Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Radio Performance Royalty Dispute Begins To Simmer Again

Following the release of the iHeartMedia and Cumulus Media Q2 2022 earnings reports, which show that the companies achieved improved revenue and net income on the quarter, a former lawmaker is once again calling for terrestrial stations to begin paying recorded royalties.

Digital Music News reports the criticism represents the latest development in a years-running battle over radio royalties, referring specifically to those for music played on AM/FM stations. In the U.S., terrestrial stations pay for the use of underlying compositions but not performance recordings themselves.

Music companies have long sought to change the law, while big radio has for obvious reasons worked diligently to keep the current framework in place. Several radio-royalty bills have emerged in recent years, and 2021 brought with it the introduction of the bipartisan American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), which would compel broadcasters to pay for the use of masters and received support from the AFL-CIO in June of 2022.

Notwithstanding a much-publicized push, though, the bill has yet to get off the ground, and May of 2021 likewise saw lawmakers reintroduce the (also bipartisan) Local Radio Freedom Act.

Backed by the National Association of Broadcasters, the latter measure touts the perceived promotional benefits (for rightsholders and artists) of traditional radio and goes as far as stating: “Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station.”

Joe Crowley
Bearing in mind these and other components of the marathon radio-royalties dispute, iHeartMedia revealed last week that it had pulled down over $954 million during the three months ending on June 30th, up about $92.4 million from the same period in 2021.

Additionally, iHeartMedia posted a 194.64 percent year-over-year increase in quarterly operating income, at $82.7 million, and said that its net income had improved from a $31.96 million loss in Q2 2021 to $15.18 million in the black for the identical stretch during 2022. Meanwhile, Cumulus Media turned in a five percent YoY revenue boost for Q2, when net income jumped to $8.7 million from a net loss of $5.9 million.

Now, former U.S. Representative Joe Crowley (who’s chairman of musicFIRST, an RIAA-backed organization that’s looking to secure recorded royalties for AM/FM plays) has weighed in on the Q2 2022 showing of iHeartMedia – and reiterated his support for the previously highlighted AMFA.

“Once again, greedy broadcasters are brazenly showing their hypocrisy. During their quarterly earnings calls this week, iHeart and Cumulus crowed to Wall Street about how much money they are making,” Crowley communicated in a more than 120-word-long statement.

“At the same moment they are spotlighting their dramatic profit increases, on Capitol Hill, they whine to lawmakers about how they can’t afford to pay music creators a single cent when their music is played on AM/FM radio.

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