Battle lines drawn on performance payments


At issue is the symbiotic relationship between broadcasters and artists. It has long been held that radio airplay is key to the financial success of musicians, and that this free exposure of their music is ample compensation for broadcaster’s benefit in using it as program material. The push is on for artists to now be paid every time their work is played by broadcasters. If you’re a musician or recording company it’s a royalty. If you’re a broadcaster, it’s a performance tax. Yesterday Howard Berman (D-CA) and his Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property convened a hearing panel on the topic pitting ICBC’s Charles Warfield, pictured, against two artists, a copyright expert and a musician-turned-Congressman. That would be Paul Hodes (D-NH), who joined recording artists Judy Collins (next to Warfield) and Sam Moore, and US Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters in calling for an end to a broadcast exemption on paying performance royalties to artists and labels. ICBC Broadcasting’s Warfield, testifying on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters, was the lone voice in favor of retaining the exemption. The argument for ending the exemption is tied to technology and parity. There are said to be many more platforms for exposing music, including satellite, cable and internet sources, all of which do pay performance fees. Since record sales are hurting, broadcasters need to help take up the slack so musicians and producers can continue to provide product. The counter argument is that the change in the recording industry brought by technology is no fault of broadcasters. And radio still to this day provides over 230M listeners weekly who listen to the latest tunes, still by far the best source of exposure for musicians.