Congressman Buys Recording Industry Argument That Radio Is Piracy

from the and-here-we-go-again dept

For pretty much the entire history of radio, everyone has known that getting your songs played on the radio was promotional. It helps sell albums. It helps sell concert tickets. There is no better way to prove this than to just look at the history of "payola" whereby record labels would pay radio stations to get their music heard. Obviously, the recording industry put tremendous value into being on the radio and was willing to pay for the privilege (even if it was illegal). In the US, radio stations have to pay royalties to composers and publishers -- but not performance rights to the musicians. That's because Congress also recognized that radio was a benefit to those artists.

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."
This is, once again, nothing more than the recording industry trying to get the government to force others to hand over money, because the labels are too lazy (or clueless) to learn how to embrace some of the new business models that are earning musicians plenty of money. And Congress has no problem helping to prop them up.

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.

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  1. identicon
    Music Industry Guy, 9 Feb 2009 @ 10:40am

    Why Not

    I kind of understand where people might think that this is a bad thing but in actuality it is not. This might be one of the most positive things that record labels are trying to do right now. And this has nothing to do with the RIAA :)

    Let me try and explain this from a positive point of view...Section 106 of the US Copyright law grants 6 rights to people who exclusively own the copyright of a song (Reproduce, Adapt, Perform, Internet, Display, and Distribute)...that would be the Music Publishers and the songwriters. Nowhere does it give an exclusive right to the ARTIST (that is if the artist did not write the song). Why should the music publishers and the songwriters get all the performance royalties when the artist is doing just as much work if not more than the mp and sw? There should definitely be a performance right specifically for Sound Recordings that go to the artist. After all, what would the songwriters and music publishers be without the people who BUY the songs (aka the artists)?

    I don't know, this is just my opinion, but in the long run the artists end up making less than the music publishers and songwriters. As time goes on, the artists make less money from artist royalties from sales of CDs while the music publishers and songwriters make a killing from places like movies, soundtracks, TV shows, radio, commercials, bars, restaurants, DJs, nightclubs, and anything else that uses (i.e. "performs") the song. 10 years down the road if a song is played on the radio (for example anything by Britney Spears), the songwriters and music publishers are still getting paid for that while the artists (the people that made the song famous in the first place) aren't getting anything.

    Of course, this is all under the assumption that the artist had someone write the song for them. I do not believe in artists double dipping (i.e. getting an "Artist Sound Recording Royalty" as well as a "Songwriters Performance Royalty").

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