WBT Radio vs. the Music Industry

I love this.

Greater Media's WBT in Charlotte is standing up to the record industry.

Ever cost-conscious these days, WBT has had it with spending $30,000 a year on royalty fees for one show -- "Boomer" Von Cannon's "Time Machine" oldies show.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sorry to see the show go. Maybe, for now, the show needs to go to a music station in town.

WBT, except for that show, a non-music station, is giving the first indication of what it could be like for the record industry if the labels succeed at winning repeal of radio's performance tax exemption.

A House subcommittee has approved a bill that would add an additional performance tax onto radio station budgets. There could be a showdown in the full House where the NAB has been lining up Congressmen who are friends of radio. This kind of suspense we don't need.

Back to WBT.

So, WBT will save $30,000 annually and the labels lose a mere pittance.

Now imagine this -- and I've been saying this all along -- radio should get away from licensed music anyway.

I know you think I've lost it -- too much time around the next generation, the heat of summer in Arizona, etc. But, the labels think you need their music.

To some extent you do, but if the next generation matters -- and they listen to more things not on a radio playlist than on it, you'd probably be helping your bottom line and your audience if you featured music that is not protected by copyright.

Of course, you won't do that.

So the labels will continue to own the radio industry and eventually impose more charges on stations that are unable to sustain them now. Additional taxes won't come this year or next, but they're possible soon -- just what the radio industry doesn't need.

But an act of courage -- one act -- could send a powerful message.

May I?

1. A national new music day -- featuring artists who gladly give you the right to play their music. Don't have make it a "cause" on the air if you'd rather not. Just new music from beginning to end. Rest the old tired (copyright protected) playlist for a day. Scare the labels.

2. If that doesn't work, do it the following month again. Then, twice a month.

3. If your ratings actually go up (as I'm predicting) because you have finally discovered that listeners in this day and age can get this music elsewhere if you don't want to play it, then you'll get even more courage.

4. Schedule one of these one-day marathons (all unlicensed music in your format genre) on a day the radio industry descends on Washington for a march on the Capitol (wake up, NAB). Then, if you have a Congressman in your district that favors repeal of the performance exemption, make sure their names are on the air (with phone numbers and email addresses) the way you usually do one liners for less important programming elements. Now that's pressure.

Of course, don't be surprised if your listeners actually hope radio's performance tax is repealed because these one day previews will be just what they've been asking for -- for decades.

More variety and less repetition -- not just liners and sweepers saying so.

Hell, you can even throw in fewer commercials that day and really knock them dead.

What radio doesn't get is that unlicensed artists and all types of new music will make their stations sound better and attract younger audiences.

What the labels don't understand is to shut up, take the current ASCAP, BMI, etc. fees and leave well enough alone. Let radio think that they can't survive without playing the same music over and over again.

Thus, the farce.

Radio would be better off with more unlicensed performers.

And the labels would be better off if they dropped the subject of repealing radio's performance exemption.

Imagine the message WBT is sending with their news/talk station but on thousands of stations.

Or, imagine paying more money for the music younger listeners are sick of hearing.

Next move is yours.

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