Department of Commerce supports PRA


Saying that the establishment of a broadcast performance royalty will spur the investment necessary for the creation of music for the general public to enjoy, the DOC said in a letter to certain members of Congress that it supports the Performance Rights Act. However, not once does the letter mention the value airplay confers upon musicians and recording companies.

DOC says that PRA is a good law that will encourage the creation of music by fairly compensating artists and record labels. It suggests the law corrects a historic anomaly. The copy of the letter we saw went to Rep. Howard Berman (D-CT) and cc’d John Conyers (D-MI).

NAB’s Dennis Wharton was quick with a response, saying, “NAB was aware this letter was coming, which is a position taken previously by the Bush Commerce Department. We’re disappointed the Commerce Department would embrace legislation that would kill jobs in the U.S. and send hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign record labels that have historically exploited artists whose careers were nurtured by American radio stations. The good news is that 260 members of the House of Representatives and 27 U.S. Senators are standing with hometown radio stations and against the RIAA.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The DOC letter looks like it was written by RIAA. There is no acknowledgement whatsoever that radio has even the slightest influence on the popularization and, more importantly, the sale of music.

It mentions that recording companies are facing unprecedented challenges. It doesn’t seem to notice that broadcasting companies are running headfirst into unprecedented challenges themselves.

It doesn’t seem to notice that the recording companies brought many of their current challenges on themselves, particularly in their failure to notice that the internet was changing forever the way the public buys music – something that radio had nothing whatsoever to do with.

It doesn’t seem to notice that the recording companies so value radio airplay that they have engaged in illegal payola practices to get it. It practically suggests that by playing music, broadcasters are much like any other pirate, while ignoring the historic scofflaw operating procedures used by many of the labels.

It ignores the toxic relationship that often exists between labels and artists.

It makes no advocacy whatsoever for the vast majority of musicians PRA boots into the 5% pool while labels and headliners split the bulk of the booty.

And if this bill is about the creation of music, why is so much of the compensation headed to the labels, anyway? They are basically common manufacturers. They used to work with vinyl and magnetic tape. They switched to plastic, and now they simply create a digital file for much of their product. But the labels don’t sing or play a trumpet or strum a guitar – they perform nothing – and it would seem they are therefore not entitled to a “performance” royalty. They get their money when they sell their plastic or their digital file.

In would be nice to see a government document that at least acknowledges that there are two sides to this issue. This particular letter doesn’t even make an attempt. It is the type of screed that could be found in recording company’s flack file.