terrestrial

Proposed bill would establish performance right for radio, not mandate royalties per se

Monday, July 29, 2013 - 1:10pm

Rep. Mel Watt's (N.C.-D) proposed bill, on which we reported here, will actually simply "recognize a performance right" for the use of recordings on AM/FM radio, The Hill reports. The bill itself will not actually require broadcasters to pay royalties, as we had initially reported.

"While an older version of Watt's bill from 2009 made it mandatory for traditional AM/FM radio stations to pay royalties to musicians for the songs that they air, the lawmaker told The Hill that the new bill won’t go that far. The new version of the bill will simply establish that musicians have public performance rights to their work," The Hill wrote.

Watt hopes the measure will lead broadcasters and copyright owners to privately-negotiated deals in the market for the use of recorded music.

Radio broadcasters "would have to sit down with artists and either work out a regime on their own or be subject to litigation about the value of what they're playing," Watt said.

Read coverage in The Hill here.

 

Atom Factory CEO's vision for radio disruption is here: Internet radio in the car

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - 12:50pm

Troy Carter is founder and chairman/CEO of entertainment management company Atom Factory -- he's Lady Gaga's manager. He says when he thinks of music industry segments ripe for some tech-driven disruption, he thinks of AM/FM radio. He spoke yesterday at this week's Disrupt NY 2013 conference.

When asked "what holes a technology start-up could fill" that would benefit working musicians, Carter said "Figuring out terrestrial radio, particularly in America."

"I think the opening right is figuring out terrestrial radio, that's the one space that Sirius could have done it with subscription radio, but you look at Clear Channel and CBS, it’s not what people want," he said. "People just get in a car and turn on a local station. It’s going to be interesting when you get in your car and you’re listening to a 17-year-old kid in Russia."

Which, to us, sounds a lot like Internet-delivered radio -- which can be delivered to your car today!

Reporting on Carter's remarks, TechCrunch suggests it's a company like Slacker as "the type of product that could play a role."

TechCrunch's coverage of Carter's remarks, with video, is here.

Musician in HuffPo: Neither Congress nor RIAA wants to tangle with NAB, so webcasters are punished

Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 11:50am

Writing about the Internet Radio Fairness Act, musician David Fagin points squarely at the "one-sided, unfair exemption terrestrial radio currently enjoys" on royalties, and says the solution is to "make them pay their fair share of performance royalties to artists and labels -- just as the rest of the radio-playing world has to do."

Fagin is also a writer and producer and former member of the band The Rosenbergs, and represented independent artists in webcasting copyright hearings in 2001.

In a piece for the Huffington Post, he suggests IRFA foes are really on the same side when it comes to wanting to artists to succeed and get paid, and on the matter of FM radio's royalty exemption. But the music industry and webcasters are stuck fighting each other, because neither has the power to fight broadcasters. 

"Congress is scared to go after big radio and their lobby, and the RIAA is 'just fine' with the status quo. In the meantime, both sides have decided to just kick each other's asses, instead."

(Interestingly, he holds that the current royalty situation is harming the webcasting industry, evidenced by the fact that just a single "brand-name" success exists, Pandora. He also cuts through the music industry anti-Pandora rhetoric: "The 'fleecing of artists'... argument makes no sense, whatsoever. Why would a company, whose main business model consists of promoting independent artists over 60% of the time, and is practically the only place to hear new music on a regular basis, want to destroy the very artists whose careers it's sustaining, and who are sustaining it?")

Interesting read, in Huffington Post, here.

iHeartRadio adds ratings "thumbs" for music on Clear Channel AM/FM streams

Friday, August 17, 2012 - 12:30pm

Clear Channel's iHeartRadio has made "thumbs-up" and "thumbs-down" song rating buttons active for Clear Channel broadcast radio streams, Inside Radio reports today.

The positive/negative feedback buttons are pretty commonplace for database-driven Internet-only radio streams from many services, and that information can immediately affect the programming. Obviously, the functionality will be a little different on broadcast streams. The effect on the content won't be immediate, but it should be a good way for the company to gauge listener response to its programming. It could also drive iHeartRadio registrations (giving Clear Channel important listener demo information for ad-targeting purposes), Inside Radio reasons, as the functions only work when a registered listener is logged in (non-registered listeners are prompted to sign up when they try to rate songs).

"Research shows radio stations that give their listeners effective ways to express their opinions may have an advantage. An online survey of female radio listeners aged 15-54 conducted in May by Alan Burns & Associates found a top difference between heavy and light radio listeners is that heavy listeners are 86% more likely to appreciate feeling that their opinions matter," reports Inside Radio.

One last advantage of the system for Clear Channel: the thumbs up/thumbs down isn't (yet) available on other broadcasters' simulcast streams, only Clear Channel's. This functionality (and the data garnered from it) is a nice incentive for other broadcasters to join the iHeartRadio aggregation (and/or a commoditizable value-added for Clear Channel's iHeartRadio deals).

