking their main source of customer attraction is a good thing is someone I never, ever want to piss off.

  47. gamble says:


  48. emax4 says:

    Axiomatic has a good point, about the songwriters, artists and bands trying to find a way out of their own RIAA contract. Yes, eventually the artists will turn on the RIAA and sue them when asking, “Why did you make the radio stations quit playing our songs? Now how are we supposed to make any money?” If the artists don’t make money, neither is the RIAA.

    The article states that some of the artists themselves are losing out on some of the money due to the free promotion. But for a while I’ve been wondering why they call themselves and why they are called artists if they’re in it more for the money than the art.

    I’ll support my favorite musician(s), but come on! Am I supposed to feel bad and the need to give until it hurts just so the musicians and RIAA members can upgrade from a Corvette to a Ferrari, when I myself am driving a used 1997 Toyota Corolla? Howabout giving something back to us, the public, and doing in unconditionally?

  49. DarienA says:

    Support the RIAA because its doing something that MIGHT hurt Clear Channel… wow this is a really hard one…

  50. acisnoone says:

    This will destroy independent radio as we understand it. I used to work in college radio. We already paid royalties to ASCAP and BMI, the two primary copyrighting organizations. Having to pay royalties for every song played to RIAA is absurd, and will bankrupt most radio stations around america, especially college radio stations that broadcast 24/7. I hope that while they are grubbing for this cash that RIAA is shooting itself in the foot by doing this. They will ruin their public image forever with people like me and others who are sick of their bullying.

  51. Having greasemonkey on is making the comments disappear in this post for me. It didn’t happen in the others. Is this happening to anyone else?

  52. MeOhMy says:

    The creation of music is suffering because of declining sales…

    These are the kind of statements that make my teeth want to reach around and eat my brain.

    It’s not like the creation of music has EVER been a lucrative career choice, yet humans have been creating music for thousands upon thousands of years. I don’t think the failure of the RIAA is going to cause all of humanity to just give up on music once and for all.

    The fact that the head honcho of the RIAA would make such a statement illustrates just how far the RIAA’s head has gone up its ass. They have lost touch with the consumers and the artists they claim to represent. It’s nothing more now than a giant headless blunder.

  53. Youthier says:

    Traditional radio promotes music to more traditional people, right? Sure, there are other ways to promote music like blogs, iTunes, etc. But the people hearing music that way are more likely to obtain it in non-traditional ways or even illegally. Not by purchasing an album.

    I would think people like my parents who listen to traditional radio and are influenced that way are more likely to go to the store and buy a physical copy of the album, which is what the RIAA seems to want.

    That was a lot of sentences to say that the RIAA is stupid. Which you all already knew.

  54. mrg8000 says:

    So now RADIO is killing CD sales?

    You know, I purchase dozens of CDs every year, but the more these RIAA guys open their mouths, the more I want to go out and pirate music, just for the hell of it.

  55. Onouris says:

    I only have three words for this.

    Money. Grabbing. Bastards.

    They’re worse than the 20 year old girlfriends of rich old men for christ sake.

    Are they going to ban live performances of people’s own music next?

  56. Grungydan says:

    I get so fuming fucking mad at this shit.

  57. elj says:

    did anybody actually read this article ?
    all that’s really happening is that the playing field is finally leveling out for satellite, cable and internet radio.
    traditional radio needs to pay a little, thereby allowing internet radio to not be hammered by the ridiculous “adjusted royalty rate”
    that the royalty board is trying to impose.
    even the riaa isn’t so dumb as to dismantle “radio”. it’s just a little more here, and a little less here. cookin’ the books, financial slight of hand and you’re still not making the money if you sign a record contract.
    “the riaa is dead, long live the riaa” or in other words…
    “meet the new boss, same as the old boss “

  58. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Money-grubbing, bottom-feeding bastards.

    How ironic that in the end it’s not going to be video that kills the radio star, but the RIAA itself.

  59. BeastMasterJ says:

    “Given the many different ways to promote music now that didn’t exist as effectively when this original exemption was made,” he said, “the logic of that I think is more dubious.”

    That would be a quasi-legitimate complaint… If the RIAA wasn’t trying to destroy all of the OTHER ways to promote music as well. So how much money did RIAA donate to Howard Berman’s campaign fund anyway?

    Also, this statement:
    “We clearly have a more difficult time tolerating gaps in revenues that should be there.”

    Me thinks that isn’t a deliberate move to cripple radio or recover potential income, but just a bit of polical theater; making a statement that “It’s YOUR FAULT THAT WE HAVE TO RESORT TO THIS! WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO SHAKEDOWN YOUR RADIO STATIONS IF YOU WOULD STEAL OUR MUSIC!”

    I, like the rest of the free world, remain unconvinced by that statement.

  60. EricKeller says:

    I’ve been wondering for the last 10 years when the record industry would pass out of existance. Can’t happen soon enough. There probably needs to be an evil association that represents artists to counteract the RIAA, which is nothing more than an evil association which represents the record companies.

    There was a recent article in Electronic Musician Magazine about how intellectual property laws and copy protection are hurting musicians. Charging royalties for radio play is just one more thing that is going to hurt the average artist, particularly if indie stations go under.

    I haven’t bought a CD in quite a while. But I can’t imagine that the $20 average price of a CD is helping sales much. Who would pay that much for music they have never heard — by artists they’ve never heard of?

  61. PhilD says:

    I would love to see the NAB hit back hard on this, and tell the RIAA that, should this come to pass, they intend to start charging the labels the appropriate standard :30 or :60 airtime rates, in however many increments necessary per song, for each cut that gets played on each station. If they want their music played, they can pay for it like any other advertisers on the stations. I think the RIAA would lose that little war of attrition right quick.

  62. emax4 says:

    [quote]How ironic that in the end it’s not going to be video that kills the radio star, but the RIAA itself.[/quote]

    Great stuff!

  63. commorancy says:

    There’s very likely more non-RIAA music out there than there is RIAA music out there now. This is probably the single reason RIAA and large corporate labels are dying. As independant artists, large labels are no longer necessary. You can create your own music and publish it yourself through CDBaby and other distributors who will place it on iTunes, Rhapsody and other large outlets. No longer is it necessary to tie your music to Sony, BMG, Universal, or other members of the RIAA.

    The only thing this royalty payment change will accomplish is one of two things.. 1) RIAA owned or semi-owned stations will only play RIAA music. 2) Non-RIAA affiliated stations will play non-RIAA music. As the RIAA stations dry up from lack of listenership.. this will, as other people have said, effectively drive the last nail into the RIAA’s coffin. Bye Bye RIAA… don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  64. TPK says:

    Check out this article from The Onion from October 2002!


    Hilariously ridiculous!