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"Any set of best practices envisioned must contemplate access for the true innovators of our industry, so that more format-appropriate music can be considered for airplay."
A2IM URGES THE FCC TO ADDRESS AIRPLAY IMBALANCE
Acting Head Don Rose Calls for the Establishment of Standards for Best Practices
A month ago, the American Association of Independent Music sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin urging the commission to investigate radio in order to determine whether there’s a level playing field for majors and indies alike. Last week, A2IM acting President Don Rose once again petitioned Martin, as it was becoming increasingly apparent that Eliot Spitzer’s investigation into pay-for-play practices at radio chains, rather than leveling the playing field, was in fact making it more difficult for indie records to get added, as programmers have become much more conservative in their adds so as not to call undue attention to themselves. (This unfortunate phenomenon was explored by reporter Charles Duhigg in the L.A. Times story last Saturday.) Rose’s letter is reprinted in its entirety below.

5 April 2006
 

The Honorable Kevin Martin, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington
, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Martin,

The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) is a trade association representing over 100 independent record labels. The independent sector accounted for approximately 28% of US music sales in 2005 and issues over 80% of the music available to the public.

We understand from recent news reports that the FCC is seeking to settle the payola allegations with the radio broadcasters and that certain financial offers have been proposed in that regard. Although we have noted in our prior correspondence that we were enthusiastic about a thorough investigation, we will be happy to consult with you and/or the other Commissioners on the seriousness of the alleged infractions and to recommend a set of best practices to govern the label/broadcaster relationships going forward.

Most independent labels are small businesses run by entrepreneurs who have been denied equal access to the programming process and decision makers at many radio stations. Any set of best practices envisioned must contemplate access for the true innovators of our industry, so that more format-appropriate music can be considered for airplay.

Without the establishment of standards for best practices, we fear that the excesses are doomed to recur, to the continuing detriment of emerging musical artists, the independent label community, and the listening public.

Moreover, we are concerned that the imposition of fines alone will be perceived as a "slap on the wrist" and not reflective of the substantial damage caused by payola-like practices

It is absolutely crucial that any settlement addresses the issue of how to ensure that the vast diversity of American music has a fair opportunity to access the public airwaves. As the chief advocacy group for independent labels, we stand ready to provide the FCC with any information that will help encourage the elimination of any roadblocks to a free and open market.

Sincerely,

Don Rose
Acting President
American Association of Independent Music
99 John St. No. 1018
New York, NY 10038
617 513 0388

CC: A2IM Board of Directors
Glenn Barros, Concord Records
Lesley Bleakley, Beggars Group
Peter Gordon, Thirsty Ear
Doug Keogh, Roadrunner Records
Alan Meltzer, Wind-up Records
Glenn Morrow, Bar-None
Molly Neuman, Lookout Records
Thomas Silverman, Tommy Boy

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