Webcast allies wary of b'dcast royalty issue in efforts for reform of rate-determining standards

Thursday, August 16, 2012 - 1:15pm

Leading webcaster Pandora, Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, and now the Brookings Institution (see yesterday's RAIN here) are all calling for the use of a consistent standard for determining sound recording performance royalties across Internet, satellite, and cable radio. (Currently, webcasters pay a rate significantly higher than other forms of digital radio, since the legal reference determining judges are instructed to use is dramatically different.) Even the NAB's Dennis Wharton says he "appreciate(s) (Chaffetz's) interest in reforming the current Interet radio rate structure."

But, no one among this group is arguing that broadcasters should be paying this fee too.

The reason: it's simply been proven to be far too difficult a task to accomplish such a major change in an established and powerful U.S. industry.

For webcasters and their allies, their immediate goal is relief from the controversial "willing buyer/willing seller" standard -- which might reasonably be considered an achievable end. The broadcast radio royalty issue would be like an anchor tied to the foot of a drowing man.

Congressman Chaffetz's proposed "Internet Radio Fairness Act" (in RAIN here) would compel judges deciding royalty rates for Internet radio to base their decisions on the same legal standard they use for satellite and cable radio rates. It would not address the matter of broadcast royalties.

The National Journal writes that Pandora argues that the radio royalty debate has dragged down efforts to get the webcast royalty standard changed from "willing buyer/willing seller" to the more widely-accepted "801(b)(1)." "We’ve been held hostage to that for years," Tim Westergren, Pandora’s founder and chief strategy officer, told the news source. "The reason nothing has been fixed is we’ve been stuck behind [radio-station] royalties. We're victims of a fight that’s not ours."

John Villasenor, author of the Brookings paper covered yesterday, in it wrote, "Any new legislation should not include a provision to end the AM and FM over-the-air 'terrestrial' broadcasters’ longstanding sound recording performance royalty exemption... every one of the dozens of legislative attempts to end it since 1926 has run up against extremely strong opposition from terrestrial broadcasters and has failed. New legislation including a provision ending the terrestrial broadcasters’ exemption would be likely to fail as well." Without the provision, he continues, legislation "may even garner the support of the National Association of Broadcasters," whose current streaming royalty deal with SoundExchange expires at the end of 2015, "meaning that terrestrial broadcasters, like pureplay webcasters, would benefit from a more reasonable digital broadcast statutory royalty framework."

It may not be so simple, however. Ray Hair, international president of the American Federation of Musicians, writing in The Hill, says it's not that Internet radio's royalties are too high, it's that other platforms (especially broadcasters') rates are far too low! He says Chaffetz's bill "would allow the digital platforms to pay musicians less... at rates far below market value. The bill would effectively unleash a race to the bottom, with radio platforms competing to see which can pay musicians the least." It's the Internet radio platform which he seems to think is giving "artists their fair share," and writes, "People I know are already calling the bill by a more appropriate name: the 'Internet Radio Rip-off Act.'"

Vigrinia Congressman Bob Goodlatte, vying for the top Republican spot on the House Judiciary Committee (he currently heads its Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Subcommittee), told the National Journal he expects his panel will take up the matter of music-royalties, and is open to calls for requiring traditional radio stations to pay performance fees.

Read more in the National Journal here and The Hill here.

Current state of radio royalties hurts artists and impedes innovation, Forbes says

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 12:40pm

Editor's note: RAIN will return Thursday, July 5. Happy 4th of July!

Actually, it's Forbes contributor John Villasenor who this week makes the case that not only should radio pay artists (and labels) for the music they play -- but that by maintaining an unlevel royalty playing field between broadcast, satellite, and Net radio, Congress is impeding innovation.

Broadcasters are exempt from paying royalties for sound recordings, it's argued, because their play drives record sales. And new forms of radio pay royalties because the content attracts audience and drives those businesses. But, of course, as Villasenor writes, "if airtime on traditional AM and FM stations drives sales, so, too, can exposure through cable, satellite, and Internet radio. And... playing artists who people want to hear, broadcasters of all stripes attract more listeners, and can therefore charge higher fees to their advertisers or subscribers."

Villasenor calls on Congress to end terrestrial radio's performance exemption, but, "and in some respects more importantly in the long run given the inevitable transition to digital," he wants rates to be "harmonized" across platforms. He concludes, "The government should not be stacking the deck against the newest, most compelling technologies. Saddling Internet radio with high royalty rates while giving terrestrial AM and FM stations a free pass impedes the growth of a promising new way to distribute content. And, it sends a message to would-be-entrepreneurs with ideas about how to revolutionize an industry that the playing field is far from level."

Read Forbes here (and more here).

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