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Overpay to Play

To the Editor:

I’d like to add a podcaster’s perspective to Paul Rapp’s excellent column on HR 848, also known as “The Performance Rights Act” [“Due R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” Rapp on This, March 26]. This legislation would require radio stations to compensate record companies and musicians for broadcasting their works on the traditional airwaves. Currently, radio stations only pay songwriters, not performers, for broadcasting their music.

Rapp says this legislation would end the “free ride” for traditional broadcast radio, since digital broadcasters have been required to pay royalties to songwriters, record companies and musicians since the 1990s. In theory, Rapp is correct that this legislation “levels the playing field with digital radio.” In practice, that isn’t necessarily true.

In my experience, ASCAP and BMI—the major performing rights organizations in the United States—make it cumbersome and cost prohibitive for most podcasters to play music. The current “experimental” licenses offered to webcasters are typically too expensive for small podcasters.

I’ve been hosting talk show podcasts for four years now, and I enhance my shows with intro, outro and bumper music between segments. I couldn’t find an appropriate license from any of the major performing rights organizations that suited my needs. In the future, I hope these major companies recognize the benefits of an iTunes-type system that accepts micropayments from small Internet broadcasters. Until then, I believe many small podcasters will simply use songs from major labels without compensation to the artists.

For my podcast music, I use Promonet which provides pre-cleared tracks from independent record labels for free play on podcasts, webcasts and blogs. Promonet users are required to report how many listeners downloaded the songs, and post purchase links for the songs they play. This February, I caught a performance of the band Deer Tick, whose song I have been using for podcast theme music. I was able to tell the band in person that their song was downloaded by my listeners 336,000 times last year. I know that exposure helped them sell more than a few albums.

Duncan Crary

Host and producer of the KunstlerCast,


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