Radio Evangelist

Thoughts of a Evangelist for Radio in all its forms

Performance Royalty for Radio

Posted by Steve on July 3, 2008

Lots of words have been written about this, but it’s like the debate about the death penalty and the "right to life" – the real world is more nuanced than the apologists for either side would have us believe.

It makes perfect sense that if the streaming music providers need to pay performance royalties, then the radio stations should as well.  In fact, it makes sense that every "public" performance of a work should be targeted with a fee.  So, this includes any situation where more than one person is present in a place where a CD or other recorded music is played.  You church Christmas party, your July 4th block party, the local bar where they play CDs for ambience, the Labor Day Firemen’s Barbeque for MS.  All of these venues should be paying an ASCAP/BMI writer’s royalty today.  This, of course, is the same logic that applies to film.

On the other side of the coin, the performer makes a sum of money for each track sold at retail (albeit, a tiny sum).  So, it can be argued that public performance of the performer’s work provides promotional exposure of the work and will drive people to purchase it. Which is absolutely true (assuming the recording appeals to anyone).  We know from marketing research that repeated exposure to a sound recording will eventually motivate a listener to take action – the old "frequency of 3" principle.

What really makes this smell to high heaven is that the record companies find themselves in the position to ask for these fees because of the very fact that the radio industry has provided free promotion exposure to these acts for the past 86 years.  Frankly, I would proposed that radio stations submit a bill to the record companies for all of the airplay – free promotional exposure – that their product has received over the years.  If they want to open Pandora’s box, then so be it.

Here’s some links to find interesting commentary on this subject:

Broadcast Law Blog 

Mark Ramsey’s Hear 2.0

Inside Music Media – Jerry Del Colliano

Kurt Hanson’s RAIN


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