by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 14th 2009 12:34pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 17th 2009 9:56am
from the logic-much? dept
So, wait, which is it? If it's a kind of piracy to play songs on the radio, shouldn't musicFIRST and the RIAA be thrilled that radio stations aren't playing their music? Or do they recognize the free promotional benefits radio provides for artists? They can't have it both ways, can they? First they're upset that the music is being "pirated" and now they're upset that it's not being "pirated"? Please explain!
Now, as for those nasty nasty radio stations "boycotting" certain artists, well who are they? Turns out one of the main culprits is a tiny 100-watt high school radio station who has explained, in great detail the reasons behind their political stance. They are making a political choice by purposely boycotting musicians who support the view that playing their songs on the radio is "a kind of piracy." You would think that would make musicFIRST, the RIAA and those musicians happy. But, more to the point, that music "boycott" was a temporary thing, and lasted for one month, from mid-June 2007 until mid-July of that same year. Yes. It lasted for one month, to make a political statement, and it happened two years ago. And suddenly the RIAA/musicFIRST wants an FCC investigation? Of a bunch of high schoolers making a political statement against a tax that would harm their educational radio station by not "pirating" materials that the lobbyists claim are pirated?
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 16th 2009 6:22am
from the anything-for-the-money dept
So, the RIAA claims, this is unfair... after all, why should they get paid for all of those, but not radio?
Except, the RIAA conveniently wants us all to forget history. That's because it was the RIAA who argued that satellite radio, internet radio and other forms of broadcasting were different from terrestrial radio, and therefore required different royalty structures. In other words, the only reason why this "unfair" dichotomy exists in the first place is because the RIAA lobbied for it by claiming that satellite radio and internet radio were different.
Now it wants everyone to forget that and pretend that it's some weird "anomaly" that terrestrial radio doesn't include performance royalties? Don't buy it. This is the sort of thing the industry has pulled off for years -- pushing one country to extend copyright laws, and then moving to other countries and working up a lobbyist campaign about how that country isn't keeping up with other, more reasonable countries, concerning copyright laws. Have you noticed what's happening in Canada these days? That's a direct example of this sort of thing.
Walker also takes on other points to show how silly and dangerous the Performance Rights Act would be. It benefits no one but the record labels. It harms radio stations. It harms independent musicians. It harms big musicians as well (since most of the money doesn't go to them, but to the record labels). Who does it help? The RIAA, of course:
And for what? Imagine, as a thought experiment, that this bill were passed and, simultaneously, payola were made fully legal. Does anyone doubt that more money would flow toward the radio stations than away? Radio remains the primary means by which the music industry promotes its product. By pushing for this fee, the labels are essentially asking their advertisers to pay them for the service of selling their stuff.As we've seen time and time again, if the RIAA supports it, it's not good for consumers. It's not good for musicians. It's not good for anyone but a small selection of record labels. Hopefully, Congress recognizes this for the pure money grab it is and shuts it down.
Ah, you say, but what about the independent artists who don't get big promotional pushes from the major music labels? Surely they'd benefit from a new revenue stream? Actually, they'll be even worse off. The economic mission of most commercial radio stations is to deliver audiences to the sponsors whose spots are aired between tunes. So programmers have a built-in preference for music whose mass appeal has already been proven. If you increase the cost of playing a record, that just intensifies the incentive: The more you pay to play a song, the more conservative you'll be about which songs you play. The marginal cost of playing each track is the same, but the commercial payoff is greater for established artists.
Generally speaking, the more it costs to run a station, the more risk-averse it will be. That's one reason low-power and Web outlets are more experimental: They don't have as much money on the line. But those stations--the ones that go out of their way to play diverse and unfamiliar material--are precisely the ones that have the hardest time paying the song tax. The proposed law acknowledges the problem by introducing a sliding scale, with the least profitable outfits paying $500 a year. But while that may be chump change for a big broadcaster, it's a pretty big piece of the operating budget for a low-power, volunteer-run community or student station.
Nor is it the only cost the law will impose. "The record labels are completely out of touch as to how college radio stations operate," Warren Kozireski, president of College Broadcasters Inc., recently complained on his organization's website. "The extensive record keeping requirements that will be required by the Copyright Royalty Board alone will add hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to the true cost of a performance fee." It's relatively easy to do that book-keeping if you have a narrow playlist and rarely deviate from it, as is the case with most large commercial radio stations. But if you have a library of thousands of albums and 45s, many of which were never reissued on CD, and if you allow your DJs to choose which ones they play--or even to bring in still more music from their personal collections of rare soul or jazz or bluegrass or electronica obscurities--then tracking the data suddenly becomes a full-time job.
Worse yet: Though the rhetoric around the proposal focuses on the benefits to musicians, much of the money won't make it to the artists in the first place. In part that reflects the fact that the fees go not just to the performers but to the copyright owner, which frequently means the record company. But it also reflects the corruption in the industry, which legislation like this has probably abetted.
from the online-radio-killed-the-radio-star dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 14th 2009 10:48am
from the there-we-go... dept
And, of course, the most damning argument against the recording industry's demand for money here is the fact that, for decades, the industry has (illegally) had the money go in the other direction. The system of payola has shown, quite clearly, how much the recording industry values airtime, in that it's willing to pay radio stations to play its music.
So, can anyone explain why it's illegal for record labels to pay radio stations to play music, but it's okay for Congress to force radio stations to pay the record labels for playing their music? It defies common sense.
