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Music Organizations Join Chorus for Spectrum Incentive Auctions

Some music organizations have joined the chorus for spectrum incentive auctions because, they say, more Internet outlets mean more compensation for their music.

In a letter to the deficit-reduction supercommittee, the Recording Academy (Grammys), American Federation of Musicians (AFL-CIO), SoundExchange and the Music Manager's Forum say that they "strongly support" those auctions.

Those are the same groups who have been trying to get broadcasters to pay a per-performance fee for radio airplay, a point they made in their letter to committee leadership.

"Under current law, when a song is played on any other format -- including Internet radio -- performers are compensated," they point out. "Because of special interest lobbying, terrestrial radio is the only format where performers are not compensated. At the same time, radio broadcasters profit from ad revenues generated from playing songs."

While the spectrum issue is about reclaiming TV spectrum, the groups connect the dots to their radio issue. "We endorse measures that encourage broadband adoption because they grow the number of Internet users and, in turn, hasten the migration of music fans to cutting edge platforms that compensate artists," they wrote.

They take a tough stance, saying that broadcasters should not even be compensated for the costs associated with relinquishing the spectrum and criticize the National Association of Broadcasters for lobbying for that compensation.

"Given that the NAB opposition to radio broadcasters paying their fair share owed to artists for their work, it requires turning a blind eye to irony to embrace the NAB position that they shouldn't pay their own business costs."

The deficit committee is expected to include incentive auctions in its deficit reduction proposal because they are expected to generate billions of dollars for the treasury. Those proposals have essentially all included compensating broadcasters.

"By coupling a TV spectrum issue with an unrelated performance tax on radio stations, the music industry sets the standard for grasping at straws," said NAB ion a statement. "This is a Hail Mary pass that deserves to fall incomplete."