Last week I had a conversation about radio and musicians with Casey Rae, Executive Director of the Future of Music Coalition. He told me “Commercial radio has made it difficult for artists to have access to the airwaves, no matter how talented. Radio is still a big resource. This is why the musician community rallied around LPFM, they knew instinctively that the local was important.”
We were talking about FMC’s upcoming Future of Music Summit. Happening October 28 and 29 in Washington, DC, this will be the group’s 12th such event. Rae was telling me why broadcasters, listeners and radio enthusiasts should be concerned about the future of music and interested in the Summit.
At the Summit Rae said “We have a lot to talk about on the LPFM side, it represents 10 years of effort.” Prometheus Radio Project will be there for the second day of the event which Rae said “is about sustainable local cultural communities, (and) radio is part of this.”
“Radio can do something internet can’t,” he continued, “it’s live and local. With the introduction of potentially thousands more local (LPFM) stations, we’ll take time to reflect on what that victory means. It’s an exciting conversation to have.”
Beyond just LPFM, Rae notes that “noncommercial radio is playing a huge curatorial role,” so NPR will be at the Summit as well.
A big issue on the minds of both musicians and broadcasters is the question of performance royalties. Rae said the issue of artist compensation will receive a lot of consideration at the Summit.
Terrestrial radio has been statutorily exempt from performance royalties in the US; radio in the rest of the world is not. But US internet and satellite broadcasters do have to pay performers and labels for the recordings that are played. Musicians, especially those who are independent or recording for smaller labels, would benefit from the additional income stream. At the same time broadcasters are understandably wary of new costs.
Bills have been introduced to Congress to extend these obligations to terrestrial radio, while Clear Channel has gone out on its own to strike payment deals with major labels for its broadcast stations in order to get better rates for its online streams. Yet, these deals have so far left out independent artists and labels.
Rae said, “The question is parity, who should pay how much and under what conditions. This may look like a marketplace scuffle, but musicians are huge stakeholders.”
“The good news is,” Rae told me, “if there were a terrestrial performance right enacted we would be working with our friends in the noncommercial community to make sure legislation were not punitive, and that royalties would be scaled.” He said “The whole point is that it would be something that would serve and support the music community, to get (back on the air) the array of voices missing in radio the last decade.”
The rules that govern royalties and compensation are in copyright law. So Summit attendees will hear a keynote address from Jacqueline C. Charlesworth Appointed General Counsel and Associate Register of Copyrights.
At the Summit “(w)e put the focus squarely on musicians and songwriters,” Rae said. "Getting played on the radio is the coolest thing in the universe.
“Musicians are not a monolithic group. They have a range of perspectives on what is meaningful compensation and what a good digital marketplace looks like. We include independent labels and people from broadcast to talk about these issues.”
Ultimately, Rae said “The core idea is to get together people who represent any aspect of the music industry and have conversations about where the industry is heading.” Happening “in the shadow of DC policy making,” he promises the Summit will be “different than your typical industry conference.”
Registration for the Future of Music Summit is open now. For musicians who might like to attend there’s a limited number of $20 scholarships, along with student discounts. Those who are unable to make it to DC in October will be able to watch a live webcast.
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