Say you’re a college radio DJ, and you play a cover of The Velvet Underground’s 1966 classic “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” performed by electro-art-pop duo YACHT. You might be surprised to learn that Lou Reed (the songwriter) gets paid when that song is broadcast, but YACHT, the performer, does not.
Unlike most countries, where performer, sound recording owner, songwriter, and publisher all get paid when a song is played on over-the-air radio, in the US, only the songwriter and publisher are compensated. You heard right: no matter how many times a song gets played on the radio, performing artists don’t get a dime. By contrast, internet radio — from Pandora to Sirius/XM and all the webcasters in-between — pays everybody: labels, performing artists, publishers and songwriters. (For more info on how this all works, check out our Public Performance Right fact sheet.)
This glitch in US law doesn’t just impact the Biebers and Britneys of the world. It also means that hard-working independent artists who are more likely to get played on college and noncommercial radio than corporate stations are missing out on a potential revenue stream.
[This post was authored by FMC Policy Intern Joseph Silver & Policy Fellow Daniel Lieberman]
Yesterday on Capitol Hill, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology rounded up some music industry bigwigs including Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America); Jeff Smulyan (CEO of Ennis Communications); Steven Newberry (CEO of Commonwealth Broadcasting Corp.); Tim Westergren (Pandora founder); Christopher Gutttman-McCabe (Vice President of CTIA Wireless); Gary Shapiro (President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association); and a single artist: Ben Allison, a New York-based jazz bassist. The panel, the title of which the recently deceased Ray Bradbury might even admire — “The Future of Audio” — featured a broad discussion that touched upon music, mobile technology, radio signals, and last, but hopefully not least, artist compensation.
Our friends in DeVotchKa swung through Washington, DC, back in March and went to the Hill with us to talk to Congress about the importance of public radio for musicians. The Denver Post recently ran an Op-Ed from the band; click over to the Post’s website or see below for the full text of the piece.
The importance of public radio to the music community
By Tom Hagerman, Shawn King, Jeanie Schroder and Nick Urata
This post was co-authored by FMC Policy Consultant Adam Holofcener.
Here at FMC we’re pretty keen on technology. But we still have a spot in our hearts for old(er)-school media like over-the-air radio. We’ve been touting the virtues of the original spectrum-based platform since we launched this org more than a decade ago. Unfortunately, there are still those who don’t understand why a diverse, competitive radio marketplace is a good thing. read more
In a July 12 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC opened the door for possible inclusion of low-power FM (LPFM) station applications alongside applications for FM translators (low-power stations that relay full-power FM signals). The FCC has committed to LPFM as a tool for bringing more community voices to the airwaves, but this move may pit existing stations against new applicants in competition for the same limited frequencies.
“It looks like the FCC is taking the right step forward in terms of trying to ensure that those opportunities for LPFM exist at all,” said Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition. Without such a compromise, the opportunity for new LPFMs could “just completely go away,” he said. read more
You may recall us talking about free103point9 -- a New York State "transmission arts" collective that recently was awarded an FCC license for a brand-new Full Power non-commercial station in New York's Greene and Columbia Counties. Well, the new station is called WGXC, and they need your help getting it off the ground (or rather, on the air).
(Learn more about FMC's role in helping community arts organizations apply for licenses here; check out a podcast interview with free103point9's Tom Roe here.) read more
In the fall of 2007, the Federal Communications Commission presented a rare opportunity to revitalize local radio in communities across the country. For one week in October, nonprofit groups could apply to the Commission for full-power FM radio stations. FMC identified the more than 200 organizations that could benefit from having a full-power radio station. Along with Radio for People coalition, FMC worked to ease a process that would otherwise be daunting, connecting applicants with lawyers and engineers and guiding them through each step of the process. “In particular, we zeroed in on groups that would bring new and diverse music programming to the air,” says Cook.
Through conversations with various applicants — from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to a transmission arts collective in upstate New York — this article explains the opportunity that this full-power window represents and how FMC helped creative communities organize and engage in the process. read more
Here’s the first installment of an excellent article by hip-hop writer Eric K. Arnold that examines the effects of media consolidation on the urban radio format.
Arnold is an authority on this subject; his recent cover story for SF Weekly, “The Demise of Hyphy,” looked at the role of commercial stations in local communities and the impact they have on music and culture. The article has sparked a great deal of conversation in the Bay Area and beyond. (A full author bio can be found at the end of the post). read more
FMC has spent a goodly amount of time supporting the creation of a public performance right for sound recordings, which would require terrestrial radio broadcasters to pay performers and labels for the recordings they play. It’s been a while since we addressed the issue, so allow us to recap.
Currently, when you hear a song on over-the-air broadcast radio in the US, the composer/songwriter/publisher are compensated for that “public performance” via ASCAP/BMI/SESAC, but the performer and record label are not. Meaning, if you hear Sinead O’Connor’s version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” on the radio, only the songwriter (Prince) and the publisher receive payment; Sinead (and her label) are left out. read more