Lovett will go to bat for royalty


WASHINGTON -- Four-time Grammy winner and Texas icon Lyle Lovett is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday as the music industry continues its push for a royalty for over-the-air broadcasts.

Lovett, whose sound crosses over traditional music barriers, is expected to testify in support of the royalty for the MusicFirst (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition that is comprised of artists groups including the American Federation of Musicians, the RIAA, SoundExchange, the Recording Artists Coalition and the American Association of Independent Music.

The music and broadcast industries are in a pitched battle over institution of the royalty.

Unlike other countries, terrestrial broadcasters have traditionally paid songwriter royalties to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC and royalties to the publishers, but have been exempt from performance royalties similar to those levied on digital broadcasts and other music delivery systems.

Most people in the music industry think that allowing broadcasters to escape paying a performance royalty is unfair. Broadcasters argue that the promotional value gained by playing music on the radio more than offsets any royalty that performers and record companies would receive.

By bringing Lovett in to testify, the music industry gives the issue a recognizable face with star appeal as he is one of those musicians that command respect but have few negatives associated with his image.

Coincidentally, broadcasters are also attempting to use country musicians to their advantage. On the same day MusicFirst was trumpeting Lovett's appearance the National Association of Broadcasters was blaring about artists testimonials during the Country Music Awards show that aired on Wednesday.

CMA winners like Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood and the group Rascal Flats praised country music stations for airplay during the broadcast.

"Throughout history, artists, record label executives and Congress have recognized the enormous promotional value of America's hometown radio stations. RIAA and executives from the foreign-owned record labels should know better than to bite the radio-hand that feeds them," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.