*Special Note: I’ve included the image an link above for you to check out for yourself, so PLEASE DO! And start researching if something similar is being done in your hometown.
So once again, it’s been a minute. Had a lot to do as far as wrapping up this degree, but it’s all good. I’m really gonna try to get back on the blogging tip. And yeah, I know I say that a lot, but this time I MEAN IT!!!! (Maybe. Wink!)
Anyway, I MUST weigh in once again about the whole debate over the “performance tax”. Last year I talked a little about the Performance Rights Act, which is a bill that would place a fee on radio stations to pay performers of songs for whenever their song is played on the radio. There have been a lot of people getting involved in this debate, from Michigan Congressman John Conyers to Radio founder and owner Cathy Hughes, mostly on the whole “Save Black Radio” tip. I’ve seen a lot of this developing by tuning in to my local radio station back home, FM 98 WJLB in Detroit.
For a long while, and still to some extent, I’ve been really torn over the whole thing. On one hand, you have local and independent artists that are trying to get compensated for their music in any way they can in an ever-changing music and radio industry. On the other hand, you have radio stations that would have to pay those artists for their songs, and may go bankrupt by doing so. And that’s pretty much where the story ends for most people… Or Is It? Like so many other stories and topics in our society, there’s a lot that seems like it’s not being told to the public and a lot of language and word games going on. So let me try and break it down as best I can:
The new campaign by “local” radio stations is to ask the public to help “Stop the Radio Tax!” According to these “local” stations, imposing this fee upon them could kill their very existence by eliminating jobs, sources of revenue and so on. According to them, “free radio is at risk”, because artists that get discovered by fans wouldn’t be played at all if these “local” stations had to pay. According to them, all of this money would go to”big foreign record companies that would essentially receive a bailout”, leaving these “local” stations down for the count.
But let’s just try to look at a few of the facts objectively that are being concealed, yet are in plain sight. The ads for these public service announcements are being run, and more than likely paid for, on and by stations owned by Clear Channel Communications and Radio One, Inc., two of the biggest radio and entertainment corporations known to man. Both Clear Channel and Radio One already own many of the stations on which these ads are being run, meaning it’s probably been a long time since any of the stations could be considered “local”.
Overall, radio hasn’t been “local” for a number of years because it’s now owned by large, multi-national corporations. So does the whole “local radio” angle really work? True, some college radio stations and the few remaining stations that are ACTUALLY local may be affected, but think about it in this way: These ads are more than likely being broadcast around the country in similar markets, at the same times of day, by a corporation that actually has the money to do so. What “local” radio station do you know that can do that?
Next, I’ve gotta say something about how the use of language during these ad campaigns. The bill is unofficially known as the Performance Rights Act, but the ads against the bill referred to it first as the “Performance Tax” and are now calling it the “Radio Tax”. Whenever you use the word “Tax” in any context, people will automatically believe that they have to pay for something else. And that is essentially how many figures throughout history have gotten the support of the public. Well, it looks like that game is being played again here.
The “Stop The Radio Tax” campaign seems to lead the public to believe that there will be no more free radio if the bill passes, i.e., it’s the taxpayers that will be affected the most. While there may be some truth to this, didn’t we just say that it’s the organizations and stations that would have to pay, not the people? Is it really about caring a whole lot about free radio, freedom of speech and giving people music they love, or is this an attempt by corporations that are billing themselves as “local” radio to weasel out of paying artists for their art? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Finally, there’s definitely the whole FEAR element that’s going on here. We all remember what happened with the Internet and the music industry in the late 90′s and early 2000′s: Napster, Lars Ulrich, prosecution of students and soccer moms, etc etc. Well, let’s take a look at the current situation. There are a number of resources people can use these days in terms of discovering new music and artists, as well as their favorites, from Pandora (which I’m actually listening to right now!), Slacker Radio, Imeem, and many, many others. Therefore, many people may be saying to themselves, “What’s the point of even listening to or even supporting radio anymore?” And of course, that’s not a good thing, because the radio industry does provide people with jobs and revenue.
But think about this: The last time you listened to regular radio, what did you hear? The same seven songs, over and over and over again? By big-named, mainstream, international artists? Yeah, I thought so. Seriously, flipping the radio on and off just the other day, I kept hearing “Mad” by Ne-Yo. It’s as if that’s the ONLY SONG every station was playing that day. So if the radio doesn’t even give any shine to local and independent artists, shoves the same song down your earhole that you don’t even like continuously until you begin singing along to it, and has a limited local presence in the community at best, what would you expect people to think about Radio in this day and age? Would you trust a radio station like that to properly inform you about an issue like the Performance Rights Act?
Overall, there are LOTS of wholes in the entire “Stop the Radio Tax” campaign, so please keep yourselves informed. And stay tuned here, cuz I hope to do another piece on all of the problems with the argument on the OTHER side, too. Heck, it’s only fair, right? Until then, thanks again and take care!