The Performance Rights Act has passed in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill was introduced by Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and was expected to be approved in committee; it now goes on to a vote in the full House.
There are still several steps before this bill becomes law, if it ever does: A similar bill, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), must be passed by the Senate, and then the differences between the versions will need to be reconciled before a final version can be sent to President Obama.
Conyers decided to go ahead with the committee vote on the bill over the objections of civil rights groups and members of the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, who urged that a hearing be held to examine the impact of a performance royalty on minority radio. Radio One also strongly protested the bill, with a rally sponsored by the Detroit cluster at Conyers’ office in the city today.
The Detroit News reports that an amendment, proposed by Conyers, reducing fees that would be charged to small stations was added to the bill. With the amendment, stations grossing less than $100,000 would pay $500 a year, those grossing between $100,000 and $500,000 would pay$2,500, and those making between $500,000 and $1.25 million would pay $5,000. Additionally, there will be a one-year delay in enforcement for larger stations, while payments will be delayed three years for those grossing less than $5 million.
Conyers also asked for a Government Accountability Office report on the bill’s effect on broadcasters, but still proceeded with the vote.
A Broadcaster Reacts
Shortly after the bill went through, Radio Ink got in touch with Randy Hawke, OM of Mid-West Family Broadcast Group’s WJJO/Madison.
“The concessions that are being made are being made to get the bill through are a Trojan horse,” Hawke says. “Once it is on the books that paying this is what radio has to do, they will come back for their pound of flesh.”
He continues, “Performance royalties are wrong. They will mean local job and money loss for states. They will harm minority radio and they will deter the growth of music as an art form, period. First, we already pay for our music. The songwriters like Bono have billions of dollars. If you write a song and no one ever performs it, how much money do you make? How much of their royalties are they providing performers?”
Hawke notes that artists lie Bono will benefit from the bill at the expense of new artists. He says, “The future Bonos need to know that this bill will keep Bono on the radio and them off. Playing unfamiliar songs from unfamiliar artists costs radio listeners, which in turn costs radio money. That is a fact. Adding another cost hurdle to breaking new music will harm music as an art form. In order to prove a stronger ROI on every song, we will be forced to play U2 ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ again.