A pair of recording artists voiced centrist positions on the issue of proposed performance royalties for terrestrial radio stations March 7 at the Country Radio Seminar.

John Rich, of duo Big & Rich, appeared to favor radio paying a sound recording royalty only if the artist was also the writer of the composition. "As an artist, you want to lean toward [it]," he said of performance royalties. "On the other side of it, if the artist doesn't own the song and they sing on it, I don't see why the artist gets paid."

Rich, who co-writes material for Big & Rich with partner Big Kenny, called the prospect of terrestrial stations being required to pay royalties to recording artists and labels "dangerous" and worried that it could lead to the loss of some music-formatted stations.

Joining him on the convention's Raising The Bar panel, multi-platinum singer/songwriter Jewel agreed with Rich's remarks.

Scott Borchetta, president and CEO for Nashville-based independent Big Machine Records, suggested that music publishers ought to help labels shoulder the cost of promoting music to radio since they, too, benefit from airplay. Borchetta, who launched a second imprint, the Valory Music Company, last November and signed Jewel to a multi-album deal, noted how songwriter royalty collection organizations ASCAP and BMI have reported record earnings. "Why should labels pay to promote radio to play music? The publishing companies should do that," Borchetta said.

Sony BMG Nashville chairman Joe Galante called performance royalties "a global issue . . . not specifically aimed at country." (The U.S. is one of the few countries that exempts over-the-air radio from paying a copyright royalty to performers and record labels.) "We're not going to answer this here," Galante said.

Borchetta and Galante agreed that labels must tap new revenue sources beyond sales of physical CDs and digital music. By providing additional services to artists, Borchetta said smaller labels like his are "looking more and more like management companies." One of his acts shares publishing revenue with the label, but only on songs promoted to radio and only over a limited period of time, Borchetta said.

Rich said he wasn't in favor of sharing publishing with a label unless they "give you something for it, like promoting other songs that you write."

Galante said record companies aren't attempting "a land grab" with new business models. "There is not one model that will fit every artist."

Both broadcasters on the panel expressed optimism when asked by moderator
Brian Mansfield of USA Today what radio would look like in ten years. McVay Media consultant Charlie Cook stressed the importance of content and said traditional over-the-air radio isn't going away. Jeff Garrison, VP of country for CBS Radio and PD of KILT/Houston, played up the medium's ability to make emotional connections with listeners and said Arbitron's PPM electronic audience measurement service "is proving everything" programmers have long believed about radio.

Noting that Big Machine had a mandate to achieve one million impressions before introducing Taylor Swift to radio, Borchetta said, "You can't go to radio anymore without a story. We went after all other media . . . and created a buzz before we went to country radio." Swift has since achieved multi-platinum sales.

To rack up sales in that neighborhood, "You still need to get to the critical mass of radio," Galante said.

Cook applauded the now common practice of labels exposing acts in other media before radio. "We don't spend the time on the radio educating the public on new artists the way we used to and the way we probably should," he said. "So that greases the skids."