B-Sides - MUSIC & OTHER EPHEMERA - Radio Daze

Legislation is now before Congress that would have broadcast radio pay performer royalties, in addition to the songwriter royalties they currently pay.

“We have some serious concerns about it,” said Donovan Reynolds, president of Louisville Public Media. The record labels “currently have a failed business model, and they’re looking for another source of revenue.”

Senate Bill 2500 and House Resolution 4789 would require broadcast radio to pay performer fees similar to the fees Internet and satellite radio stations charge. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., is sponsoring the bill in the House, while Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is supporting the Senate version. 

“We, as an industry, provide billions of dollars of service to the recording industry,” Reynolds said, adding that traditionally, broadcast radio was seen as giving artists, in effect, free publicity. “It’s disingenuous for the music industry to say we’re exploiting the musicians by playing their songs,” he said. 

He said the music industry is having a hard time dealing with piracy, competing Internet distribution models and people copying CDs.

“I just hope, in the end, we don’t have a chilling effect for bringing in new musicians,” Reynolds said. “As web radio goes away, it becomes tougher and tougher, and I don’t want broadcast radio to go the same way.”

Last year, Internet radio faced higher per-performance royalties, a matter that still has webcasters paying higher rates than satellite and cable music.

“I think this could be counterproductive,” Reynolds said. “Louisville is a very important market to emerging artists … we give them an airing and introduce them to folks.”

But while the recording industry is a powerful lobby, the National Association of Broadcasters is also a powerful lobby, he said. “I think it could have a negative impact in the long run, and they need to think very seriously about this.”

Contributing writer C. Elliot Ritter filled in for Music Editor Mat Herron this week. Contact him at [email protected]