Politics, especially in recent years, is a pervasive and contentious subject. Much like the relationship between broadcasters and record labels, the people on both sides of the divide are passionate and highly vocal. As the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sponsored Performance Rights Act winds its way through Capitol Hill, we see these two contentious subjects merge with the energy of a meteor striking the Earth.
That said, I would like to extend my thanks to Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL), John Adler (D-NJ), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Senators Susan Collins (ME), Thad Cochran (MS), and Johnny Isakson (GA) for joining the growing opposition to this attempt to inflict a new royalty structure on broadcasters. Their support for the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes the imposition of new royalty fees on broadcasters, is massively appreciated!
If you’ve missed the ongoing brouhaha, The Performance Rights Act aims to add royalty fees to the expenses that radio stations must meet. The rationale is that the performer of a song is entitled to compensation in the same way as the songwriter. On the surface, this seems to be an equitable approach, at least until you start to dig and discover that half of this money is going straight into record company coffers as opposed to the artists it purports to assist. The fact that those coffers are predominantly overseas is an economic factor that should give people pause.
The fact that 244 members of the House of Representatives and 23 Senators are now on record opposing this legislation is a positive sign, and the fact that support seems to be steadily growing is heartening.
Radio Online brings us a statement from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), who also sponsor this blog:
“Liberals, moderates and conservatives are uniting in opposition to RIAA’s effort to line the coffers of foreign record labels at the expense of America’s free and local radio stations,” said NAB Executive VP Dennis Wharton. “We salute these members of Congress for recognizing the unique role played by radio broadcasters in communities across the country.”
Now, one of the reasons I was brought on as a blogger here is that I am not the typical “corporate shill.” I’ve worked with underground art and music, community radio, college radio, and music production among other aspects of the industry and I have a personal passion for the medium and for new technology. I want that clear because I do not want to be mistaken in my position.
Throughout my experience, I have always heard nothing but praise for radio from the artists. Working with up-and-coming bands of all genres (rock, punk, folk, bluegrass, etc.), the one common thread has always been, “How can I get my music on the radio?” When working with international artists, the subject of radio always was greeted with jovial thanks for the role it played in making their careers. (When the record labels came up in conversation, however, the tone would usually take a turn for the highly acrimonious.)
Yes, artists should get paid. I’ve done activist work in the past on that subject. However, how different would the broadcast landscape be if they had to pay for the promotion airplay provides? The fact that you can find innumerable examples of labels trying to illegally purchase airplay over the history of the medium (Google Payola) shows that they are aware of the incredible impact that radio play has on the success of their artists.
For an up-and-coming artist, the royalties proposed have potential to keep them off the airwaves as stations become less likely to spend money to play unproven acts. Rather than supporting creativity as it purports to, this legislation will create a barrier to entry for non-established performers.
Write to your Representatives and Senators and tell them to oppose this transparent effort by the record labels to finance their failing business model. If it does pass, I would suggest that the labels get charged for airplay; after all, it does provide a multimillion dollar a year service for them.
Tags: Bobby Rush, broadcast, congress, Dana Rohrabacher, John Adler, Johnny Isakson, Local Radio Freedom Act, Performance Rights Act, radio, RIAA, royalties, Steve Scalise, Susan Collins, Thad Cochran