For at least fifty years of the 20th century, the relationship between music and radio airplay was fairly well understood. Record executives knew that if they wanted a hit record, they needed that song to get played on the radio, preferably as many times as possible. In fact, until 2000, radio airplay was essentially a prerequisite to selling significant amounts of recorded music.read more
Are you a musician? Do you live in a town with an awesome music scene? Are you or any of your peers enjoying recognition in your community or beyond? Do you get airplay on your local commercial radio station?
If you live in Los Angeles and your band is Red Hot Chili Peppers, you can skip the last question. If you are among the rest of musical humanity, we’re guessing the answer is “not so much.”
A more important question to ask is why even the most celebrated local and regional bands can’t crack commercial playlists in their own backyards. This has much less to do with talent or popularity and everything to do with media ownership.
“Once the dust settled, these radio station group owners realized they had overpaid for the stations and immediately started making cuts and consolidating programming to save money,” said Jean Cook, director of programs for the Future of Music Coalition, an education, research and advocacy group for musicians. “Program directors and news departments were cut across the industry and the commercial dial became more homogenous.” read more
[this post by Communications Associate Kevin Erickson and Communications Intern Oliva Brown]
There were several surprises in store at the November 27, 2012 House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet hearing “Music Licensing Part One: Legislation in the 112th Congress.” The first surprise was that the main bill under question — the Internet Radio Fairness Act, introduced by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) — had been renamed. IRFA, which argues that royalty rates for webcasters should be calculated using the same standard that is currently applied to satellite radio, was now rechristened “Internet Radio Freedom Act.” While slapping the word “freedom” on anything and everything is a longstanding Washington tradition, it also had the unfortunate side-effect of underscoring a key criticism of IRFA: that the bill would almost certainly result in a steep cut to artist payouts from services such as Pandora, something many artists see as anything but fair.
But the biggest surprise was that the topic du jour turned out to be another longstanding point of contention in the broadcasting realm: the lack of a terrestrial radio performance right in the United States. Meaning, good-old fashioned radio still does not compensate performers and sound copyright owners even though digital broadcasters do. (So does the rest of the industrialized world; for more information, check out our Public Performance Right fact sheet.)
Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to approve rules that will allow the unprecedented expansion of true local radio across the country. Beginning in October 2013, community groups will be able to apply for licenses to operate Low Power FM radio stations, bringing local voices to the airwaves in towns and cities across America.
FCC commissioners approved the rules in a unanimous, bipartisan vote. Their actions today represent a significant step towards achieving greater diversity on the public airwaves, and more opportunities for local musicians (which we obviously dig). read more
Where do you get your media? If you’re like millions of people, it’s probably some combination of the internet, broadcasting and even old-fashioned print publications. As the adage goes, information is power — now more than ever before. Which is why diversity of channels and viewpoints is so important. The internet is amazing in this regard, but it’s only part of the picture. Local media can offer a platform for community voices that tend to get lost in the vastness of the global internet. Not to mention the fact that not every American has access to affordable broadband. This is why it is crucial to nurture diversity of content and programming on traditional media platforms like radio. read more
“Who the [heck] is this guy and why is he trying to sell me a warm sack of [poo]?”
This question lit up my mind last week, as I sat in the audience for the Future of Music Coalition Policy [sic] Summit in Washington, DC. The guy in question was, in fact, a US Senator — Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — while said warm-sack-of-[poo] was the Internet Radio Fairness Act (IRFA), which Sen. Wyden is sponsoring in the Senate. read more
[…]This disconnect between old media companies and new is hilariously illustrated by comments that one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, made recently at the Future of Music Coalition Summit. After some harsh words for the major labels, Wyden said the following, as quoted by Digital Music News: “Now, if it weren’t for the disruptive independent record labels — I’m talking about people like I.R.S. and Sub Pop and Tim/Kerr — we might never have known much about bands like R.E.M., and Nirvana and the Replacements … I sure want us to remember their enduring influence on not just rock music, but on their contributions to our culture and an entire generation.” read more
Say you’re a college radio DJ, and you play a cover of The Velvet Underground’s 1966 classic “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” performed by electro-art-pop duo YACHT. You might be surprised to learn that Lou Reed (the songwriter) gets paid when that song is broadcast, but YACHT, the performer, does not.
Unlike most countries, where performer, sound recording owner, songwriter, and publisher all get paid when a song is played on over-the-air radio, in the US, only the songwriter and publisher are compensated. You heard right: no matter how many times a song gets played on the radio, performing artists don’t get a dime. By contrast, internet radio — from Pandora to Sirius/XM and all the webcasters in-between — pays everybody: labels, performing artists, publishers and songwriters. (For more info on how this all works, check out our Public Performance Right fact sheet.)
This glitch in US law doesn’t just impact the Biebers and Britneys of the world. It also means that hard-working independent artists who are more likely to get played on college and noncommercial radio than corporate stations are missing out on a potential revenue stream.