RIAA Gains Support for Radio Tax

During an event on Capitol Hill, the AFL-CIO hailed the radio tax as fair pay for a hard days work.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The event also drew interest from politicians at the event.

The group also issued a statement which says, “On behalf of the AFL-CIO, I am so pleased that we stand here today — united with the unions of AFM and AFTRA and with their great leaders Tom Lee and Roberta Reardon — in support of the fundamental right of Americans to be paid for their work.”

“In America, whether you’re a performer, firefighter, teacher or steelworker, you should not be cheated out of the wages you earned.”

“Yet for the past 80 years,” the statement continues, “radio stations have used the publicly-owned airwaves to make billions of dollars playing music without paying artists that created it one cent for using their recordings.”

The event was held with RIAA lobbying group musicFIRST. It’s nothing short of ironic that the event was used to trumpet hard everyday working people when the groups that stand to benefit are mainly CEOs and corporations, not artists. That point is very apparent when one looks at other examples around the world of a radio tax.

In Canada, there is a levy on radio. I’ve personally spoken with independent radio station managers who have told me that the system is highly corrupted. The money, I was told, is gathered and go almost exclusively to the top few artists on the charts with the rest of the artists barely even seeing a dime of pay from the levy. The effect on radio, though, is rather profound. Only a small handful of stations actually are able to exist because the cost to operate is greater with such a levy. The few stations that do exist mainly play top 40 music with just about all forms of alternative music getting snuffed out. If one wants to kill competition in the radio industry, a new tax on them is an excellent start.

It’s hard to treat a lot of the comments coming out of this seriously – particularly the idea that this will suddenly pay artists for a hard days work when its pretty much paying copyright holders, not necessarily artists, over and over and over again for that one day of work. It’s very sad to see the industry openly declaring war on one of its few allies that are left. The radio industry has spent decades promoting the industry’s music. What will everyone else get as a result of this tax? Nothing. At least in Canada, the levies were used to argue against the record industry when it tried to argue in court that they were losing millions due to file-sharing because the industry gets an automatic stream of revenue for, well, existing.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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