We thought there was very clear handwriting on the wall following this week's hearing on performance payments on broadcast, and we weren't the only ones. A new group has been formed in Washington comprised of "local radio broadcasters, Latino and African-American groups, non-profit associations and other community groups" to oppose attempts to levy a new "performance tax" in the form of artist/producer royalties for airplay. It's called the Free Radio Alliance.
At the hearing, held by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, recording artists Judy Collins and Sam Moore represented a group of artists called the Music First Coalition, and made the case that they deserve to be paid for their work. Free Radio is saying that the true beneficiaries would be international recording conglomerates at the expense of local US radio. Free Radio Alliance restates that radio and artists have a symbiotic relationship, and that the sudden reappearance of the performance fee issue is a direct outgrowth of the impact of new technology on the recording industry's business model. Radio continues to be a primary medium for beneficially exposing music to the public, but the recording industry is looking to any source of income. "Some press and analyst reports," says FRA, "claim this tax could mean an extra 2B to 7B dollars each year into the pockets of record label executives."
SmartMedia observation: That is an interesting point. Making a living as a musician is difficult, especially for the vast majority that have not enjoyed the success of Collins and Moore. And it's understood that it can be a rugged business even for artists of their stature. But how much will they benefit from this? Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH), whose pre-Congressional resume includes extensive experience in the music field, testified that he had just proudly cashed a check from SoundExchange for 19.58. Great: He can now take three of his family members to a fast food restaurant for dinner, provided everybody makes their selections frugally. If this is about large recording companies using musicians as pawns as they try to pick the pockets of broadcasters, then broadcasters are the ones occupying the moral high ground, no matter what anybody says to the contrary.