Sunday, February 8, 2009

Another Grammy Awards Telecast

...and other coast to coast request made by Neil Portnow, the president of NARAS, for performer royalties. The same announcement was made on last years award show.

The case has been made many times why traditional radio should continue it's long standing performer royalty exemption. If legislation were to be passed now can you imagine the devastating economic impact it would have on radio stations across the country. One can only speculate, but it's safe to assume if would be very ugly.

After hearing Mr. Portnow speak I visited the NARAS web site to see if the was any additional information. Indeed there was:

GRAMMY Town Hall Gets Radioactive
February 7, 2009

Event provides a forum for political leaders and music professionals to discuss Performance Rights Act
Chris Morris

Members of Congress were joined by music industry representatives for a lively GRAMMY Town Hall discussion on the pending Performance Rights Act on Feb. 6 at Petree Hall in the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Re-introduced to both houses of Congress Feb. 4, the Performance Rights Act — H.R. 848 — is the latest iteration of a bipartisan bill that aims to secure a royalty for terrestrial radio airplay for vocalists and instrumentalists. While satellite, cable, and Internet broadcasters pay such a royalty, terrestrial radio stations are currently exempt under federal copyright law. The bill is being supported in the Senate by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and in the House by Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Jane Harman (D-Calif.), Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and John Shadegg (R-Ariz.)

Three of the House bill's cosponsors — Reps. Blackburn, Conyers Jr. and Issa —appeared on the GRAMMY Town Hall panel, moderated by Recording Academy Vice President of Advocacy and Government Relations Daryl P. Friedman. They were joined on stage by vocalist and former Supreme member Mary Wilson and artist manager Simon Renshaw, and in the audience by Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier, 51st GRAMMY nominee Josh Groban and R&B vocalist Sam Moore.

In his opening remarks, Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow boiled down the importance of the legislation: "Great recordings like [Jimi Hendrix's] 'Purple Haze' and [Steve Miller's] 'Living In The U.S.A.,' you all know those songs. They've been staples of radio since they were first released years ago. But the total royalty payments over these decades to these artists, to their band members, and their producers totals less than this — I have a penny here. That's right, it totals zero."

Rep. Conyers, a member of the House of Representatives since 1964 and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, noted that similar legislation has been introduced in 24 consecutive congressional sessions, and has never been passed.

"This is going to be a serious struggle," he said. "It's going to take not only the artists and the supporters of artists, but it's going to require people in the labor movement to come in with us. It's going to require the civil rights movement to come in with us. It's going to require people who never thought about this as a serious issue — our campuses, our intellectuals — to come in with us."

Rep. Blackburn pointed out that the issues at the heart of the bill cut across a wide spectrum of concerns: "It is an economic issue, it is a jobs issue, it is a trade issue, it is a private property issue, it is an individual issue for millions of entertainers like Sam [Moore] and like Mary [Wilson]."

Rep. Issa added, "Very clearly the [terrestrial] broadcasters…have fought this legislation successfully, but I believe that the business models that are working — in satellite, cable, let's not forget satellite television, and the Internet — these models have proven that the success or failure of the model is not based on whether they pay something to both the songwriter and the singer and the instrumental players and so on."

Wilson pointed out that the Supremes' first No. 1 hit "Where Did Our Love Go" has been in constant radio rotation since 1964. Drawing a laugh from the crowd, she said, "All the times that that record has been played on the AM and FM stations, I [could] probably have retired on some island."

Renshaw pointed out that America is one of the few developed countries that does not pay musicians a radio performance royalty. Consequently, he said, "The money that is paid by international radio stations and monies collected internationally by foreign performing rights societies, those monies don't get repatriated to America. So you have tens of millions of dollars every year that are collected by performing rights societies in Germany and Australia, France, England, everywhere…those monies end up in what they call black boxes. The money just disappears, and nothing ever comes back. Hopefully, when this legislation passes, there's going to be a huge transfer of money that takes place."

With the floor open for questions, Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde noted that one broadcaster estimated the cost of the Performance Rights Act to the radio industry at $7 billion.

Rep. Conyers replied that the figure couldn't be calculated definitively. However, he added, "What difference does it make? We want some justice here…we're talking about correcting a wrong that has gone unremedied for too damn long."

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