Earlier in the week, FMC Communications Director Casey Rae-Hunter was interviewed for a podcast from Seven Days Newspaper in Burlington, Vermont (where, not-so-coincidentally, Casey previously served as Music Editor). He and the man currently holding that post, Dan Bolles, chatted about the Performance Rights Act (S. 379) — a bill introduced in February 2009 by none other than Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). So there's the "local angle." Check out the interview here.By now, FMC staff is pretty used to hearing Communications Director Casey Rae-Hunter blab about all things music (and movies, and conspiracy theories, etc., etc.). Recently, he talked about a subject of considerably more importance to musicians — the Public Performance Right Act.
For those of you just tuning in, here's a recap on the Performance Right Act. This legislation would remove an exemption allowing terrestrial radio broadcasters to play music without compensating performing artists and sound copyright owners (usually the labels). As it stands, only the songwriter and the publisher receive payment when a piece of music is played on over-the-air radio. For example, When you hear Aretha Franklin's version of "Respect" on terrestrial radio, only the estate of Otis Redding (and his publisher) get paid — the Queen of Soul (and her label) do not.
This right already exists for digital performances, including satellite radio, webcasts and those music-with-no-video channels at the high end of your cable TV dial. Yet terrestrial broadcasters get to spin these tunes without performers who breathe life into these compositions and the sound copyright owners (again, often the label, but sometimes the artist). Just about every industrialized country on the planet has a performance right for traditional broadcasting, but the US (along with North Korea, China and Iran) does not.
During this interview, Casey shared his view on the current state of radio, how it?s become a "nationalized jukebox" due to rampant ownership consolidation and why it's important for musicians to understand the public policies that got us here. But mostly Casey and Dan talk about how the Performance Right would remove an unfair advantage that terrestrial radio holds over emerging platforms like webcasting, while allowing American artists to collect monies owed to them for international plays (currently, millions of dollars are left on the table because of the lack of a reciprocal right with other countries -- money that would otherwise go to US performers.)
Again, you can listen to the interview here. We also strongly encourage you to read the comments on the Seven Days blog where the podcast is hosted -- there's some solid info there that Casey and Dan didn't have time to cover in discussion.