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“The music industry has always been too complicated for its own good, and the Performance Rights Act started sounding like a tax to both lawmaker and layman.”
——DMN’s Paul Resnikoff, in an editorial
PERFORMANCE RIGHTS ACT: NOT QUITE DEAD, BUT ON LIFE SUPPORT
Defeat in the House Appears Certain, With 220 Reps Set to Cast Nay Votes; Senate Next
The National Association of Broadcasters is all but claiming victory in its intensive lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and in the media against the passage of the Performance Rights Act. It turns out the org has even come up with its own resolution, complete with a patriotic-sounding moniker.

The latest in a nonstop barrage of press releases, circulated Wednesday afternoon, proclaimed: “A majority of U.S. House members is now publicly opposed to a record label-led effort to strap radio stations with new fees for airing music free to listeners... The Local Radio Freedom Act, a bipartisan resolution that denounces the imposition of ‘any new performance fee, tax, royalty or other charge’ on radio for music airplay now has 220 House co-sponsors and 12 Senate co-sponsors.”

The release then lists all of its congressional supporters, but not before tossing in a quote from NAB Radio Board Chairman Steve Newberry, President/CEO of Kentucky-based Commonwealth Broadcasting:

"Today's milestone stands as a testament to the tireless efforts of NAB staff, our state association partners, and grassroots efforts of stations across America," he stated, like a warrior brandishing his sword over the body of his fallen foe. "But this fight on behalf of 235 million weekly listeners is far from over. Our continued success is dependent on radio broadcasters remaining engaged in building additional support in Congress, and in reminding lawmakers of radio's unparalleled promotional value for both record labels and artists. We salute Reps. Gene Green and Mike Conaway and the 218 additional House members who recognize that the proposed record label performance tax stands as a dire threat to the future of free and local radio.”

“The debate over whether traditional radio stations should pay performance royalties on recordings is a complicated one,” Digital Music News Publisher Paul Resnikoff points out in an editorial posted this morning. “Terrestrial radio stations (still) offer tremendous promotional power, and majors have traditionally committed serious resources to getting radio spins. On the flip side, radio stations are already paying publishers, and their use of the airwaves is a government-granted privilege.

“But forget the nuanced discussions and debates, because NAB just buried the Performance Rights Act in the U.S. Not because they are necessarily right, but because they played a much better game on the Hill. Sure, the fight still continues, and the Senate has yet to be sewn. But this is starting to look like a performance prayer.

“Part of the problem is that this issue translates poorly outside of the industry. Inside the business, everyone delineates between publishing and recording revenues. But the music industry has always been too complicated for its own good, and the Performance Rights Act started sounding like a tax to both lawmaker and layman.”

Resnikoff also noted NAB’s deft use of the race card—specifically, the act’s impact on minority stations—as well as its success at playing on lawmakers’ fears of being associated with increased financial burdens during these stressful economic times.

He then asks where the revenue would go if the act was passed, quipping that “major label accounting is worse than Enron, and on that note, the NAB had plenty of material to work with. Immediately after news surfaced that Cher was suing Universal Music Group, the NAB pounced by hoisting another example of a greedy label screwing its artist… NAB just played a better game, again. And that means the status quo for broadcasters, labels, and artists in the U.S.

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