Legislature Empowering Artists and Radio Stations

Just this morning, Future of Music Coalition gave an update on the Local Community Radio Act of 2009, which would allow 100-watt, non commercial FM stations (Low Powered FM) broadcasting to more niche markets. As described by FofMC, LPFM could encourage school, church and nonprofit radio stations while providing an outlet for local artists.

The implications of the Local Community Radio Act get more complicated in conjunction with other Acts being passed around Congress as of late. Last week I did a write up of some pending legislature regarding the Performance Rights Act [H.R 848] wherein artists will be paid performance royalties from traditional radio airplay. This could get interesting.

Future of Music Coalition, Michael Bracy, said that there is a "series of interconnected policy agenda items intended to reform the radio industry to benefit musicians and radio stations." The goal is to create a "thriving radio station that supports the artist." However, this goal needs to be considered in two stages. "Stage one is deciding if the performance right should exist." This is the topic at hand with the Performance Rights Act. Stage two is then, "...assuming the right should exist, how to implement [the performance rights of artists] without being counterproductive." 

Low Powered FM helps to support the artist as well as new radio stations. However, the creation of a thriving radio station might be hindered due to the passing of the Performance Rights Act. One of the LPFM selling points is how they can create low cost radio accessibility to communities. If the Performance Rights Act is passed and stations must pay performance royalties, suddenly these low cost ventures are not nearly as low cost. Granted, as outlined in Section 3 of the Performing Rights Act, small, non commercial, school and religious radio stations will be granted a blanket license (legal performance rights for all music played) for a fee of either $1,000 or $5,000, depending on the nature of the station. This is a minimized fee compared to royalties paid by major stations. However, for nonprofits and schools with low budgets, $1,000 is just not a liquid option.

Bracy explained that all of this legislation is still at the "philosophical level" and the specifics need to hammered out. These implications will not be neglected and "cut outs" might be created within legislation to encourage the small stations. There are many options to preserve the rights of both parties.

The ultimate purpose of this series of legislation is to empower both artists AND radio stations. Radio stations will disappear if neglected for the sake of the artist in this economic climate. While traditional radio is not our only source for new music anymore, it is still a beneficial service that would be greatly missed.