May 15, 2009

H.R. 848 - The John Conyers Performance Royalty Bill

Black Owned Radio Stations should NOT pay a Peformance Royalty

I've thought and thought about this... and I just don't understand how a performance royalty tax helps artist in the music industry. Rep. John Conyers and Rep. Sheila Jackson, who appeared on the Tom Joyner Morning Show today, have supported this bill that will allow the music industry to tax radio stations that play songs on the radio. Other than talk, news or sports, that's what radio does- play music.

This royality will go directly to the record companies and not the artist. Then in turn, they will be in charge of distributing it to the millions of artist, be it singers, drummers, keyboard players, etc. that have played a part in a song that is heard on the radio. I would love to see the size of a check of someone who sang backup or played in the horn section of an Earth, Wind and Fire song. Let alone try to find that kalimba player.

Rep. Jackson on the TJMS, cited the tragic case of Florence Ballard, a former member of Diana Ross and the Supremes, who died of a drug overdose and battled depression and alcoholism. Jennifer Hudson's role in Dreamgirls was loosely based on Ballard's life. Now are we to believe that a radio performance royalty check would have made the difference in Ballard's tragic demise. I really don't think so. I'm sorry Rep. Jackson seems so misinformed. Then to suggest that this legislation will rectify federal copyright laws that have been in place since 1909, before radio existed, makes me wonder why radio is the fallguy in all of this.

This is not a radio issue, it's a record industry issue. Radio stations pay a fee to BMI and ASCAP for the music they play already. It's been that way for years. The money goes to the songwriter and the producers. It's the nature of the music business. When a recording artist signs a record contract, they are with the understanding, that promotion, packaging and studio time to get a record out there has to be paid for by someone along the line. So maybe someone should pay the radio station to play a record so more people would buy it. Hmmm... It's OK as long as it is disclosed, otherwise it's called payola. That's bad and the government hates for something like that to be going on behind the scenes of the public airwaves. Anyway, the artist knows that they must sell records and go out on tour, or else they will end up owing money to the record company. Ask Toni Braxton, TLC and many others about bankruptcy.

Now some question the relevancy of saving Black radio. News flash! There is really no such thing as Black Radio anymore. Black radio died in the late 1990's with the Tel Com Act in 1996. More on that later. To be honest I would say there's is only one major market Black Radio music station in this country. Only one station that plays music on a regular basis, along with a daily news and community service programming... And does not have any syndicated programming... that station would be 102.3 KJLH Los Angeles owned by Stevie Wonder. So the whole notion of being angry or disatisified with Black radio as justification for letting today's "so-called" Black radio stations go by the wayside, makes no sense at all. Many say that's what they deserve because of the type of music that is programmed on a daily basis.

Back in 1996, the Tel Com Act, passed through Congress, without much fanfare. We now see more than a decade later the devastating effects that decision has had on the radio industry. This legislation allowed for media companies to own more than five radio stations in the same city. It also allowed companies to own TV, radio and newspapers in the same market. On top of that companies could also own an unlimited amount of stations across the country. We now have cookie cutter stations throughout the country and stations that many people just don't want to listen to anymore. Large media companies that can afford to pay a performance royalty are responsible for you hearing Soulja Boy "Get My Swag On" tens times a day, not Black radio. Remember Black radio doesn't exist any longer.

And given the state that radio is in today, adding a tax now, to an already suffering industry, just might do Black owned radio stations in.


  1. Rep. Jackson was wrong about Florence Ballard. An autopsy showed no drugs in her system. She did not die of an overdose. Peter Benjaminson, Author, The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard (Lawrence Hill Books, 2008)

  2. "This royality will go directly to the record companies and not the artist."

    This is not true. The artist share will be paid directly to the artist via SoundExchange. Have you read the bill?

  3. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-848 Here is a copy of the bill and nothing in the bill fully discloses that SoundExchange will distribute the royalties to the artist, however since they are in charge of sending payments to artist from royalties gathered from Internet and Satellite streams then we can assume the same for these royalties. My information was based on commentary from Tom Joyner. So that information can be considered hearsay.


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