Industry News


Dear NRBMLC Friends,

The wheels of music performance rights grind slowly. Several are in motion with our commercial and noncommercial stations. But progress is slow, thanks to COVID-19.

 “WEB V” Trial Phase Completed

The trial phase of the Copyright Royalty Board’s (CRB) rate proceeding is now complete. All aspects of this proceeding, including negotiations to avoid an expensive trial, began in early 2019. The “Findings of Fact” and “Closing Arguments” phases now remain and are expected to be finished by Thanksgiving.

Both commercial and noncommercial radio stations are involved. Unless the songs are licensed directly by their ownership, all radio stations that stream must pay royalties to SoundExchange.

Commercial radio stations, including NRBMLC stations, are being represented by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), using Latham and Watkins as counsel. A large number of noncommercial stations in the U.S. are represented by NRBNMLC. Committee Counsel Karyn Ablin of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, and her team are doing the heavy lifting in our case. Karyn has served NRBMLC and NRBNMLC as counsel in various cases for over 20 years. 

SoundExchange, which is the collective for the record labels in the U.S., is opposing us in this case. Due to pandemic delays, the CRB may not render its rate decision until Spring of 2021. New rates, should they be announced in April, will be retroactive to January 1, 2021.  


A Few Words about SoundExchange

 The first rate-setting for webcasting and streaming music royalties was held in 2002 before the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (the “CARP”). Your committee was there. Radio industry leaders were novices about these new royalty obligations, and the proceeding’s result reflected this. They learned quickly. 

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) would be the primary recipient of royalty monies from these digital music performances. RIAA was charged with collecting and distributing these royalty proceeds to the copyright owners, mainly performers and record labels. SoundExchange was created by RIAA to collect and distribute these funds. Today, SoundExchange is an independent, billion-plus dollar entity. 

Together, the litigants in the Web V proceeding will spend upwards of $25 million. NAB has made known that it will spend approximately $15M; your noncommercial NRBNMLC will spend $1M plus! Judging from its approach to negotiations with us over the past two proceedings, SoundExchange appears to have no constraints on its litigation budget.

We should take care once this proceeding is final to take our energies to Congress in order to find a fair and nondiscriminatory rate-setting venue! 


We Need Your Help

If you are a noncommercial station, your committee has stepped forward on your behalf. We are not yet close to paying for this trial and we need your help. If you expect to accrue benefits from our work, please fill out this pledge form and send in a generous contribution.   

 NRBNMLC is the only entity representing the music licensing interests of the majority of noncommercial radio broadcasters in the United States. Combined with commercial NRBMLC, we represent approximately 1,800 full-power AM and FM radio stations (consisting of approximately 400 commercial and 1,400 noncommercial stations).

As stated, this CRB-Web V rate proceeding will cost your committee $1 million plus! We must find a way to pay these litigation expenses. Please complete the pledge form and send NRBNMLC a generous contribution.



Scott Hunter

Executive Director

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