The Performance Rights Issue

Despite what you may read or think about the music performance royalty payment debate for terrestrial radio, it is highly likely, in this reporter's opinion, to become a reality soon.

This historic change in music licensing fees could result in at least three potentially significant changes in the radio industry:


Stations paying more for the right to play music - especially new music - will force hundreds of stations to choose to change formats to no music/more talk or radio formats that will take advantage of the wealth of unlicensed, independent artists and groups that are producing some darn fine music.

This move will inspire the rise in acceptance on FM of some current non-music formats such as news, news/talk, the new comedy radio format that was introduced in September and others that haven't been thought of yet.

This will help radio operators in at least two ways:

a) they will not be subject to unrealistic increases in music licensing fees and

b) the move to non-music formats will save stations over 50% in their current music licensing fees (BMI/ASCAP/SEASAC).

What a deal!


More creativity. Added performance fees for stations that continue to program music will force those stations to play fewer songs in order for their business models to function in a positive zone.

And as a very good friend and I were discussing over lunch the other day, playing fewer songs will force/encourage stations to develop other programming content that will not fall within the performance rights category.

In other words, the performance royalty fee increase will force today's programming people to be more creative - to rely less on the easy use of music to fill the space between commercials and actually create new content that will be compelling for listeners.

Imagine being compelled to listen to terrestrial radio because it will be offering exciting, fun, entertaining and interesting content that is proprietary and not available elsewhere.

This is starting to sound pretty OK!

What the industry may lose on the added royalty fee it will surely benefit from with fresh "compelling content" which should generate more audience which should increase advertising billing!


New music formats that take the added royalty into account. There are at least three never-before-heard radio formats ready to go that have been vetted in the field by Bridge Ratings & Research. Maybe some radio companies will find the courage to save themselves some money with exciting new radio programming.

What a concept!

So, ultimately, while the majority of the radio industry stands opposed to or at least doesn't see the fairness of the much-discussed performance royalty agreement, the industry will benefit from this forced "tax" by causing it to work harder to be better.

Perhaps this is the straw that finally pushes terrestrial radio to the point of action after at least ten years of stifled creativity.

Perhaps this will generate more jobs for the creative-minded programmers who have either lost their jobs over the last few years or left the business due to frustration.

And perhaps it will even open the eyes of young music-fans seeking employment who will once again see terrestrial radio as a viable platform to present their ideas and bring fresh blood into a radio industry that has been struggling to find new talent.

Yes, it's quite possible there is a silver lining to this whole new royalty thing...

Who's up for the challenge?