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NPR Follows Amazon in Withdrawing From MIC Coalition

Following Amazon's exit in early June, NPR has become the second organization to leave the MIC Coaliton -- a group of music users such as retailers, restaurants, hotels, digital music service…

Following Amazon’s exit in early June, NPR has become the second organization to leave the MIC Coaliton — a group of music users such as retailers, restaurants, hotels, digital music service providers and radio broadcasters — which formed earlier this year to “protect the music economy.”

Since its forming, artists, music rights owners and music industry trade groups have come to believe that the MIC coalition was formed to use their considerable lobbying power to reduce payments for music use.

An NPR spokeswomen confirmed that the NPR had withdrawn, but gave no reason. Amazon dropped out of the coalition early last month because it believed the group was focusing too much on music rates and not enough on transparency. According to Amazon executives, transparency is essential to make sure royalty payments get to the right parties and, in order to accomplish that, Amazon executives, like other industry participants, believe a global database that matches compositions to records is needed. But all efforts at building one have so far failed.

“Just a month after launch, the MIC Coalition lost yet another member today when NPR joined Amazon in rejecting the organization’s anti-artist agenda and dropping out of the MIC Coalition,” said digital collection organization SoundExchange in a statement following the news. “SoundExchange applauds NPR for taking this stand for the future of music and artists everywhere. We look forward to continuing our long-standing, positive collaboration with NPR.”

RIAA CEO Cary Sherman also chimed in. “This was the right move by NPR,” Sherman said in a statement to Billboard. “Kudos to them. This ill-fated attempt to gut critical royalties for artists, songwriters and labels is starting to implode before it even gets off the ground.”

“When Amazon took the lead and left this anti-artist Coalition, after concluding the group was ‘consumed’ with lowering payments to musicians, musicFIRST called on NPR to leave as well, arguing that their association with them went against their strong record as both a partner to artists and a supporter of great music,” musicFIRST Coaltion executive director Ted Kalo said in a statement. “Today, we applaud NPR for its willingness to listen and engage in a dialogue with musicians’ advocates. And we commend NPR’s decision to leave the MIC Coalition, separating itself from both the Coalition and its anti-artist agenda.

Kalo added that theirs was a “rising tide of support for the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act, especially during the music community’s ‘Week of Action,’ is living proof of how far we have come.” That proposed legislation, among other things, would require terrestrial radio to pay master rights owners and artists for the music they play. While that occurs in most countries around the world, the U.S. is one of three companies that don’t make such payments. Instead, U.S. terrestrial radio only makes payments to songwriters and music publishers.

In addition, the Content Creators Coalition (c3), an artist-led group, issued a statement saying it “is thrilled that National Public Radio has listened to musicians, and withdrawn from the MIC Coalition. Withdrawing was the right thing to do once NPR understood the negative impact its membership in the lobbying group had on artists and their interests.”

A MIC spokeswomen bristles when MIC is mentioned in the same sentence as Fair Play, Fair Pay. She says the coalition has never taken a stand on the proposed legislation. With regard to the latest development, MIC issued a statement: “MIC, which stands for music.innovation.consumers, is a coalition that advocates for a future music marketplace that is transparent, efficient and sustainable. Our members ensure that American music consumers can access music through platforms, venues and innovations of their choice; that music gets heard in legal and accessible ways and that artists get paid for their works. It’s unfortunate that some continue to try to mischaracterize that mission, and we invite all stakeholders to instead join this most important conversation about how we together create a transparent music ecosystem that benefits all of us.”

UPDATE 7/15/15: A statement by the RIAA was added to this article.