Ed Christian speaks out on performance royalties


After reading various trade press reports of comments by Bonneville International CEO Bruce Reese last week at the Conclave Learning Conference in Minneapolis that he would “love to cut a deal” on performance royalties so the radio industry would have certainty on the issue, Saga Communications CEO Ed Christian sent out word that he definitely does not agree.

Christian chairs the Radio Music License Committee, which is currently locked in litigation with ASCAP and BMI over their music licensing fee schedules for radio stations.

Those current fees are for composers and publishers of music. The proposed performance royalties for record labels and artists would be in addition to the existing fees.

Here is what Christian had to say about cutting a deal on performance royalties:

Just a thought for all of you.
I do believe that Bruce Reese speaks for Bonneville and not necessarily for the radio industry.  His comment that “Congress really wants to do something for artists” is indeed puzzling.  If that were the case why are roughly half of the proposed monies being directed to the music companies?  If there is such an overwhelming concern for the artists….. If Congress cares so much…do it right and send them 100%.
As an industry, we DO respect intellectual property.  We venerate composers, authors and publishers and make payments to Performing Rights Organizations (such as ASCAP and BMI and let us not forget SESAC) of close to a half a billion dollars in 2009.  That certainly is opening our wallets.  Though the Radio Music License Committee is working towards new contracts with the PRO’s that reflects the reality of our revenues, composers, author and publishers will still be compensated.  With this is mind, has there ever been a study that shows how many performers are already compensated by writing their own music?
As I said, there is no question about our responsibilities towards those who created the words and music.  This is the genesis of music.  The words and music are eternal and do indeed need to be recognized.  In many respects, radio recognizes the true creators of our product.
This system has worked well for us since the inception of PRO’s……
Where is the line in the sand?  Next, will we have royalties for the club DJ’s who say “I should be compensated because of my skills and abilities to mix and blend music”.
Ed Christian
Radio Music License Committee

RBR-TVBR observation: We do not understand why anyone thinks there is any advantage in cutting a deal at this point. RIAA thought it had all of its ducks in a row to pass the Performance Rights Act in the current Congress and instead ran into major roadblocks. It is doubtful that the next Congress will be as much to RIAA’s liking, so maintaining the status quo for just a few more months should put performance royalties back on the shelf for a long time. As for fears that it will be attached to some must-pass legislation – preventing such shenanigans is what NAB’s lobbyists are paid to do.