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Smashing Pumpkins Billy Corgan congressional testimony on performers compensation

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Testimony (AS PREPARED) of Billy Corgan, Founder, Smashing Pumpkins
Before the Committee on the Judiciary
U. S. House of Representatives
March 10, 2009
Regarding H.R. 848, the Performance Rights Act


I'd like to thank Chairman Conyers and the Committee for this opportunity to appear before you
today about the Performance Rights Act. I'm here as a representative of the musicFIRST
coalition, to give voice to fellow artists and musicians who have joined together to assert their
right to be compensated for the airing of their musical performances on terrestrial radio.

Because of my experiences in the music business for over 20 years, I have a particular sensitivity
when it comes to artists' rights, and who controls the distribution, and therefore, the worth of
those rights. Like many of my peers, I come from a working-class background, beginning my
musical journey playing in dingy bars and college lunchrooms. Being a performer requires
countless hours of dedication to your craft. It is not an easy business to undertake, and for every
success story, there are many who have not had the opportunities that I've had.

I was able to find an audience, in no small measure, because of the long support of my music by
terrestrial radio. I am a big fan of radio, and am very interested in its continued health and well-
being. Terrestrial radio has helped me to discover many of the artists that became influential to
my life and artistic pursuits. I by no means see them as the bad guy.

The change to the law we are here to discuss only redresses an outmoded, unfair practice that
favors one participant's needs over another. This legislation is simply a form of restoration to
artists long overdue.

The rights of any artist are often rife with vague distinctions and contradictions, as the worth of a
creative endeavor cannot be calculated by any science. Works of art are judged subjectively, and
if deemed good enough, plugged into a vast system that attempts to establish their mettle and
eventually capitalize on that value. The debate over what any piece of art should command on an
open market is as old as time itself.

As it stands currently, if you have written a song and you have the good fortune of being played
on terrestrial radio, then you, as the author, are entitled to a fixed form of compensation as
established by Congress. This compensation, of course, recognizes the unique contribution that
the author has made to the creation of the song. Conversely, if you also happen to be a performer
on that very same song, by law, terrestrial radio owes you no form of compensation at all. The
decision behind this long-held inequity stems back to 1909 when radio was in its infancy, and
since sound recordings had only recently come onto the market, they were not included. The old-
fashioned radio business has held onto this exemption for over 80 years -- a law made in a
bygone era for a set of reasons long past.

This landmark exemption however stripped performers of their right to a free market evaluation
of the value of their recorded works. From my perspective, this issue is one of fundamental
fairness. If the performance of a song has value to a particular terrestrial radio station in its
airing, I believe it is only right to compensate those performers who have created this work.
Simply put, if a station plays a song, both the author and the performer should be paid. These
particular performances must have value to the stations or they wouldn't be playing them.


Not every performer on a hit song is a big name, and they might not see the same windfall that a
star might. One can't assume they participate in the merchandise or touring income that is linked
to commercial radio success. Not everyone who hears a song on terrestrial radio buys a ticket or
a t-shirt. Some listeners just listen, thereby rewarding only the station and their advertisers, and
not performers themselves.

All areas of the modern music business are currently feeling the shifting tides as new models
emerge and old ones are broken up. Ours is a business that always begins with the brilliance of
the artists. Contrary to long-held myths, it does take money to create new music. As the
traditional revenue streams have dried up, most notably in the overall decline of record sales, it
has placed stress on who continues to benefit from the old models. The future demands new
partnerships and a rethinking of long-held practices about how artists should be compensated for
their music. The hallmark of any great entertainment career is sustainability. Recognizing both
the significance of the author and performer in the music making process helps to create those
future opportunities.

In closing, and with all due respect to those that oppose the passage of the Performance Rights
Act, to classify this measure as a "tax" is an interesting choice of words. For who has been taxed
more than the artists themselves? Artists have paid their dues, so to speak, to establish terrestrial
radio as a great and dynamic medium. We must consider that, for many artists, the difference
between receiving these resources is the difference between a life in music and a life out of
music. Few could deny that when a classic performance is captured, forever frozen as a musical
snapshot in time, generation after generation returns to these moments, each finding something a
little different. Whether we are talking about Motown, Stax, Elvis, or Howling Wolf, when the
public decides that a specific performance is worthy of their attention, then it seems only fitting
that this little bit of magic as documented be recognized in the form of direct compensation for
the artists and organizations that helped to create it.

I thank you for your time.

3 Comments

Goddamn it Corgan. You truely have sold your soul for a name brand. Like you said the old Pumpkins are dead. True.

Stove: your comment doesn't make any sense in relation to this article.


You can badmouth Billy all you want based on the direction he put the pumpkins in (which I would agree with you), but he's actually doing the right thing here.


Billy is testifying to promote change in the music industry and not thinking only of himself. He's supporting new artists. Did you even read this transcript?

Stove: I bet ya a hundred bucks you looooove Hinder! lol

Anywho, I see Mr. Corgan is right, It's about time that the artist get a spotlight. I mean how come is it when these "huge" bands. Buy a song they call it theirs what about the person who wrote the music in the first place? Never hear about them. Without the manifestation of a thought put on paper. Over half of the Music Industries "big" artists are just mere mortals like the rest of us on youtube.com. makes me sick.......

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 10, 2009 4:11 PM.

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