Obama admin: time to make radio pay for its music

Read full story here.

I’ll quickly throw my two or three cents in on this debate.  As a radio professional and musician I stand in favor of the Performance Rights Act.

I’ve been in terrestrial-radio (T-radio henceforth) since the mid-seventies.  While never a recording artist, I have appeared on T-radio as a performing musician.  My current program, the Colorado Sound, represents many DIY musicians who receive no compensation whatsoever from T-radio (or many other sources, but that’s for another blog post sometime).  If they record a song written by someone else, that writer receives a royalty via their association with ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC when that song is played on T-radio, but the performing artists themselves receive nothing.  And, generally speaking, at the most local level, whatever airplay they might receive will have marginal affect on any real world sales – so the free T-radio promo and advertising argument is pretty slim imo.

It used to be that T-radio had a direct promotional benefit, and for some it still does. However, whatever direct benefit exists today only exists for a very very slim percentage of the musicians who are out there  working hard at producing records.  The NAB (National Assoc. of Broadcasters) argues that any new fees on their business will benefit the recording industries top four companies – and that those companies by and large are foreign/overseas companies.

That’s a fair enough statement – except for one thing:  If the NAB is opposed to the RIAA backed overseas foreign owned companies making money at their expense, why are they airing that music?    It is also true that these companies own the huge catalogs of recordings that T-radio airs, and that the companies bought and paid for – so yes, those fees will go to those companies… and to the hundreds and thousands of smaller independent labels and DIY musicians who are not owned by the big four… and that only receive marginal acceptance at mainstream T-radio.

Readdressing the copyright royalty issues in this country is messy business.  The original laws were written at the dawn of the recording and radio industries, nearly a century ago.  Successful lobbying by the NAB and other pro T-radio groups has maintained what is obviously a highly pro T-radio biased regulation all these years.  Successful lobbying by the RIAA, the musicFIRST Coalition and others has created new fees that cost satellite, cable, and Internet radio stations while feeding musicians’ hopes and dreams of making some kind of a living from having their performances publicly “broadcast.”  I’m glad to see the Commerce Department take a stand for fairness in this deal.

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