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Old 04-06-2010, 07:09 PM   #1
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An open letter to my congressman

I sent this to my congressman and thought I should let people here know about it too.
There is a bill before congress right now to force radio stations to pay for each song they play. If it happens, it could kill local radio. Check out No Performance Tax Home for more info. Contact your congressman about this, it is bad for everybody, the raido industry, the music industry, and the music listening public.

Dear Mr. Coble,
I am writing with concern about a current movement in congress to force radio stations to pay royalties on the songs they play. I believe the bills are H.R.848 and S.379. There may be others, I'm not sure. I have worked in radio since I was eighteen, giving me nine years in the industry. In that time I have had the privilege of working for both talk radio and music stations, in every capacity from producer to disc jockey to assistant program director. This movement, which I saw today the Obama administration is backing, will hammer a crucial nail in the coffin of both radio and the music industry.
This development is sadly ironic. In the past, record companies actually paid us, the radio stations, to play their music. It was called payola and is illegal. Ever since Alan Freed, radio station employees have been required to sign a document stating they will not accept it. Now congress is attempting to turn the tables and force us to pay them. Isn't it strange that the record companies obviously know that our playing their music sells their records and yet they now want us to pay for the privilege?
The radio industry is already struggling. Competing with more advertiser friendly mediums like the Internet and television, and in an economy where businesses are advertising less and less, particularly our bread and butter: the car dealer, we are already struggling for revenue. This new legislation will put a burden on us that we can not bear. It will result in a catastrophic decline in the number of music stations,music variety, and quality.
I know you to be a smart man, so I'm sure you can figure it out for your self, but allow me to spell it out. First, classic rock and oldies stations will disappear entirely because they rely on playing a variety of songs by a variety of artists. They will move to talk radio where there are no royalties. Country stations will no longer play any classic country and will stick solely to the Top 40. The Pop stations will play even less variety than they do now, opting for only a handful of artists and songs to keep their costs down. These songs will be limited only to "the sure thing." A radio station is not going to take a chance on a song that may not be a hit. This will result in an even harsher environment for new artists. This will result in fewer listeners because they will quickly become bored with the same songs over and over.
That part I think you can figure out for your self. Here's a second part that came to me today. If I'm a record company, and I have a sure thing on my hands like another Britney Spears or Backstreet Boys or Nsync, Here's what I would do. Sign them to a contract with a higher signing bonus and higher per album payout but lower royalties. Or, perhaps a better idea, I would sign them to a standard deal plus a three song "single" deal. I would release these songs only on Itunes and on the radio and charge no royalties at all. This would allow me to charge lower royalties to the radio stations making it cheaper to play those songs. Stations would begin playing those songs more heavily than others. It's payola in a different form. Instead of paying them to play certain songs, they could just not charge them as much.
Perhaps an even greater travesty would be the impact this would have on the music. Even before I am a radio professional, I am a music fan. It is truly an American treasure, from jazz to blues to bluegrass, to country to rock and roll, it is one of our most sacred past times. If these laws are passed, the quality and variety will plummet.
Please, radio is the last free medium on the planet. To watch television I have to pay my cable company, to surf the Internet I have to pay my service provider even to read a book I have to buy each individual book. Radio is different. Anybody with ten dollars can go to Walmart and buy a radio and be connected to the world. He can tune in any time and listen, for free, to the world. Please fight this legislation, for the sake of my job, for the sake of the the music lover, for the sake of an American tradition.
Thank you,
Carson Johnson

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