For decades, broadcasters have enjoyed an exemption that allows them to not pay performers and labels when they terrestrially broadcast music. This hardly makes sense, especially compared to digital services like Pandora or Sirius XM, which pay not only songwriters and composers, but also performers and sound copyright owners. This is why the recent deal struck between broadcasting behemoth Clear Channel and Big Machine Records to pay out for “terrestrial” spins seems so significant.
The deal sees the biggest radio station group agreeing for the first time to “share terrestrial revenues” for the broadcast of sound recordings. Compensating performers for over-the-air radio is something that artist advocates like the Future of Music Coalition, the Recording Academy and the American Federation of Musicians have long pushed for. With this deal, Clear Channel has signaled that broadcasting sound recordings is worth something in the “willing buyer, willing seller” market, and that terrestrial airplay can trigger compensation.
But before we break out the bubbly, it’s important to look at the other aspects of this deal, and ask whether it will make a difference to the vast majority of performers.