The Performance Rights Act proposed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a clear and preset danger both to our industry and to diversity of content on the airwaves. Like a broken record they keep falling back on the same distortions notably supported only by artists who have already made millions as opposed to those who rely on radio to fuel their careers (i.e. most of them). Smaller and niche market stations would be unreasonably burdened by these fees, in many cases to the point of bankruptcy.
This is of particular concern to the growing Spanish language market, who mobilized on Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo, in Washington DC for a panel discussion on the negative impact of the RIAA’s proposed fees. Hosted by The Free Radio Alliance and Univision-syndicated morning personality Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, the panel included luminaries from the Latin American broadcast world, including the following:
- Bustos Media Chairman/CEO Amador Bustos
- Salem Espanol National Director Tony Calatayud
- Gaytan Broadcasting owner Maria De Leon
- Spanish Broadcasting System VP/GM Frank Flores
- Entravision VP/Public Affairs Marcelo Gaete
- Top Line Broadcasting President/CEO Rafael Grullon
- Lazer Broadcasting President/CEO Norberto Sanchez
- Univision Radio President/COO Gary Stone
- Border Media VP/Market Manager Miguel Villareal
Under discussion will be numerous ramifications of the “performance tax,” including one discussion titled “how a performance tax would destroy diversity in voice and thought in the Spanish-language radio community, as well as the potential for massive job losses.” It think that sums it up.
But wait, there’s more. The Latin American community is far from the only one becoming aware of how this tax will hurt the radio industry. Now religious programmers are getting into the fray as well. Religious broadcasting concerns Salem, Northwestern Media, Crawford Broadcasting, and the Christian Listening Network have jointly written to congress in protest of the impact this would have on their own portion of the airwaves. Radio Ink Magazine reports:
The joint letter reads, “Radio companies like ours that air ministry programming are trying to weather the economic storm ahead, but some members of Congress — at the urging of the foreign-owned record labels — have introduced legislation that could make it impossible for radio ministries to survive.”
The broadcasters continue, “Why would we legislatively and financially reward an industry that consistently displays bad behavior at the expense of local jobs and local communities? Local religious radio stations like ours exist to help people. And the entire radio industry is formed around the notion that it has the responsibility to not only entertain and inform, but also to serve the great people in this country. We take pride in doing that every day, and it is why we need your help.”
As we get closer and closer to a decision at the congressional level, I’m sure we will be seeing many more groups coming forward to protest the RIAA’s stance. The fact that much of the revenue generated would flow out of the country is only one of many reasons that this legislation is a bad idea. The fact that over half of the funds that stay in the states would never be seen by the artists they purport to help is another.
Look at the case of Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Alannah Myles, who hit number one in the charts back in the ’80s with her single Black Velvet. Radio brought her to the ears of listeners everywhere, but she never saw a penny from her record label. Dennis Anderson over at the Radio Business Report says it better than I could:
Amazing — a great smash hit like that got to number one and had tons of radio air play making millions for someone, but not a penny for her. It seems to me that radio did its job, but the record company did not. How many examples are there like this? Radio generated demand and sales by promoting a great record, but where did the money go? When you examine the issue case by case, it becomes clear that relationship between artists and record labels is where the financial disparity lies.
There is a massive disconnect here. As a DJ I would often be besieged by artists and label reps who would mail me or bring in albums (and later CDs) begging for airplay. How many of those discs would never get attention if this was passed? Not many I would bet. Also, when was the last time you heard an artist complaining about their treatment at the hands of radio as opposed to the consistent news stories about artist battles with their record labels?
Just ask the surviving family of Jimi Hendrix….
Tags: Alannah Myles, Border Media, Bustos Media, Christian Listening Network, christian radio, Crawford Broadcasting, Dennis Anderson, Entravision, Gaytan Broadcasting, HR 848, latin radio, Lazer Broadcasting, Northwestern Media, Performance Rights Act, Performance Tax, radio, Religious broadcasting, RIAA, Salem Espanol National, Spanish Broadcasting System, Top Line Broadcasting, UNivision Radio