What follows is a copy of a letter sent to NAB’s president-CEO in response to a published quote of his.
|To:||NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith|
|From:||Brian Ascenzo, Pegwood Arts|
Speaking as both a BMI composer/musician and NAB member, I must voice my mixed reactions and thoughts with regards to your latest media quote:
(per NAB Smartbrief, 04-26-10)
Radio already provides a free platform for artists to promote their music and shouldn’t be the fall guy for the music industry’s failure to adjust its business model to the Internet,’
I must first point out that I don’t believe the Performance Rights Act is necessary, or that these lower echelon stations and venues need to pay additional royalties, especially at rates that would cripple their bottom line.
The major users should continue to pay as they do. The opposing ‘Local Radio Freedom Act’ sponsored by NAB seeks to set a precedent that would set the stage for every major music user to sue for exclusion from royalties, as allowed for some but not all broadcasters after the passing of the LRFA.
Basically, this combination leads to the elimination of royalties for music usage everywhere, from malls to theaters to TV and radio.
As a BMI composer, I have made my career and living scoring corporate videos, short films and infomercials. I am no rock star getting heavy radio play, but my livelihood is in jeopardy because these political actions seek to eliminate my target revenue stream.
Even worse than that, though, for both sides, is that the arguments the NAB is using against these royalties are dichotomous to say the least, and outright untrue at many levels.
In addition to the quoted claim to a ‘free platform to promote their music’, there is also the ‘only millionaire stars and big companies get the money’ complaint.
In reality, the single hardest thing for an artist to do is to get on the radio. Even in the old days, you had to have a DJ or PM that liked you or sell thousands of copies (or bow to payola) to get even local or regional play.
But, it could be done. You could invite DJs to gigs and maybe get a late night play or 2 to get the ball rolling.
Music radio has long done away with all that.
Even small stations are using out of town programming services. College radio is as quirky and picky as ever, but all broadcast commercial radio is now a closed door. The vast majority of PMs and MDs no longer have the authority to program local or new artists on the air. DJs have rarely picked their own songs for the last 20 years.
The music radio industry decided decades ago that only ’stars’ and ‘hits’, songs and artists shipped and selling at 100,000 copies or more, would merit airplay.
This effectively limits radio access to millionaire and major label artists.
Quite simply, you can’t say we get free promotion for our music when only already famous artists are allowed to be featured. And you can’t limit the airwaves to hit artists and then complain that rich people get the money.
Radio broadcasters decided that only stars can play this game.
Most every other business in the world pays up front somehow for the commodity they offer the public. Even TV.
Not music radio, though. They get the product free, restrict access from songs and artists that they don’t believe will increase their audience, and set advertising rates using it as a draw. And now, they do it through a faceless remote service that artists can’t even approach. Our careers are uphill lotto-odds battles to get to that level somehow.
‘Free promotion’ exclusive to hit records is an oxymoron in practice.
Your language, from calling it a ‘tax’ for vilification purposes to citing the ‘free benefits to musicians’ to assert our selfishness, has most likely been wildly successful in assuring both the defeat of the PRA and the passing of the LRFA.
I know you’ll be pleased.
Here’s what happens next- since there will be a precedent for who’s exempt from royalties, and the LRF act says ‘any business using sound recordings’, every major music user of every kind will have an excuse to sue for exemption, and will. Of course, BMI and ASCAP will collapse.
Good, you say?
Video producers already want to pay little or nothing for music production. Their promise is the royalties.
They will be gone.
Every user will be allowed to use any recording anywhere with impunity from any source, and my craft will no longer have any value.
As an artist in my own right, I will still have to sell 10,000 copies on my own to find a national distributor or attract a major label.
Oh, but with this major revenue stream gone, they’re going to disappear, too.
Within 3 years of these laws passing, the programming services will control the entire music industry, and all artists will have to become independent labels.
Not that it isn’t evolving that way now, but the major labels are still an important cog in the works, and the royalty structure is a critical part of our legal rights to our product – our patent, license, trademark, etc. Not to mention being our gold ring, like a graphic artist licensing an artwork to Ford or McDonald’s for an ad or Sears to sell t-shirts – part of the reward for reaching that level.
You have no concept of how deeply and widely these actions will damage musicians and the future of recorded original music.
We already have to give our music away online and play for the same $50 that Ray Charles made in the bars in 1949, if that. We have to own a studio or pay for recording. We pay for pressing or burning CDs. Posters. SWAG. We are far from getting a free ride at radio’s expense.
Film makers have always wanted us to do scores ‘on spec’. With no royalty, we are down to the credit alone for hours and hours of work.
Oh, but they won’t need me anyway, because the LRFA will end up letting them use any music in the world to score the entire film, free.
We artists are under financial attack because we do actually generate billions of dollars.
We are worth our share of it, as surely as any other intellectual property originator.
The PRA is unnecessary, and does need to be defeated. The stations it seeks to add to the royalty structure are unlikely to pay a substantial amount and would be hamstrung with unwarranted additional overhead. They should instead be encouraged to include more new and local artists, and provide playlists to licensers voluntarily to help track and advance up and coming artists. At no cost to them, of course.
The LRFA, though is dangerous and completely uncalled for, especially in it’s vaguely worded form, and calls for the end of a livelihood for a large part of the musical community, unseen by the public.
NAB, however, knows us well. We were in the South Hall this year.
Please, don’t let us down.
Thank you for your time,