The Performance Rights Act: An Update

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guitar

In my post a few days ago, I shared some information about The Performance Rights Act which is being brought before Congress. This is the act that will enact a performance tax on broadcast radios for the music they play.  In this time of economic upheaval, a move like this has the chance of crippling many stations, particularly those that are already laboring under the burden of the RIAA’s push to enact similar royalties on streaming.

Nineteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives have lined up as co-sponsors of the bill. It s interesting to note that seven of those nineteen come from California, a state that has some small association with the RIAA. Presented by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) the bill is co-sponsored by the following Reps.:  Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Anthony Weiner, (D-N.Y.), Stephen Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), and Jane Harman (D-Calif.)

Now my perspective on this is fairly personal so any of you reading who are tempted to discount me as a corporate shill, please give it a chance. You see, I have worked in music more than I have in radio over the years. I have had the pleasure of working with legends like Buddy Guy and James Brown as well as lesser known artists like Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and Liquidrone. As a result, I have had many, many conversations about “getting the music out there.” Do you know what the two most important things seem to be, especially to artists who have not yet gained national renown? Radio and the Internet. In that order.

How many of you have been a musical artist? Have you ever known the joy, and spike in attention to your works, that getting that first single on the air brings? I’ve never done it, I’m a rotten guitarist, but I’ve known many who have. It’s a landmark time for a band and one that brings added viability and audience awareness with it. Free promotion.

As Rich Fiscus at AfterDawn puts it:

Perhaps most importantly, the Performance Rights Act is based primarily on claims that even the labels must not believe. They say the promotional value of radio has disappeared and radio stations are now getting unfair benefit from their hard work. The RIAA has gone so far as to say it “costs American artists tens of millions of dollars each year.”

If that’s true then perhaps someone from the labels can explain why they continue to send free promotional copies of new releases to the radio stations.

To my mind the idea of potentially cutting off promotion for the artists one represents would seem like a bad idea. Radio is still rated at the top of the heap when it comes to new music discovery, an asset that the vast majority of musicians are aware of.

Photo courtesy of Elmo Alves, used under its Creative Commons license

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