Music organization pushes unjust tax on radio airplay

In his letter to The Hill (“Radio must change its tune on paying royalties to artists,” April 1), SoundExchange Executive Director John Simson wrote about “fairness” and the plight of artists in trying to sell this tax on local radio. Yet his organization is sitting on more than $100 million of artists’ assets — claiming they cannot find the artists to distribute the royalties. At the same time, they are pushing for a performance tax on local radio, at least half of which would end up in the labels’ pockets.

The record labels love to talk about what radio pays in other countries and to compare America to Iran, China and North Korea. What the labels leave out is the funding inequities that American public radio experiences. And while commercial radio stations from other countries may be partially or wholly subsidized by the government and subject to government-mandated content quotas, American commercial radio is managed by private entities and reflects the variety of local voices in the communities they serve.

Further, sound recordings are protected by copyright law for 95 years in the U.S. — far longer than in many other countries. In addition, the U.S. recording industry, without a performance tax, is larger than that of the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain and Mexico combined, all of which have performance fee regimes.

Why is SoundExchange so hung up on other countries? Because in other countries, a performance tax benefits the record producers much more than the artists. And in most European countries, a minimum of 77 percent of the total fees are distributed only to the 20 percent of the top earning performers. Great for Britney Spears, not so great for someone like Justin Jones or Deleted Scenes.

Let’s not forget that major artists would have never reached the level of success they have without the airplay of radio. Radio airplay helps generate between $1.5 billion and $2.4 billion a year in music sales. Mr. Simson alleges the data supporting those figures has been “destroyed,” when, in fact, the data is owned by Arbitron and is available for purchase by anyone interested and willing to pay Arbitron for access to that proprietary information. I guess SoundExchange isn’t interested in paying, despite sitting on that $100 million in assets that belongs to artists they “haven’t found.”

Then again, the record labels’ push to impose a performance tax has never been about truth or fairness. It’s about making an inside-the-Beltway play for something most local communities don’t — and won’t — support. 235 million Americans rely on local radio for local news, disaster information and for help in their community; many of them tune in for music, too. At a time when local communities are suffering so much in this economy, Congress should not put in jeopardy the 106,000 jobs that exist because of radio in order to benefit the foreign-owned record labels. The performance tax legislation is something America just can’t afford.

Washington

If guns are rationed, restrict Rendell too

From Matthew P. Crandall

In the article “Gun foes fight over assault weapons” (April 19), Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called for restricting purchases to “one handgun a month.”

“That’s 12 a year,” he said. “Who in God’s name needs 12 guns a year?”

Please tell Gov. Rendell that I will gladly agree to one gun per month if he will agree to appear on only one TV program per month. Who in God’s name needs to be on television more than 12 times per year?

Please tell Gov. Rendell that I will gladly agree to one gun per month if he will agree to accept only one campaign contribution per month. Who in God’s name needs more than 12 campaign contributions per year?

Please tell Gov. Rendell that I will gladly agree to one gun per month if he will agree to only one press release per month. Who in God’s name needs more than 12 press releases per year?

Cleveland

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