NAB's Gordon Smith makes anti-PRA case in the Washington Post


Taking apart the Performance Rights Act in a way only a former US Senator could, NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith dissected the bill, the lobbying behind it and the failure of recording industry to both mind its own business model and take care of the performers it relies on for its very existence.

“It’s the Washington way: Get legislation introduced that benefits a special interest, identify a ‘face’ for your industry, mount a pricey lobbying campaign, and hope the bill passes before the American people notice,” wrote Smith.

Smith spelled out the damage the bill would do to local radio, including stations many Washingtonians listen to on their way to work on Capitol Hill. He said the money the bill would wring out of station revenues would translate into lost jobs, lost public service and in many cases, the loss of music over the airwaves as stations are forced into spoken word formats.

And why? Smith explained it was because record companies failed to adapt to the changes wrought by the internet, and now want broadcasters to foot the bill for their own business failures.

Meanwhile, as radio stations go on doing what they do best – promoting the careers of musicians with free airplay, the record companies continue to do their best to exploit them. Smith noted several prominent artists who had to sue their labels to get royalty compensation owed to them. He pointed out that it doesn’t lead to a great deal of confidence in the diligence the labels will demonstrate when it comes time to track down the musicians who are due a payment. And of course, the labels are going to take 50% of the PRA funds anyway.

As Smith summed it up, “No one disputes the need for artists to be paid for their work. But like every other business in America, those payments should come from their employer, the record label, not from the local radio stations that have propelled their careers to stardom.”

Smith concluded that more artists would be hurt than helped by PRA
RBR-TVBR observation: Getting space in WaPo is an excellent way to reach Congress. Legislators and – importantly – the staff of legislators – will all see Smith’s well-argued essay. We hope it will generate some healthy skepticism the next time any of them are buttonholed by one of RIAA’s lobbyists.