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.
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