Written by Media, Radio

AM-FM Broadcasting is ‘A Form of Piracy’

Here’s a remarkable story from Wired. It refers to ongoing talks in the US where the record industry is trying to make the radio industry pay royalties to singers and musicians. Unlike the UK, where both songer writers and the performing artists separately get paid by radio stations, in the US only the songwriters get paid. Performers are unpaid on the basis that radio station airplay is giving them free publicity to sell their product.
And so one side or another has been posting tins of herring (“red herring” – geddit?), a dictionary, and a set of digital downloads (including “Take the Money and Run” by the Steve Miller Band and “A Change Would Do You Good” by Sheryl Crow).
Thanks to my employer’s new owners’ blog, I should also point you to this report commissioned by the National Association of Broadcasters who look after radio stations’ interests. It attempts to put an actual value on the cumulative sales that radio stations generate. It concludes that between 14% and 23% of music sales can be directly attributed to radio, and that any change in the status quo might disrupt this income stream (approx $1.5 to $2.3 billion annually).
“If a new performance fee were enacted, stations could reduce the amount of music airplay, change formats and even cease to operate, resulting in the loss of much of this promotional benefit.”
I’m not entirely sure I buy that given that most of the rest of the Western world pays performers. Some of those US stations must really be struggling if they’d close down ahead of paying a small percentage of their income to the performers whose work their entire livelihood is based on!
What other industry doesn’t pay for the main constituent of its business? If I want to make a film based on a Stephen King novel, I don’t just say to King – don’t ask me for any cash, but think of all those additional book sales you’ll get when my film comes out!