Push for new bill threatens music industry

By Lindsay Cameron

A music tax will bankrupt many small radio stations and cause financial trouble for WRDL if legislation for bill HR 848 passes.

WRDL would pay licensing fees of $500 if the bill passes, Congressman John Boccieri said, in addition to approximately $500 royalty fees it already pays to artists through Ascap and BMI.

Boccieri said he does not support the bill and does not believe it has enough support to pass through the judiciary committee or in Congress.

Both Boccieri and Michael A.J. Randolph, WRDL advisor, think the bill was proposed to combat the revenue loss from music pirating. They both said it is not fair to take it out on the radio stations.

“If the problem is music downloads, go after that,” Boccieri said. “Why would you want to hurt the folks who are single-handedly marketing their [artists’] music?”

Randolph said radio stations highlight the new artists, a free-marketing medium. Since radio stations are providing the service to the artists, why should they pay for it?

“Radio stations aren’t going to take a chance on somebody who is unknown: ‘So let’s just stick with the names that everyone knows because we know people are going to want to listen to them,'” Randolph said.

“Radio, in general, has a challenge because it’s losing listeners.”

Boccieri said this bill would endanger the community spirit of small radio stations and put many out of business.

“It would take the local flare away from their programming,” he said.

Some artists think they will receive more revenue, but Boccieri does not think so-the radio stations would not have the incentive to play the new artists’ music with a music performance tax.

Randolph agreed with Boccieri’s assertion.

“A lot of your famous artists now got their breaks on college and public radio. They tend to be with small independent labels-they don’t have the big media machines pushing them,” Randolph said.

“It’s [HR 848] going to cut down on our [WRDL’s] ability to play new artists because we can’t afford the fees.”

For example, Randolph said, John Mayer had his break on college radio. WRDL receives many demos and CD debuts from artists who want their music played, including local bands.

Brad Eustathios, WRDL’s music director, said this HR 848 would be a nail in the coffin of radio stations, and is “phenomenally stupid.”

A scene in the movie “That Thing You Do” describes the thrill artists should have when they hear their songs playing on the radio for the first time, even if they are only “one hit wonders,” Eustathios said.

“That feeling has disappeared for the mainstream artist,” Eustathios said. “Instead of being like, ‘Oh my God, I’m this famous to be on the radio?’ it’s, ‘Oh my God, why am I not making five dollars off of this?’ The art has been taken out of the art.”

Eustathios said he would predict that an additional fee would influence funding for the entire communications department at Ashland University.

“We’d have to pay money for songs that were once easy for us to play-money that could have been used for professors and education, TV2 and WRDL equipment, and other related needs. Instead, we’d lose a chunk of money to artists and record labels-people who have already made it big-and have to work with a smaller budget,” Eustathios said.

Eustathios said he researched the bill and found out that Billy Corgin, front man for Smashing Pumpkins, is pushing for the bill to pass, and artists will only receive fifty percent of the tax revenue, while record labels will take the other half.

The artists are not losing money by being played on the radio, Eustathios said, but because they aren’t making money, they see it as losing money.

If HR 848 passes, it will begin the decline of radio stations prematurely, Eustathios said, and will financially hinder WRDL’s progress towards online streaming.

Online streaming is important because it will allow more students to listen. Many students do not own radios anymore and cannot tune in on campus, unless they go to their cars, Eustathios said.

According to Eustathios, the music industry is tightening their control on regulated media because they cannot do the same for the Internet. It’s not just a U.S. issue, but a worldwide one.