Top recording executives know that radio is still the key to selling music, says Reason Magazine – so forcing radio stations to pay for spins under the Performance Rights Act is basically forcing them to pay for the right to run the labels’ commercial pitches. The magazine pointed out that it is a well-known fact that labels were willing to break the law to pay for airplay. It also pointed out that the copyright playing field RIAA wants “leveled” was unlevel in the first place because of RIAA’s own arguments based on its worries about digital technology.
In a nutshell, labels were worried that when digital recordings were played over satellites or on the internet, it would be that much easier for the public to copy and distribute the content on its own.
Reason explained, “Set aside the question of whether those claims were accurate. For our purposes, the most important fact about the labels’ argument is that it hinged on the idea that digital broadcasting is different from conventional broadcasting. Fourteen years later, as it attempts to impose a performance fee on AM and FM broadcasters as well, the industry now wants to claim the channels are equivalent after all.”
Reason noted that the Copyright Board decimated web-based audio platforms by setting ridiculously high rates, a worry that broadcasters may share the next time its their turn to go before the CB.
Reason says if payola were made legal at the same time PRA is passed, labels would find themselves paying to get their material on the air, since radio remains the prime music marketing venue available to them.
With PRA alone, broadcasters will not want to waste money breaking unknown musicians who may influence listeners to push the button to another channel. So it will have a pronounced chilling effect on up and comers. And it will kill off small college stations which often don’t have the budget for even a $500 annual fee, despite being sought after by labels begging for airplay.
On top of all this, Reason accuses web royalty distributor SoundExchange of incompetence. It published a list of “lost” musicians to whom it owed royalties, many of whom were easily googled up by Reason reporters.
Reason says there should be a level playing field – and that should translate to eliminating the royalties paid by those operating in the digital platform.