WASHINGTON, DC -- RCA Records Senior Vice President of Pop Promotion Peter Gray became the latest record executive to single out radio airplay for its unparalleled role in helping promote the sale of music. Gray's remarks come as the Recording Industry Association of America continues a legislative push that would punish radio by requiring stations to pay an additional licensing fee amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars for music aired free to listeners. Gray's record label, RCA, is part of Japanese-based Sony Music Entertainment, an RIAA member company.
"[T]he primary function of a record label's promotion department is to secure radio airplay for its artists," Gray said in an interview published in OnMilwaukee.com. "We rely on our relationships with music programmers at all contemporary radio formats, nationwide -- Top 40, Urban and Urban Adult, Hot AC and Mainstream Adult, Rhythm, Alternative, Active Rock, Rap, Dance, College radio, Smooth Jazz, etc. Our partnership with radio is paramount to breaking new acts, as well as keeping superstar artists in the eyes and ears of their fans and the music buying public."
Trying to have it both ways?
|Record Label Executives
"[T]he primary function of a record label's promotion department is to secure radio airplay for its artists."
-- RCA senior VP Peter Gray
"I have yet to see the big reaction you want to see to a hit until it goes on the radio."
-- RCA executive VP Richard Palmese
"Radio is still the leading force of determining what songs and artists break through."
-- Clive Davis, Sony Music's chief creative officer
|Record Label Hired Guns
Radio is "a form of piracy, if you will, but not in the classic sense as we think of it."
-- musicFIRST spokesman
"If radio did not exist, many of these individuals would likely be listening to pre-recorded music in place of the non-existent radio..."
-- RIAA-funded economist Stan Liebowitz
|"If there was a platinum record awarded for hypocrisy, the record labels would surely be in contention."
-- NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton
Detailing his daily duties, Gray explained, "The daily grind of promotion is really two-fold: First, you have to get the songs played on the radio. In some cases this is easy and in others a real chore. Second, you have to monitor your play constantly, which is a very competitive and strategic mathematical game."
Gray went on to explain how radio airplay is monitored and aggregated into weekly charts published by Billboard, which he called "the report card."
"I work closely with a staff of regional and national promotion executives to ensure that our songs reach the top of the charts, a space that commands a wide weekly audience," he continued. "Most importantly, though, is a lot of time on the road listening to and visiting stations, a lot of time on the phones persuading programmers to play my songs."
Notably, Gray is not the first record label executive to stress the important role radio airplay plays in generating music sales revenue for the record label and artist. Both Gray's boss, RCA Music Group Executive Vice President of Promotion Richard Palmese and Clive Davis, the legendary music mogul described as Gray's mentor in the OnMilwaukee.com interview, have also recognized the promotional power of free radio airplay.
"I have yet to see the big reaction you want to see to a hit until it goes on the radio," Palmese told Radio & Records in June 2007. "I'm a big, big fan of radio."
"Radio is still the leading force of determining what songs and artists break through," Davis said in a June 2009 interview published in USA Today.
Commenting on Gray's statement, NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton said, "Mr. Gray's unambiguous recognition of local radio airplay's promotional power stands in stark contrast to the cynical actions of RIAA, which continues a campaign to financially cripple the very radio stations Gray relies on to generate increased music sales. If there was a platinum record awarded for hypocrisy, the record labels would surely be in contention."
Today's news comes as RIAA -- backed by the four largest record labels in the world -- continues to urge Congress to pass legislation that would levy an additional fee or "performance tax" on local radio stations that air music free to listeners. While the legislation was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in a contentious 21-9 vote earlier this summer, there remain 246 House lawmakers and 23 Senators who are on record in opposition to the RIAA-led effort.
RIAA's campaign includes the funding of a 2007 study conducted by Stan Liebowitz, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, which falsely claims that radio airplay actually hurts record sales. In 2008, the musicFIRST Coalition, a group funded by the RIAA, called local radio "a form of piracy."
The overwhelming Congressional opposition to the RIAA-led campaign comes through the Local Radio Freedom Act, a bipartisan resolution expressly denouncing a performance tax. Supported by 246 House lawmakers and 23 U.S. Senators, the resolution reads:
"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 for broadcasting sound recordings over-the-air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings," reads The Local Radio Freedom Act.
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at www.nab.org.