As Congressional leaders debate legislation proposed by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.) on a Performance Tax, minority-owned radio stations have started to feel the pinch, and some are shutting down operations. In what some, including Radio One owner Cathy Hughes, call “a nail in the coffin of Black radio,” the record industry would charge a performance tax – or what amounts to a royalty fee – on each song played over the radio.
This fee is labeled as monetary compensation to artists, whose music has been played for free over airwaves for more than 80 years, but 50 percent of the fees would now go directly to the record companies.
Industry analysts say that the exorbitant amount of fees would disproportionately affect Black-owned radio stations negatively, and has already led to the demise of three Black Philadelphia stations just three days following the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s 21 to nine vote to approve the Performance Rights Act. The stations were reportedly sold to Catholic churches due to an inability to pay performance fees.
“It is a means for the music industry to make money in the wake of digital swapping, downloading, and the loss of revenue from record / CD sells,” said Cleophus “Cleo” Freeman, 68, a retired record promoter in Oxon Hill, Md.
“Most of the American record labels are owned by foreign companies, so these people have no loyalty to the listeners. They have no heart strings connected to Black radio stations – all they see is the bottom line – which is more money.”
Conyers has supported the music industry’s bid for additional performance tax revenue for years.
“Music and culture is the other part of what makes you a human being. I never met anyone who didn’t believe that artists and performers shouldn’t be compensated. Have you? This is what we’re struggling with. We’re here to determine how we move past this,” said Conyers at a town hall meeting in Michigan several weeks ago.
The fate of the bill in the House is still uncertain, even as amendments are being hashed out by Conyers, whose…
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