Westchester entertainment attorney Lisa Fantino not sure if artists are singing the right tune on Capitol Hill

Music notesA band of singers took their song to Capitol Hill this week with the hope of getting Congress to like what they hear and have radio stations pay more.

Right now, when you hear a song on the radio, the station’s owners have to pay a royalty to the songwriters of that song and the publishers.  Unfortunately, the performers do not get a royalty.  Other media, such as satellite, cable TV and the Internet, have to pay the musicians and singers a performance royalty.  This nation’s current Copyright Law only requires performance royalties for digital transmissions (not analog AM/FM radio) and, in fact, exempts non-subscription services (i.e. radio, again)

Performers who were crying in front of the Senate Judiciary committee today in support of the Performing Rights Act included Sheila E., Dionne Warwick and Herbie Hancock, not quite A-list celebs any longer.  Artists who are on top of their game today and who are embracing the current technology are not looking back but are instead looking forward to how they can cope with the Internet and digital transmission; how they can capitalize on it; how they can stay current.  Many bands even offer free downloads so why should radio have to pay a performing rights royalty?

First, analog radio is a dying friend, taking its last gasps.  Satellite radio is now the flavor of the decade and most people only listen to music on their I-Pods or MP3 players because they can carry 5,000 of songs they handpick without the chatter.

Second, as long as there is analog radio, musicians should thank their lucky stars for the free advertising they get with free air play.  Take a look around, folks, there aren’t many traditional outlets left for new music to debut.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am an entertainment attorney.  I make a living writing these contracts and suing when they don’t work.  However, when I was in law school, I wrote a paper for ASCAP warning the recording industry to sit up and start doing something about this technology and learn how to change the business model for its advantage.  They didn’t listen and 12 years later they are grasping at digital straws trying to hold onto a business that’s dying a slow death.  The artists who are fighting for these rights are the artists who are also gasping for air.

I remember the days when radio and rock ‘ n’ roll used to be fun.  Heck, I helped write some of that history in my own small way.  Yet, I was smart enough to realize that the analog world was turning digital and I escaped to law school because there will always be someone singing about their rights being violated.  Good luck!

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