Congressional hearing 6/28 on web royalty rates

Us House of RepresentativesTomorrow, June 28, The Small Business Committee of the US House of Representatives will conduct a full committee hearing on the hotly contested new royalty rates proposed by the Copyright Royalty Board. The topic of the hearing is officially given as: Assessing the Impact of the Copyright Royalty Board Decision to Increase Royalty Rates on Recording Artists and Webcasters.

The slate of panelists invited to speak includes the groups that have been active in the roiling debate over these new rates – artists and labels likely to insist that the new rates provide them a fair share of income generated from their work, the musician’s union which will agree, and public radio and webcasters who will declare that the new rates hamper their ability to offer a wide variety of music programming online.

We should mention that banjo player, songwriter and storyteller, Cathy Fink, is among the artists invited to speak.

In a number of previous posts on this topic, we have noted disagreements erupting within our bluegrass community over this debate, breaking into the same camps as indicated above.

At Bluegrass Today, we encourage the artistic side to be wary of the incentives that these new rates create for businesses who produce – or might produce – web radio content that features bluegrass, old time, folk or acoustic music. Regardless of the intentions of this new structure, making it far more costly for our music to be streamed online will inevitably result in less of it being heard on the Internet. In a narrow, niche segment of the market, we see little gain in artists/labels fighting for a larger share of what would become a rapidly shrinking pie.

Further, we feel that the direction the market is taking is one where distribution as we have traditionally known it becoming ever more irrelevant, and the ability to filter content and promote/publicize your music online will be the dominant factor in increasing sales. This is not to say that a royalty rate where artists and songwriters get a larger share isn’t a defensible position, only that looking for it as a replacement for income lost by declining CD sales might end up throttling an important promotional vehicle in its cradle.

Tomorrow’s hearing is set for 10:00 a.m. (EDT). C-SPAN has not yet posted its full schedule for 6/28, as they often make decisions on which hearings are of higher import at the last minute, so check their schedule on Thursday morning if you have interest in catching it live – or perhaps shown pre-recorded later in the day.

UPDATE 1:00 p.m.: On a related note… Gracie Muldoon, General manager of WorldWideBluegrass.com, has a post on The B where she discusses WWB’s reasons for not going silent during this past Tuesday’s Day Of Silence campaign to protest the new CRB rate proposal.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

  • Jon Weisberger

    And I would encourage Bluegrass Today and readers to be wary of taking the claims of webcasters concerning the crippling effects of a 10th of a cent royalty at face value, and to consider whether it’s equitable for webcasters to seek to cap their costs not by lobbying for a freeze on electric rates, nor demanding that the government cap server and Internet access prices, etc., but solely by freezing (or even rolling back) payments to the folks who are actually supplying them with the content that’s driving consumers to their sites. I would be a lot more inclined to take those claims seriously if the webcasters were willing to open their books to the public and show their entire revenue-expense pictures, rather than use debatable (to put it charitably) calculations and figures that show only a portion of the expense side.