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Media: February 2011

| February 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Bands! Get Your Money!

The SoundExchange clearinghouse is slated to deliver $260 million in royalties to musicians for digital airplay in 2010. That’s a huge jump from $100 million in 2008, and $155 million in 2009.

But much of that money never makes it into a musician’s hands. That’s because the Washington, DC-based nonprofit hasn’t been able to locate thousands of artists who are owed money. At the end of 2009, SoundExchange had $111 million in unclaimed royalties – $43 million of which was unclaimed by artists and labels.

“As much as we want to, we can’t send out the checks until someone fills out the paperwork,” says spokeswoman Laura Anderson. “But it’s really difficult to get them to do it. Some people think it’s too good to be true or aren’t used to getting paid for their work, or think we’re an e-mail scam.”

SoundExchange collects royalties from digital music streams on the Internet, satellite radio, and cable television. Then the staff combs through 3 billion lines of data each month to determine who is owed. “In some cases it’s listed as ‘artist unknown’ or Beethoven – who has never made a sound recording. That means we have to do a lot of research to figure out who should be paid.”

It takes about 20 minutes to register online at www.soundexchange.com, and requires a voided check and a state tax number (there are instructional videos on the site).

“There’s no downside to registering,” says Anderson. “We’re a nonprofit. There’s never a cost. If someone thinks they might be owed money or are getting play on the Internet or satellite radio or a cable-TV music channel, they should register. It doesn’t conflict with any other membership. “We’ve simplified it as much as we can. When people finally do it, they say, ‘That was easy. I wonder why I waited so long.'”

As board member Martha Reeves told the Detroit News, “The artists whose records that are being played, they should be paid.”

MORE FREE MONEY FOR MUSICIANS: BROADCAST ROYALTIES COULD BECOME REALITY IN 2011: One of the groups SoundExchange does not collect from is over-the-air radio stations.

But that could change – soon.

“There has been an 80-year push from the music community to get fair pay for radio airplay,” says MusicFirst spokesperson Tom Matzzie. “We think our best shot is in 2011.”

Last year, the lame-duck Congress revived the Performance Rights Act (HR-848), which would require broadcasters to pay performance fees to musicians and record companies. Currently, terrestrial radio stations only have to pay the songwriters. The measure also covers international royalties.

Musicians, record companies, and even Pandora support the bill, which is the brainchild of Michigan Democrat John Conyers.

Not surprisingly, broadcasters – particularly the National Association Of Broadcasters (NAB) – oppose HR-848, claiming it would take a toll on an already beleaguered radio industry, whose advertising revenue dropped by about eight percent between 2003 and 2008.

The bill has been approved by the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and is supported by the White House.

Last year, Congress asked the two sides to negotiate. In July, MusicFirst and broadcasters hammered out a preliminary agreement to present to Congress. “Then they backed away from it and came back with something we had not previously agreed to,” says Matzzie, who remains optimistic. “We think we can have an agreement that will work for everyone – that will support the music community and grow radio.”

Matzzie says the new Republicans in the legislature should not be an impediment. “On the liberal side, it’s seen as a fair-play issue,” he says. “On the conservative side, it’s looked at as a property-rights issue. There’s a lot of consensus on it, and if you look outside of Congress you have support from the left to the right – from the AFL-CIO to conservative activist Grover Norquist.” Learn more at musicfirstcoalition.org.

ODDS N SODS: President Obama started off the year by signing the Local Community Radio Act (LCRA), which will open the door for unused FM-radio frequencies to become low-power stations with FCC approval. Sadly, Chicago’s airwaves are already saturated . . . Smooth 87.7 (WLFM-FM) picked up the new syndicated morning show, “Sandy & Kenny G In The Morning.” It airs weekdays from 6 to 9 and features longtime Detroit radio personality Sandy Kovach and, yes, that Kenny G. Soon, everyone will have a radio show . . . Crest Hill-based south-suburban classic rocker WRXQ-FM (100.7) recently launched a live, local-music-driven morning show hosted by Elwood (Mark Mailer) and added local shock jock Raven for middays. They join interim program director Freak, whose other job – as interim program director – has him adding a wider variety of classic cuts to the NextMedia-owned station. Hear it online, at www.wrxq.com . . . Kiss-FM (WKSC-FM 103.5) canned Drex last year and replaced him with Brotha’ Fred – a.k.a. the fauxhawked young Christopher Frederick, whose last market was Charlotte, NC. Good luck filling Drex’s shoes – and keeping your fauxhawk erect during Chicago’s frigid winter.

— Cara Jepsen

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Category: Columns, Media, Monthly

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