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Buffalo paper supports broadcast royalties

Posted on: 01/31/2008

From an editorial in The Buffalo News: If you want to dance, pay the piper. That’s the basic message of a coalition called musicFIRST, a partnership of artists and music industry organizations that wants broadcast radio stations to pay royalties to performers. It’s a fair move, and deserves support.

Under that concept, aspiring and local artists, background singers and well-known stars alike would be compensated for use of their work by “terrestrial” radio stations, much as they already are paid when their music is heard over satellite radio, Internet radio or cable…

The Performance Rights Act of 2007 would remove the broadcast exemption from the copyright law and require terrestrial radio to pay a performance royalty to artists. Songwriters already are compensated, but not the singers and musicians who produce the music…

Member organizations of the National Association of Broadcasters made $21 billion last year in advertising revenue. Some $16 billion of that related to music radio, the rest to news and information. Songwriters were paid less than $500 million a year — and performance right holders, zero.

The National Association of Broadcasters… contends that Congress has long recognized that radio airplay of music generates millions of dollars in revenue for record labels and artists… and many of these artists would not have been heard at all were it not for the free promotional airplay of music on stations all over America…

But satellite, Internet and cable music stations have accommodated the costs, and the legislation being proposed is aimed primarily at large radio syndicates, the kind that are pushing more stations into preprogrammed music or have one disc jockey per shift handling 20 stations simultaneously…

Supporters of the legislation, locally including Righteous Babe Records’ Mary Begley and Fatboy Records’ Jon Topper, think a more equitable distribution of the pie actually may increase the amount of music out there, as performing artists are not discouraged and pushed into other fields by economic necessity. It certainly would help side musicians and session musicians, who may develop a catchy song phrase without getting songwriting credit for it…

Because foreign performers are not paid royalties on music played here, other nations decline to pay American artists for music played there — a much more common practice overseas. The United States isn’t alone in this — China, Iran and North Korea don’t require performance royalties, either.

Read the entire editorial here.

Without even taking a stance on the Performance Rights Act itself, there are a few problems with this paper’s support of the legislation, and most stem from its primary argument that this law would help “aspiring” and “studio” musicians. That’s actually pretty unlikely.

It’s not even clear whether The Buffalo News understands that such a law would benefit copyright owners, who for the vast majority of recorded music played on radio, are record companies, not performers. Granted, if the law were to replicate the DMCA’s requirement that performance royalties be split 50/45/5 between a work’s copyright owner/feature performer/background performers, artists would receive something. But who’s to say such a royalty wouldn’t simply be “recoupable,” payable to the performer only after the record company has already made its millions on a recording? Note that the “local supporters” of the measure the paper cites are not local artists — they’re from record companies!

Finally, as a RAIN reader you’ll certainly take note of how the editorial glosses over the matter of performance royalties in other media like Internet radio. While most business people in these newer forms of radio have accepted the reality of sound recording performance royalties, we most certainly have not “accommodated the costs.” The broadcast industry in this country would be devastated by these costs if they were on par with what has been foisted upon Internet radio. — PM

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  1. Leave it to the Buffalo News to get it wrong. I was born and raised in Buffalo until I moved to New York City 5 years ago to further establish my career in the music business. A large portion of the music fans in Buffalo are very passionate, but that paper misguides them to no end. Buffalo has the only city paper that gives the music column to the former food critic and to this day references the Goo Goo Dolls and Natalie Merchant every chance it gets, in what seems to be one long ongoing and desperate attempt to legitimize the city’s artistic contribution to society, all the while electing to decline coverage of any small but actually interesting creative movement afoot on it’s turf. So, I wouldn’t get too worked up over this situation now that we know what kind of people we’re dealing with here. For them to completely miss the point of the broadcast royalty issue doesn’t surprise me in the least. I didn’t even see a name on the opinion piece. Perhaps they left it anonymous to protect the ignorant?

    Chris Desing - MegaPlatinum Entertainment · Feb 11, 03:48 PM · #

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