The Recording Academy has an ongoing commitment to Advocacy initiatives that improve the working lives of its members, and, since its inception, the Producers & Engineers Wing has been active on initiatives that target matters relevant both specifically to producers and engineers and to music creators and the music industry overall.
The Performance Rights Act
Currently the Wing has made a major commitment to supporting the Performance Rights Act (PRA). This bill would extend AM/FM radio performance royalties to all music creators. It was introduced with bipartisan support to both houses of Congress in December of 2007. It is an important piece of legislation that would reverse an obvious injustice and could result in significant income for U.S. music creators.
What is the Performance Rights Act? In the United States, artists and sound recording copyright owners (usually a record label), are not paid when their recording is played on “terrestrial radio” (also known as over-the-air radio, broadcast radio, traditional radio.) They are paid when their recording is played on satellite or Internet radio. Only the owners of the “notes and words” on that recording, (songwriters and publishers) are paid by terrestrial radio. For example, when “Soul Man” is played on terrestrial radio, Isaac Hayes and David Porter, the songwriters, are compensated. Sam Moore and Dave Prater—the duo of Sam & Dave who sang “Soul Man,” are not. This is different than in most countries in the rest of the world (England, France, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Poland, the United Kingdom, etc.) which do pay. Countries besides the U.S. which don’t pay are China, Iran, Rwanda and North Korea. In addition, because the U.S. doesn’t reciprocate, countries that do pay these royalties refuse to pay U.S. artists and sound recording owners. Hence, U.S. artists and sound recording owners lose out twice. If passed, the Performance Rights Act will correct this injustice by removing the “exemption” that terrestrial radio currently has in the United States and paying performers and recording owners. Note that the PRA will not take any income away from songwriters and publishers and will accommodate community radio with minimal fees. The income generated by the removal of this exemption would be paid in the same ratio that Satellite and Internet radio pay: 50 per cent to the sound recording owner, 45 per cent to featured artists, and 5 per cent to non-featured artists.
Lobbyists for over-the-air, broadcast radio (also called terrestrial radio) are well-funded to oppose this legislation and they are fighting hard to make sure that the PRA doesn’t pass. They claim that artists don’t need to be paid for their performances because radio provides sufficient compensation through the promotion that songs receive by being played on the radio. They are also claiming that the payments this bill would require broadcasters to make are a new “tax,” which is completely false. It is a payment to music creators, not a tax payment to the government.
The Recording Academy has taken a leadership role in passing this legislation.
The Academy convened a GRAMMY Industry Roundtable during GRAMMY week of 2007.The participants—members of the House and Senate and music community leaders—discussed ways to implement the plan for a performance right. Out of that meeting grew the musicFIRST Coalition (www.musicfirstcoalition.com
) of which the Academy is a founding member with a seat on the Executive Board.
How does The Performance Rights Act help music producers? Just as with current SoundExchange royalties for Internet and satellite radio, producers, depending on their contract, may be entitled to royalties.
Paying artists for their performances is clearly the right thing to do and passage of the Performance Rights Act will bring us into agreement with the rest of the world. As members of the recording community, it is important for us to support fairness for all music creators.
In order to educate about the PRA, we have provided bullet points
and a short cover letter
. We also ask that you inform your congressional representatives that you support the Performance Rights Act. It’s easy: just go to: www.grammy.com/musicfirst
and enter your 9-digit zip code. You can send an email (already drafted or write your own) to your representatives.
Currently, wireless concert technologies — such as microphones, in-ear monitors, and wireless instrument transmitters — utilize unused segments (called white spaces) of the wireless spectrum used by local analog TV stations. When the transition to digital TV is complete in 2009, the FCC plans to reallocate this spectrum for other uses, such as for public safety.
But lobbying efforts by consumer electronic device manufacturers are pressuring Congress and the FCC to allow new, unlicensed devices ranging from PDAs to garage door openers into this spectrum — a scenario which has the potential to wreak havoc on the wireless concert technologies that have been in use for more than 30 years. And this wouldn't just affect concerts. Broadway shows, sporting events, political conventions and churches could be impacted.
Three bills in Congress would force the FCC to expedite the entrance of the potentially interfering devices into the marketplace (S.234, S.337 and H.R. 1597). If passed, any of these bills would force the FCC to allow the unlicensed devices into the spectrum in a little under a year.
The Recording Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing is part of a broad coalition that includes manufacturers, music organizations, sports leagues and many others asking only for one simple request: more time. Time to test, time to study the impact, and time to provide a technology solution that will allow all of us to coexist and work in the spectrum efficiently.
We believe that Congress shouldn't rush the FCC to act before proper testing is complete.
Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), has introduced a bill (H.R. 1320) that would protect the current technologies. Most important, the Rush bill requires many of the new devices to certify through independent testing that they will not cause interference of the existing technologies that our industry — and music fans — rely on.
Advocacy representatives from The Recording Academy and its P&E Wing have spent time on Capitol Hill with other members of the coalition to help educate members of Congress about this important issue. In addition to lobbying in Washington, the Academy has briefed officials from Congress and the FCC in Los Angeles during GRAMMY Week, providing graphic examples of how the music industry relies on wireless technologies.
The education effort for policy makers continues. But we must educate our own industry as well. This issue is simply not on the radar of most music professionals. And if we don't act on our own behalf, Congress most certainly will not. We encourage the music industry to learn more about this topic.
Webcasting & Satellite Radio Royalties
In 2002, the P&E Wing sent a letter to the House Subcommittee on the Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, calling on Congress to focus on the role of producers and engineers in the creative process and to address the interests of producers and engineers in copyright-related legislation, including for webcasting royalties. This letter
marked the first time producers were heard as "one voice" and recognized on Capitol Hill regarding an important matter of public policy.
The P&E Wing then assisted SoundExchange (www.soundexchange.com)
a "receiving agent" royalty collective that is an independent nonprofit corporation to create a structure that defines how producers, engineers and re-mixers receive their share of webcasting royalties. This created an ability to collect a new stream of revenue on digital transmissions of U.S. sound recordings as well as for U.S. performance revenue for certain digital music services — including cable and satellite subscriptions. This set a precedent for a new revenue stream for this constituency in the United States. Producers are, as per what has been negotiated in their contractual agreements with artists, entitled to a share of these royalties if they supply SoundExchange with a letter of direction from the artist. A sample form of letter of direction for producers is available by clicking http://www.soundexchange.com/assets/download_forms/LOD.pdf
The P&E Wing also coordinated efforts with the U.K.-based Performing Artists' Media Rights Association, as well as other international producer organizations such as the U.K.’s Music Producers Guild to assist its qualifying producer members in collecting public performance royalties in the United Kingdom. If a producer qualifies to be paid as a "performing producer" by Phonographic Performance Ltd., he or she may get a share of public performance royalties for sound recordings in the U.K. This also could set another new benchmark for U.S.-based producers to collect another new source of revenue when recording overseas.