Recording interests, NAB spar over PRA


Members of the recording industry have banded together to write a letter to members of Congress blasting the NAB’s opposition to the Performance Rights Act, saying they are using a “fog of misinformation” to push their own cause. NAB responded that to the contrary, it was sticking strictly to the facts.

Describing NAB tactics, the group wrote, “If policy is determined by which side can win the prize for the most audacious nonsense, we won’t win. Give that medal to the broadcasters. What we seek instead is the serious, thoughtful, deliberative process that should be the hallmark of lawmaking in any event.”

They said that the royalties would not be a tax, as NAB calls them, that other media pay royalties, and that NAB was waging using “xenophobic wedge rhetoric” in describing recording companies as foreign conglomerates.

NAB’s Dennis Wharton responded, saying, “NAB stands by the accuracy of these ads 100%. This is a desperate effort by RIAA to divert attention from two undeniable facts: passage of the performance tax would kill jobs in the U.S., and divert hundreds of millions of dollars from American radio stations to foreign record labels based in Tokyo, Paris and London.”

NAB pointed out that to date 252 US Representatives and 27 Senators have gone on record as opposing the legislation.

The recording industry letter was signed by Neil Portnow of The Recording Academy, Thomas F. Lee of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, Mitch Bainwol of RIAA, Kim Roberts Hedgpeth of American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, Rich Bengloff of the American Association of Independent Music, Barry Bergman of the Music Managers Forum and Jennifer Bendall of the musicFIRST Coalition.

RBR-TVBR observation: PRA will simply chase music off the air. Those stations that do bite the bullet and pay for the privilege of running what is essentially a three-minute advertisement for the artist will choose what they buy and air very, very carefully. Meanwhile, the phrase more talk and less music will become an economic reality for broadcasters.

We agree that technically, PRA does not impose a tax. However, it has the same effect as a tax – it would be a new financial burden imposed by the government. We’ll leave the debate over whether or not it’s the best word to use to others.

However, we can’t help noticing that once again, the recording companies attempt their own slight of hand. They wrote, “This isn’t about superstars making a little more money. Instead, this goes to the heart of new creativity, supporting thousands including the independent artists who create new music and the independent music labels across the country who are investing in that creativity. Will there be money to invest in new artists seeking professional support? And will the less-celebrated but vital working musicians have a chance to earn a fair living from their craft?”

Right – it’s all about unknowns and working stiff musicians. That’s why the companies that don’t perform anything at all get 50% of what is being masked as performance compensation. The other 45% goes to headliners, and that will mainly refer to those who are already headliners, since it will become even more difficult to break through.

The celebrated “vital working musicians,” the unscrubbed masses underpinning the music industry, are the headliners of the industry PR campaign, but they’re hanging on to the exterior of the caboose of the gravy train the industry is trying to get out of the station with their measly 5% of the prospective PRA take. It’s convenient to talk about them, and talk about them, and talk about them some more – but to write about them, in the form of putting their names on meaningful compensation checks? Suddenly the recording industry forgets all about them.