Ballroom Dancing

SXSW panels

Ballroom Dancing
Photo by Gary Miller

The Performance Royalty Debate

Austin Convention Center, Thursday, March 13

The U.S. remains the only developed nation not providing royalties to artists for material broadcast on radio, a policy likely to change with legislation currently being debated on Capitol Hill. Though billed as a debate, the eight-member panel convened to discuss the issue during SXSW was hardly balanced; with no representatives from the National Association of Broadcasters, the panelists, including Songwriters Guild of America President Rick Carnes and EMI representative Alasdair McMullan, pitched hard the passing of the Performance Rights Act but equally hammered NAB as freeloading commercial profiteers. The pity party between Carnes and McMullan was particularly unappealing, and only Copyright Alliance Director Patrick Ross proffered the reality that the entire industry, including radio, was in economic upheaval. The estimated $900 million annual revenue to be raised from performance royalties, split equally between makers (labels/recorders) and artists, is a needed and justified bill, especially as UT-Dallas economics professor Stan Liebowitz challenged conventional wisdom that radio actually propelled marketwide album sales. Ultimately, the panel represented everything that's currently wrong with the music industry's vision: entities trying to wring dwindling profits from one another rather than exploring innovative solutions for new media or economic resources.

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