As a follow up to my previous post on the subject, the radio widget above should play Politico’s interview with Smashing Pumpkin’s founder and frontman Billy Corgan following his testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee in support of HR 848, the Performance Rights Act.
Corgan testified on Capitol Hill on behalf of the musicFIRST Coalition yesterday. Corgan testified that the current sytems is “hurting the music business” because of radio stations’ failure to compensate musicians for performing their music.
My readers know my thoughts on this subject. While I agree with Corgan’s overall sentiment, I stand by my emphasis yesterday that the legislation as it is written may be drafted in favor of the record labels more so than the performing artists.
HR 848 should have a provision that provides for direct payment of royalties to the artists who performed on the sound recording and which specifically does NOT rely on the record labels to distribute these royalties “in accordance with the terms of the artist’s contract.” (See my previous post). This kind of language contained in the House version of the legislation at Section 6 only assures that the record labels would receive all the performance royalties and that performing artists would have to overcome numerous obstacles to ever see any of the additional income, inevitably leading to more disputes with the record label. The current artists agreements with record labels simply do not contain provisions addressing payment of these types of royalties and, even if they did, the artists who have unrecouped balances on their ledger sheets would never see a dime.
My proposal is that the current system for collection and distribution of performance royalties for musical compositions be utilized. Specifically, why not allow BMI, SESAC and ASCAP to collect and distribute the performance royalties for sound recording copyrights on behalf of member artists, allowing these organizations to pay 50% of the income directly to the artists (the original owners of the sound recordings) and 50% to the record labels (the assignee owners of the sound recordings). This structure is identical to the distribution of performance royalties for owners of the musical composition copyright. It’s a systems that has functioned well since the turn of the 20th century and it is a systems that, overall, works fairly well.
In general, members of the performance rights organizations have fewer royalty disputes with these entities over than artists do with record labels, since these entities, for the most part, do not function as profit generators. There is no doubt that this idea has some flaws as well, but in comparing the alternative, it seems to me that this would benefit the artists and musicians much more than giving the money to the record labels.