Yet, with a nice push from the Copyright Office, the bill is moving forward, and will face a full House vote. During the Committee debate over the bill, Rep. Daniel Lungren made a perfectly reasonable suggestion: why not wait until the GAO had a chance to do an economic analysis of how the bill would impact radio stations. Considering that the bill is effectively a tax on those radio stations, this seems like a perfectly reasonable idea... but it resulted in Rep. Howard Berman (who represents Hollywood, always) accusing Lungren of trying to kill the bill. Isn't it great when simply waiting to find out what kind of impact the bill might have gets you accused of trying to kill it. Apparently in Congress, it's all about shooting first and asking questions later.
That said, Peter Kafka, over at AllThingsD, has made the best point: most people don't care about this bill because they don't realize that it's really a bill to bail out the RIAA by creating a radio station tax that goes straight into the recording industry's bank accounts. So, rather than call it the Performance Rights Act, it should more accurately be called the Britney Bailout Bill.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 6th 2009 10:03pm
from the thinking-this-through dept
I'm sure that's true, but I'm not at all sure it has anything to do with payola. I'd bet it has a lot more to do with two things: basic economics and the rise of alternatives such as the internet and satellite radio. Based on these things, and the limited number of radio stations out there in a given region, it only makes sense that those stations would gravitate towards music and formats that bring in the largest, most mainstream audience. That's just basic economics. Playing just indie music attracts a smaller audience, and it's tough enough to survive as is.
That said, it's not clear this is really a problem. Those of us who tend to like indie music more had already moved away from terrestrial radio long ago -- and thanks to the internet, podcasts, MP3 players and other alternatives, have no problem hearing the music we like. Yes, there are still a lot of people who listen to terrestrial radio, and those stations do still have some influence on what's popular, but it's hardly the cultural juggernaut it was not so long ago.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 27th 2009 12:24pm
from the this-is-called-extortion dept
The latest (sent in by a few folks) is that PRS has now threatened a woman who plays classical music to her horses in her stable to keep them calm. She had been turning on the local classical music station, saying that it helped keep the horse calm -- but PRS is demanding £99 if she wants to keep providing such a "public performance." And it's not just a one-off. Apparently a bunch of stables have been receiving such calls.
Obviously, this is not a case of random excessive attempts by PRS to squeeze more money out of people. It's become systematic. The group seems to believe that playing music in almost any situation now constitutes a public performance and requires a licensing fee. You just know they're salivating over the opportunity to go after people playing music in their cars with the windows down.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 25th 2009 1:22pm
from the and-even-screws-that-up dept
However, these days, with the recording industry unable to adapt to the changing marketplace, they've taken to demanding that others (individuals, ISPs, video games, Apple, webcasters, etc...) simply give them money instead. Their latest target, of course, is radio stations. It started with that silly claim that radio is a form of piracy -- then advanced to a bill, being introduced by a Congressional Rep, John Conyers (whose last campaign was heavily funded by those connected to the labels and this lobbying group), to force radio stations to pay the record labels as well.
MusicFIRST's latest effort was to drag its dog and pony show to Congress, where it paraded a bunch of musicians in front of Congresscritters to whine about how unfair it was that radio stations helped promote their music without paying them. Of course, it looks like MusicFIRST should have talked to the musicians a bit more carefully first. One of the musicians they trotted out, Matt Maher, less than 24 hours before going before Congress, noted on his Twitter account how such royalties could hurt radio stations and worried that it would cause some stations to shut down. Apparently, someone went a bit off the reservation and made exactly the opposite point that MusicFIRST wanted him to make....
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 18th 2009 1:18am
from the battle-still-brewing dept
About the only reasonable thing was (despite the CRB's refusal to stay the ruling) that SoundExchange agreed to hold off new royalties while the parties negotiated. Time to work out a deal was supposed to end last fall, and despite SoundExchange and many webcasters asking for more time, the NAB lobbied hard to deny that extra time. Luckily they got it anyway, but even the extended period of time has ended. NAB and its big radio stations are fine with their deal, but internet-only webcasters still don't see anything reasonable. On top of that, SoundExchange made a separate offer to "small" webcasters, but most have found that to be way too onerous as well -- especially the part where if they ever get acquired by a larger player, they'll have to go back later and pay the higher rates even for the time when they were small and independent.
And, no one has yet explained why webcasters should need to pay so much money for helping to promote new acts in the first place. Radio, streaming online or over the air, is a great way for people to learn about new acts, giving them reasons to go out and buy products and merchandise or see those acts live. By forcing the very people who want to promote the music to pay ridiculous fees, all the industry is doing is shooting itself in the foot. Again.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 9th 2009 9:03am
from the and-here-we-go-again dept
Yet, in the last few years, with the recording industry execs desperate for more cash and unwilling to embrace business models that actually take some work, they've been running to Congress demanding that radio stations now pay performance rights to the labels. They even came up with a silly study that attempted to prove that radio play decreases sales. Late last year, it got so silly that one of the recording industry's many lobbying groups, called musicFIRST, claimed that radio is a "form of piracy." musicFIRST has been hiring big name lobbyists, like former House Majority Leader Dick Armey to push this view, and (of course) some politicians have obliged.
Rep. John Conyers has once again introduced a performance rights bill which is mistakenly described as creating "parity." It's only "parity" if you think that doubling the tax on playing music on the radio is "parity."
It's worth noting, of course, that among the top contributors to Rep. Conyers recent re-election was the American Intellectual Property Law Association as well as DLA Piper, the big law firm that (oh look!) Dick Armey has been working for... It's also worth pointing out that Conyers, as head of the House Judiciary Committee, just so happened to have recently abolished the subcommittee on intellectual property -- which (hmm...) would have almost certainly been chaired by Rep. Rick Boucher, one of the few folks in Congress who actually has been known to fight for the rights of consumers, and against the RIAA, when it comes to copyright. This gave Conyers, rather than Boucher, control over new IP related legislation.