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Friday, June 12, 2009

Penalized For Supporting The Performance Rights Act?

There's a case being made that artists who support the Performance Rights Act are being penalized secretly by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Bono, the most vocal supporter of the bill, found the Put On Your Boots single from the current U2 album with a minimum of airplay despite a huge promotional pitch by the record label, an opening spot at the inauguration concert, and a few other prime opportunities afforded only to superstar acts.

While support in the music community has grown for the bill, the NAB has ratcheted up its lobbying effort against it, spouting all sorts of doom and gloom about what will happen should the bill pass. The Performance Rights Act pays a royalty to the artist, not the songwriter, each time a song is played on the radio. Until now, artists with massive airplay (like the Righteous Brothers, who's You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling is the most played song in history) have never received a cent for any airplay. The United States is the only country that does not pay performance royalties.

The NAB claims that having to pay a performance royalty will force all radio stations to convert to talk radio because of the increased costs of doing business. This line of thinking, of course, has no basis in fact. Radio stations are immensely profitable and are increasingly owned by large station groups and broadcast conglomerates. A performance royalty will slightly cut into those profits, but the NAB acts as if it's so much money that the stations can no longer stay in business.

Believe me, if it were as bad as the NAB claims it will be, station groups would be shedding their stations faster than an MP3 stream, which might actually be good for radio in the long run since the stations would probably be more local in their programming again instead of using the homogenized national playlist that we're forced to listen to now.

Some think that even if what the NAB says is true, it would still force a return to local programming, only with the artists signing waivers against any royalty collection. History says that this won't work. When radio first started in the 20's, owners tried to make a go of it without the higher priced "stars" of the day. After a few years of mediocre ratings, they finally gave in to using star power and their ratings and the fortunes of the industry soared.

The Performance Rights Act is coming to a vote in Congress soon. It should be interesting which lobbying group, the one for the broadcasters (the NAB) or the one for the record labels (the RIAA), comes out on top.


Larry Jones said...

I'm all for paying the performer, but if this law puts at risk everybody but the conglomerates, do you really think that will be a good thing? There is already precious little local programming. I don't know anything about the profits of small stations or the ability of, say, a listener-supported Pacifica station to pay additional royalties, but I'd hate to see these little guys have to stop playing new music.

Bobby Owsinski said...

The law doesn't put anyone at risk except the station groups, but their all very profitable and we're talking 1/10's of a percent of that profit.

Religious stations are exempt. Very small commercial stations pay a flat $5k per year. College and NPR pay a flat $1k per year.

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