Additional Royalties: Still Unjustified

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Okay, folks. Brace yourselves, as today I will be opinionated. There is a lot flying around the media about the Performance Rights Act (PRA), or as our sponsors at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) call it, the Performance Tax.  One of the most common assertions of those who support it is that the money collected goes to the artists. That’s not quite so accurate, as it turns out.

A lot of big names in music have stepped up to support the PRA, most recently Dionne Warwick, who personally lobbied Congress in support of the legislation. Big names, indeed. Funny, isn’t it, how no one of less than millionaire standing seems to support this. Why is that?

Could it be because there is no fonder ambition for most up-and-comers than to get some airplay? I think so. That promotion is vital, and is marked by increasing stages of success: local airplay, regional airplay, and national airplay. It has always been, and continues to be, the chief means of discovering new music.

Now, I’m sure there are those among you shaking your heads and thinking that I am “corporate shill” as you read this. I beg to differ. I spent several years in New Orleans working as a promoter of grassroots-level art and music. I’ve had the pleasure of working with bands ranging in genre from bluegrass to death metal. Most of my work in radio has been at either college or community stations. I’m about as far from a “corporate shill” as you can get.

What I do have is perspective gained from watching band after band shooting for airplay. Too many of the high-profile supporters of the PRA desire performance royalties. To unsigned bands, it creates a barrier. As a station manager responsible for the bottom line, would you be as willing to be adventurous in your choice of playlist if you had additional fees to deal with? Probably not, especially during economic times like these. As a result, it becomes harder and harder to break new music. Sounds like it really helps the artists, doesn’t it?

I agree wholeheartedly with Corey Dietz in his recent column on About.com’s Radio section:

Most struggling bands would kill to receive substantial radio airplay which solidifies the standing of a band or artist on a national scale. In this respect, the trade between radio airplay and not having to pay the performer a royalty is more than justified. That’s just my opinion – you can leave yours below.

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