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A rebuttal to the 'radio tax' rebuttal

As you can imagine, various radio folks have bones to pick with my counterpoint to the National Association of Broadcaster's heavy-handed "No Radio Tax" ads. (Remember, it's not a tax.)

At press time, MPR's Bob Collins has one rebuttal in the original post's comments; I also received an email from another local pro who didn't want a name attached because said person isn't a spokesperson for the industry. Still, there a lot of good stuff in it for readers who want more to chew over, so check it out:

Good article, fine to have the other side out there, but I’m not sure it’s fair to give the impression that radio doesn’t pay for its music, and you kind of glossed over the fact that we DO pay already.

We pay very very very large sums to music publishers for the right to play their music — as a matter of fact, it’s one of the largest expense lines we have. 

I think musicians should get something, but why not start with an equitable split of those publishing fees? The largest buildings in Nashville aren’t the record companies, or even Tim McGraw’s house, it’s the Publishing companies (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc).  There are more millionaire songwriters than millionaire artists.  If those monies were split more equitably, I think everyone could be happy.

And it’s really not a stretch to say that some stations would really sign off if they had to pay this tax, or at least go all-talk. You’re right that the industry is over-leveraged, but many are, and this additional expense would hit us hard. The idea that any station grossing less than $100,000 shouldn’t pay is fine, but believe me, if you’re only grossing $100,000, you aren’t even turning your transmitter on.

And unless you’re trying to radically change the radio business (maybe they are), why burden an industry that is nowhere financially flush as it once was?  Any legislation should be more specific about the split — it is worth noting that Ken (who I admire greatly) is only PROPOSING that the artists get half.  There’s nothing stopping the record companies from getting artists to sign that money back over to them just to get the record deal.

If this wasn’t a cash grab by the recording industry, why not just mandate that ALL of the money go to the artist?  Why give Sony and BMG anything?  And it’s all well and good that artists get paid, but if the main artist (read: Kenny Chesney) gets 45 percent and all the backup people (which could run as many as 100 on a song with an orchestra) split that 5 percent, I don’t think we’re talking about a meaningful income stream for the 4th-chair French Horn player, who is the face that the recording industry would like put on this.

And although you blew right past it, artists have MANY revenue streams that are affected by airplay that we don’t charge for. Concert sales, merchandise, etc. are important because someone heard a song on the radio. Music is the only product that we promote on the radio that we don’t get paid for.

I worry that some artists will see the value in the promotional aspect of airplay and tell some stations, “You can play us for free” because they’ll make it up on the back end. Which will start all sorts of ugly negotiation. While purists can certainly argue the relative merits of what we play, we really play what we want because we’re trying to do what the artists are: attract an audience. 

I agree that maybe the copy of these ads is designed to fire people up (thanks NAB). But as with many issues, things are rarely black and white. Radio as it exists today can’t afford to keep doing what we’re doing and add another giant expense over and above what we already pay. The answer, as it frequently is, is probably somewhere in the middle.

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Comments (4)

Whoever your mystery correspondent is, they continue to toe the company line by calling this a "tax". That's the part of this whole thing that aggravates me.

It is so patently false to call it a tax that it veers into the realm of the absurd. What's next? Will the Girl Scouts start complaining that they are "taxed" by wholesalers because they have to pay for the ingredients to make a box of Thin Mints?

I wonder if this couldn't actually spur a revival of local and non-commercial music.

It seems that unknown acts would jump at the chance to get their stuff played....just think of it; instead of a mind numbing rotation of Bob Seager and the Rolling Stones, you might actually hear something interesting on a station like KQRS.

And just think of the musical melee that might ensue on 93X!

The 50% share to the recording artists is not illusory or "proposed" by Ken Abdo. It is the law and record companies may not take it back by contract. SoundExchange, the organization that currently collects royalties from internet and satellite radio sends the respective shares directly to artists and copyright owners. As mentioned in Ken's post, if an artist owns their own masters, they would receive 95% of the royalties paid.

This whole thing would be a lot more interesting if radio were worth listening to in the first place.