In the past few weeks there has been a flurry of controversy concerning the PERFORMANCE RIGHTS ACT. Many broadcasters and thousands of uninformed people are suggesting that the bill would be the death of Black radio within the United States.
Black radio died years ago when consolidation of ownership, syndication of programming and disregard for the local community became the Black radio norm. What the cry is now is for the local listeners to rally around the Black owned radio stations so the stations won’t have to pay out more money. Where is the concern for the artists whose creativity and expertise made this entire industry possible?
Looking at Black radio within the United States many people seemed to forget exactly how Black radio assisted the recording artists and independent labels. In the beginning Black radio was concerned about the health and growth of independent Black owned labels and worked closely with them, at times in complete partnership, to create events, shows, in stores and remote broadcasts benefitting both parties. As revenues grew and more stations became popular the attitude of owners, sales people and eventually disc jockeys became more and more financially directed. What once was partnership creating revenue for both sides became a mandatory free show, promotion, in store or event FOR the station. Disk jockeys became PIMP jockeys and wanted money in advance of hearing the music that was offered to them for possible airplay. Research techniques were initiated to offer “scientific” excuses for not playing a song, while new systems were put in place to make the journey to the radio station more difficult.
Record pools, independent promoters, marketing experts, publicity people, ALL were started from the inception of artists creativity and expertise. Without the song NO ONE would be eating. Now that the United States wants to join the rest of the free world in assisting the artist acquire revenue that has been LONG denied them we hear from major and independent broadcast owners that this is a business threatening move.
Education of the issue can help you understand the different visions presented by both sides.
The SOUND RECORDING PERFORMANCE RIGHTS ACT FOR TERRESTRIAL RADIO H.R.4789 passed the House of Representatives on May 13, 2009.
Performance Rights Act - Amends federal copyright law to:
(1) Grant performers of sound recordings equal rights to compensation from terrestrial broadcasters;
(2) Establish a flat annual fee in lieu of payment of royalties for individual terrestrial broadcast stations with gross revenues of less than $1.25 million and for non-commercial, public broadcast stations;
(3) Grant an exemption from royalty payments for broadcasts of religious services and for incidental uses of musical sound recordings; and
(4) Grant terrestrial broadcast stations that make limited feature uses of sound recordings a per program license option.
Any single track of recorded music consists of 2 copyrights.
There is a copyright in the written words and music (the “musical composition”), which is typically held by the songwriter or their publisher.
There is a copyright in any recording of the composition (the “sound recording”), which is typically held by the performing artist or their label.
What the Performance Rights Act is proposing is that the owners of the sound recording start receiving payment for the use of their art. Prior to 1995 performers could not receive ANY remuneration for their art, then Sound Exchange started collecting for Internet radio, Satellite radio and Cable radio plays and artists who had not seen any money in years from their publishers or labels started seeing renewed checks.
We are now talking about paying recording artist direct for their contributions to the BILLIONS of dollars in revenue radio stations have all ready collected.
This is not the end of Black radio.
This is not the end of free on air time for non-profit organizations.
This is not the reason for firing announcers and other radio station people.
This is a call for station owners to become more attuned to their community needs, develop consistent sales programs that develop better usage of their staffs, stop doing business the way it was done years ago and step into the future. I find it really strange that the people speaking out the most against the Performance Act either work for a major radio network or have refused to embrace the new technological changes now available for supplementary revenue formation.
Interestingly enough radio stations outside of the United States have been paying publishing fees AND performance fees for years and it has grown there business.