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.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is currently embroiled in a legal battle with ATT over the nature of ringtone licensing. Last month (June 2009), ASCAP filed an opposition to ATT's motion for summary judgment on the question of whether ringtones can be considered public performances.
ASCAP claims that ringtones are public performances and that its songwriters and publisher members deserve a cut of the ATT's ringtone revenue. Many groups and individuals disagree.Hear that? Your cell phone is ringing -- and under copyright law, that might just be a public performance. read more
Patrick Leahy says that the performance royalty he and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are pushing will have minimal affect on most radio operators in the US. In fact, over 75% will be capped at a maximum $5K blanket license as long as they stay under revenue benchmarks. And non-profits will be capped at $1K.
…We suspect that groups like AFTRA, the American Federation of Musicians, the Future of Music Coalition, musicFirst and other such organizations will eagerly endorse this clause. But RIAA?s support will no doubt disappear faster than an Eddie Van Halen guitar lick
Who gets paid when “Respect” is played on terrestrial radio? You might think it’s Aretha Franklin, the artist whose soulfully commanding vocal made it one of the most indelible tunes of any era. Nope. Since the late Otis Redding wrote the song, his estate gets the spoils (as does his publisher). While no one would deny Otis his due, Aretha’s performance is a huge part of that recording’s success. Her contribution is recognized by satellite radio and webcasters, who pay a royalty to Aretha and her label when the tune is broadcast. Terrestrial radio, however, fails to compensate her. read more