The parade of Chicago music industry heavy-hitters on Captiol Hill will continue tomorrow when Smashing Pumpkins bandleader Billy Corgan testifies at a hearing on the Performance Rights Act before the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Pushed by what's left of the major-label lobbying group, the Recording Industry Association of America, bills recently were introduced to both houses of Congress to require conventional or "terrestrial" radio to pay performance rights to musicians for recordings that are played on the airwaves. The radio industry has long paid copyright royalties to the songwriters (collected by the organizations ASCAP, BMI and SESAC), but it has not paid separate performance royalties, while Internet Webcasters, television broadcasters and satellite radio all have been required to.
Traditional radio was for years allowed to coast along without paying performance royalties under the labels' reasoning that playing a song on the radio was, in effect, a paid commercial for the song and the artist. But times have changed, conventional radio no longer has the juice it once had and many performers and labels are now hungering for that extra piece of the pie.
Also slated to testify at Tuesday's hearing are RIAA chairman Mitch Bainwol and Steve Newberry, chairman of the NAB Radio Board. At the moment, Corgan is the only artist on the witness list -- which is ironic, given that only a few days ago, he told the Sun-Times:
"I am loathe from here and ever on to talk about the music business. So
honestly I'd rather not comment."
That was in response to the fact that Corgan joined Seal, Shakira, Journey and Van Halen on the short list of artists who wrote to Congress in support of the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. Corgan's letter has not yet been published as part of the Congressional record of the subcommittee hearings, and he declined to share it with the Sun-Times.