You may have heard that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating potential anticompetitive behavior by major music publishers and Performing Rights Organizations (PROs), which collect and distribute royalties to songwriters and publishers for the performance of musical compositions. These “blanket licenses” are made possible by DOJconsent decrees and cover all forms of broadcast as well as concert venues or other establishments that publicly perform music (think bars or restaurants).
Make no mistake, PROs are crucially important to songwriters. They provide leverage to artists who wouldn’t otherwise have it in rate negotiations with music services; they pay their songwriter members directly under fair splits (50-50 between artist and publisher); and they allow music to be efficiently licensed to AM/FM, Internet and satellite radio, which means listeners have more opportunities to hear music, and songwriters have more opportunities to get paid.
[This post co-authored by Communications Associate Kevin Erickson and Communications Intern Olivia Brown.]
Let’s look at some stats: Jack White’s Blunderbuss, number one debut on the Billboard 200, Third Man Records. Taylor Swift, worth $165 million, Big Machine Records. Adele, 21, more than 26 million records sold, XL Recordings. Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”, Grammy for Record of the Year, Eleven. Macklemore, a number one single on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, no label. read more
“Once the dust settled, these radio station group owners realized they had overpaid for the stations and immediately started making cuts and consolidating programming to save money,” said Jean Cook, director of programs for the Future of Music Coalition, an education, research and advocacy group for musicians. “Program directors and news departments were cut across the industry and the commercial dial became more homogenous.” read more
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.
For decades, commercial radio airplay was considered the silver bullet for success: a form of promotion with sufficient power and reach to generate significant record sales, while also accruing royalties (for songwriters and publishers) and massively raising an artist’s profile. read more
On June 9, 2011,My Morning Jacket— who are celebrating the recent release of their latest album,Circuital — sent a letter to members of Congress’ Kentucky delegation sharing their thoughts on why noncommercial radio and an accessible, innovation-driven internet are so crucial to their band (and today’s music industry in general). Download aPDF below.
Dear Members of the Kentucky Congressional Delegation:
We are writing to you as members of My Morning Jacket and as proud citizens of Kentucky. As musicians, we are concerned about a number of issues that we, and other contributors to Kentucky’s artistic economy, are currently confronting. In order to continue producing original creative work, our community requires access to the Internet and a supportive broadcast media. We are concerned with recent Congressional activity around these crucial platforms and urge you to consider the impact of your decisions on the creative sector.
By way of introduction, we are a musical group formed in 1998 in Louisville, Kentucky. We released our first album the following year. In the ensuing years, our music has been featured in films and television and we have toured the world and played to crowds numbering in the tens of thousands. In May, we released our sixth full-length studio album,Circuital. We are happy to report we just learned the album debuted number 5 on the Billboard album charts. To celebrate the release, we have been playing a series of shows around the country and donating a portion of our ticket sales to local charities. We started as a small local band in Louisville and have grown into a successful small business that employs a dozens of people and allows us to tour and sell records throughout the world.
Our ability to build a fan base at home and abroad was — and still is — dependent to a large degree on the Internet. The Internet has changed how musicians connect to their listeners — from online stores, to streaming sites like Pandora and Rhapsody, to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. These are resources that help us reach our fans and sell our product so that we generate revenue for our employees and ourselves. These outlets are absolutely essential to us and to every working musician today.
Technology (and for that matter, the entire music business) is constantly evolving. We believe it is of paramount importance to preserve the Internet as an engine for creativity and commerce. We think there should be basic rules to ensure that there is a legitimate digital music marketplace for Kentucky’s musicians now and going forward. Open access to the web and its innovations is crucial to our band, our community and Kentucky’s future artists.
As helpful as Internet technologies are, we still also depend on traditional technologies like radio. In particular, public radio has been a champion of our band and many other Kentucky acts. Having our song played on public radio is essential to the growth of our band and business, and it is essential for thousands of artists that rely on the exposure generated byNPRand non-commercial radio stations. Eliminating funding for public broadcasting would be hugely damaging to working musicians, not to mention having a negative impact on local economies.
It is our belief that funding public broadcasting and maintaining open Internet access are two essential components in nourishing the vital music scene in the state of Kentucky.
As Kentuckians, musicians, and small business owners, we urge you to preserve the things that are most critical to our ability to make a living from our music: the Internet and non-commercial radio.
Bo Koster Carl Broemel
Last week, our friends in My Morning Jacket — who are celebrating the recent release of their latest album, Circuital — sent a letter to members of Congress’ Kentucky delegation sharing their thoughts on why noncommercial radio and an accessible, innovation-driven internet are crucial to their band (and today’s music scene in general). Read the letter below; download a PDFhere.
Dear Members of the Kentucky Congressional Delegation: read more
Just a decade ago, options for hearing chamber music, jazz, and world music on the radio were straightforward and rather limited: a local NPR or Pacifica station spinning Beethoven string quartets or Wynton Marsalis on a dial filled with infinite varieties of commercial pop, country, and talk. But as with many art forms, the Internet has revolutionized how niche music reaches fans. With recording, podcasting and webcasting becoming cheaper every day, traditional radio broadcasts have morphed into dozens of new forms on the web, and ? perhaps most importantly ? the line between being a performer and a broadcaster has blurred. This new environment offers new possibilities for reaching new audiences, but it requires a new way of thinking about radio. read more