from the want-to-try-that-again? dept
Every couple of years, like clockwork, the RIAA gets its friends in Congress to introduce some form of a performance rights bill, that would require radio stations to pay compulsory licenses to performers of the music they play on the radio. Every year it goes nowhere because the radio owners’ big lobbying group, the NAB, is about equal in power to the RIAA. So the two sides fight it out, donate a lot of money to Congress, and nothing changes. There’s generally a lot of FUD thrown up in the process, along with some crap about “fairness” when that’s not what they’re really pushing for at all. It’s all about more revenue for the record labels and that’s it. If you’re unaware, playing music on the radio already requires payments to songwriters/publishers, but not to performers. The reason being that being on the radio acts as promotion, allowing the musicians to make it up elsewhere. We know that this happens because of the widespread practice of payola, in which the labels pay the radio stations to play their music. If it wasn’t worth it to get on the radio, the labels wouldn’t regularly get involved in payola scandals. And yet, they do, because radio play (even today) remains great advertising for music.
We thought things had reached a new low four years ago when Rep. John Conyers sponsored one of these bills and insisted that radio stations playing musicians’ music was the equivalent of slavery. Apparently, the RIAA liked that line so much it fed it to a different Congressional Rep. this year. RIAA darlings Jerry Nadler, Marsha Blackburn and Ted Deutch have joined Conyers in releasing the latest version of a performance rights act, this time called the “Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015” and the RIAA’s spin doctors somehow decided that having Rep. Nadler use the slavery line was a good idea:
Previously, radio complained about the economy, asserting that they simply couldn?t afford to pay performers. But as far as the radio industry is concerned, ?it’s never the right time,? Nadler said. ?What other industry says, ‘ We can?t afford to pay our workers; We want them to work for free,’? he cracked. ?We got rid of that argument here in the U.S. in 1865,” referencing the abolition of slavery legislated by the 13th Amendment.
I’m sorry, but in no possible way is promoting someone’s music on the radio the equivalent of slavery. To say so is not just insulting and offensive, but it’s ridiculous. You can argue about the appropriateness of royalties, compulsory rates or anything else — but to argue that getting played on the radio without direct compensation (despite all the indirect compensation) to slavery is just flat out ridiculous. Nadler doesn’t get paid each time he goes on TV to talk about whatever bill he’s supporting, does he? Is that slavery? No, it’s promotional, just like music being played on the radio.
Just the fact that Nadler has to resort to this silly and tired argument again, despite it flopping five years ago, should tell you all you need to know about this weak attempt by the RIAA to squeeze out more money without doing anything different.
Filed Under: congress, fair play fair pay act, jerry nadler, john conyers, marsha blackburn, performance rights, performance rights act, radio play, slavery, ted deutch
Companies: musicfirst, riaa, soundexchange