Royalties: Who is to blame?


In my nearly 30 years in radio, I’ve been a part time DJ, a music director, a PD, an Ops manager, and now I find myself as the owner of 3 small market FM’s. My wife and I are equal partners and work shoulder to shoulder with our wonderful staff everyday. For us, radio station ownership has been lucrative and enjoyable, however, it continually takes more effort to keep it that way. The performance royalty proposal is another bag of bricks for our industry to carry, and more than the money, it’s the fact that this is plainly a misplaced penalty on the one group that the recording industry can easily catch with their lasso. The question that needs to be answered is, how did we get from there to here?

Note: See RBR’s report on "Legislators kick off performance royalty push."
By "there" I mean just a few years ago. As a music director at a reporting radio station, I was extremely important to the record companies and artists. They would actually jump in an airplane and fly to my town. They’d rent a limo, come pick me up for wining and dining. They would offer special advance copies of recording projects, ask for my input on possible single releases. I have gold records adorning my walls, proof of my contribution to the sale of their music, and the part I played in building superstars. I can’t tell you how many times I was told "we are forever in your debt".  And this was in a small market. One can only imagine how the record companies and artists treated the big market radio people. So that’s the question:
How did we get from there, to here – the 180 degree spin that puts radio in the debt of the music industry? 
Where the debt belongs hasn’t changed. Radio is still plays an enormous role in the success any mainstream artist enjoys. Maybe these artists and record companies aren’t enjoying as much success as they used to. Has the radio business model changed in such a way that we are to blame? The radio practice of bringing music to the masses hasn’t changed at all. It’s still free to the listener and is the most effective direct route for the recording industry to offer samples of their product. That’s how you stimulate sales. It’s always worked and still would, if not for the downloading revolution. Why wasn’t the recording industry at the forefront of that technology? The recording industry just didn’t see it coming. This is a problem they could have avoided.
There are solutions for the recording industry, but it will mean some big changes in the way they do business. I suggest the recording industry invest in cleaning up their own mess. Please, continue to enjoy the free sampling service that radio provides millions of times every day. On the other hand, radio could take a close look at the list of artists who are pushing this issue and collectively drop them all from rotation. I sure hope it doesn’t come to that.
J. Davis
Programmers Broadcasting Inc.
Minot, ND

Carnegie note: It is an extreme honor to see an operator of J. Davis’ quality and more importantly, his passion. I know first hand because in 1980 this young man walked in off the street in Minot, ND and did an imitation of Bullwinkle from the cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle and said he wanted to be an on-air talent. Hey, a first for everything — so I hired him. Now 29 years later he still has the passion for our business. We in the radio business need more J. Davis operators.