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The Performance Royalty Act & The Importance of Reading The Fine Print

Money in fist.jpg.jpegI must admit that until I read a post from Anthony David's blog recently entitled "HR848 - Black radio stations are LYING to us!", I really had no idea what HR848 a/k/a "The Performance Royalty Act" was. The very little I did know about this act is that it pertained to radio, and since I never listen to the radio, that was pretty much the end of my interest in it. Until I delved a bit deeper, I had no idea the type of deception that certain Black radio stations seemed intent upon promoting. And to its listeners at that. But who's really surprised when corporations rely on any means necessary to lie, cheat, and steal their way to greater wealth?

In short, The Performance Royalty Act is so troublesome to radio stations because it would mandate that radio stations would have to pay a small fee to every artist they paid on the radio, instead of only paying the writer and music publisher. A great example of this was described by David on his blog:

You ever wonder if Luther [Vandross], or his family get paid, every time "Superstar" gets played on the radio? Well, NO. That song was written by the Carpenters back in the day. It was a minor hit for them, but because of how Luther arranged it and sang it, it was a huge hit for him. It plays all the time, and the only people who get paid for it are the publisher and the writer. Luther's voice made the difference, and people tune into the "classic soul" station, in whatever city to hear Luther sing it. This bill proposes that he gets some change for that. Many artists are not writers, but if they are the "performers" of a classic, they should be compensated, maybe not as much, but somewhat like the writers are.

Most industrialized nations, including those in Europe abide by this common sense rule. It should be strongly noted, however, that since the U.S. does not deem a "performance royalty" necessary, Europe in turn does not feel the need to reciprocate. Hence, you being a major star in Germany means you do not get paid every time your song is on their airwaves. It should also be noted that the only other countries in the world who share the view of the U.S.'s are Congo, China, and Korea, all countries with less than stellar human rights records. But I digress.

Let's now bring this point a little closer to home. Cathy Hughes, founder and CEO of corporate conglomerate Radio One, has even gone so far as to say that The Performance Royalty Act would put independently owned Black radio stations out of business, and "severely affect money losing formats such as gospel and black talk." Charles Warfield, president of Inner City Broadcast Holdings, has even gone so far as to contend that this act should be likened to a "tax" on listeners. He even likened radio's use of artists' musical product without compensating them to free promotion that is more valuable than cash.
It has been said before, and serves repeating here, that the only color that truly matters in business is green. There is something seriously wrong with this country when those who hold powerful positions reap millions of dollars in advertising dollars solely on a product that they refuse to want to pay for. It has been proposed that record labels should withhold the actual music to radio stations in an effort to see this wrong corrected, but then that would make way too much sense in the long run. Despite all the information that has been presented, the most startling point was recently made by Cathy Hughes in a letter earlier this month urging listeners to protest this act. She wrote,

The music that you now receive free from us - we would have to pay millions of dollars for.

Wow. It seems like those are the breaks as Kurtis Blow would say. Keep in mind that to a large corporation such as Radio One, this would amount to $5000 or more per year given their annual revenue last year was $316 million dollars. For smaller radio stations, this would amount to a whopping $500 per year, which may roughly equal the budget for the annual Christmas party. Expect more controversy surrounding this topic since The Performance Royalty Act has only made been recommended to be presented to the House of Representatives. For further developments, stay tuned to SoulBounce.

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar

    Wow I never knew, thanks for posting about this..just another reason for Cathy Hughes to irk the mess outta me..

  2. Is that $5000/yr/artist? Or is that a flat fee regardless of the number of artists they play?

  3. @chynadoll,
    To answer your question, that would be $5000 per year regardless of the number of artists they play according to this article.

  4. @ill Mami: Thanks. See it pays 2 be informed b/c that alters my perspective on this issue. I'll keep reading up on it.

  5. it's Kurtis Blow...with a 'K' and it's 'Breaks'..not brakes.

  6. @M: Thanks for your keen eye. The errors have been corrected.

  7. I told someone this same thing last week. It is ridiculous that the artist are not compensated in some fashion for making the song a hit. Yes, there are some performers that will not be hurt by this not passing (i.e. Prince) but for those who don't write the songs (i.e. Whitney Houston, TLC, so many artists of the past), this will correct the wrongs from the past. And they are not asking for much either (for Radio One, that would be $5,000 per station, 53 stations in 16 urban markets, $265,000 a year...that is a drop in the bucket for Radio One).

  8. Thanks so much for posting this. My father is a musician and a member of the musician's union back home; he's told me quite a bit about this issue, but it didn't hit home until I saw that the lobby group, "No Performance Tax.org," had plastered the Capitol South Metro station with tons of billboards about the radio industry possibly suffering because of the prospect of paying performers. That's bullsh-t! Radio would have to pay performers *pennies* per song. Pennies. (So yes, that $5000 per radio station per year is correct.) And all that talk about "the money would go to foreign record companies, not performers" (again, plastered on billboard-size ads) is bull, too. The foreign record companies are actually holding money aside to pay American performers, but won't pay it until there's a reciprocal agreement in place in the U.S. In Europe the radio stations pay the performers for radio play. It pisses me off every time I see such blatant misuse of information, especially when it comes to musicians' livelihood.
    But I'm biased, clearly.
    Again, thanks for posting. I'm glad somebody else cares about this issue besides the musicians themselves.

  9. Thanks for the info. Very informative.
    I wonder though: how are radio stations faring with ad dollars in this economy?

  10. Wow Cathy, maybe you should use some of that payola money to pay the artists you make money off of. I guess that sounds too much like right.

  11. Thanks for an important post.
    I never knew the performing artist received nothing.
    I'm astonished.

  12. More articles like these please



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