Clear Channel Denver fights radio performance tax via SaveYourRadio.org

Returning home early Saturday morning after seeing a late screening of Year One (which bl-o-o-o-ows), I had my radio tuned to The Fox, because my wife only listens to music made this millennium on a semi-annual basis -- and as Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" was drawing to a close, a message scrolled across the song I.D. bar of the radio in my 2002 Chevy Venture: "SAVE YOUR RADIO DOT ORG." Turns out SaveYourRadio.org is a radio-industry effort to fight a performance-tax proposal currently before the U.S. House, complete with an online petition that opposes a levy against "free radio."

The issue in miniature: For years, songwriters have received royalties when one of their compositions gets airplay on terrestrial radio, but those who sing and perform on the ditty don't. Hence, each time Frank Sinatra's "My Way" is spun, the money goes to Paul Anka, the tunesmith, not Ol' Blue Eyes' estate. Groups representing artists and labels have lobbied to change this approach on numerous occasions, and they're finally getting some traction -- a fact that's put radio execs into a blind panic. They portray the move as a cash grab on the part of struggling major labels, which would presumably receive administrative fees for divvying out the new dollars, that could cause plug-pulling at plenty of outlets.

Given the layoffs at radio stations around the country, including at local Clear Channel branches like the Fox (where veteran sports guy G-Man was let go), this last assertion is less hyperbolic than usual -- but labels and artists laid low by the move from physical to virtual products are struggling, too. Hence, the performance-tax debate is essentially a fight over pennies by two weakened behemoths, with sites like SaveYourRadio.org representing one side's attempt to win listeners' hearts and minds.

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