Brehmer has been the morning guy on WXRT in Chicago for about fifteen years, part of a team of DJs who are arguably the smartest and most music conscious of any at any commercial outlet in the country.
This was his latest Facebook post:
Lin Brehmer If you have received an email from my place of business concerning a political action and it is allegedly from me, rest assured I did not write the email; I never read the email; and i certainly never endorsed the email before it was sent to over 100,000 listeners. It’s just something they do. Send out emails and sign my name to them without my knowledge. I will always be on the side of the musicians.
He doesn’t say what the email was about, but, based on his last line, one can guess that it was apparently an email broadcast, sent under his name, from CBS Radio, ‘XRT’s corporate owners, about the moves by the music industry to try to exact a performance tax out of radio.
Currently, radio kicks into a fund to pay songwriters when a song is played; when the industry got going, it was exempted from a performance tax, one that would go to the artists (and, not unimportantly, to their labels), on the sensible grounds that radio airplay represented free publicity.
Now the industry, which has been undergoing a delightful-to-watch financial waterboarding for the last decade, is scrabbling to get Congress to give it a performance tax.
Radio, as you can imagine, isn’t happy about it. Here’s a sample of CBS Radio’s argument:
Congress is considering a law that could force some of your favorite radio stations to limit the amount of music they play, or even drive some stations to stop playing music altogether by enacting a performance tax on free broadcast radio.
The NAB’s dedicated site to the issue is here.
Leaving aside CBS’s skanky use of Brehmer’s name, it’s a hard issue to come to a decision on. Commercial radio, which has treated listeners with contempt and the public airwaves as corporate ATM machines for decades, is in such horrific financial straits right now that (pace my friends at ‘XRT) one is reflexively in favor of anything that would help put the nail in its coffin.
On the other hand, it would seem that at least half of the performance fees would go to the labels, arguably the one entity in the U.S. entertainment industry more corrupt than commercial radio itself.
And MP3s and the internet have made radio irrelevant to serious music fans, so it’s no longer the menace it was when it controlled fans’ access to music.
An ideal solution would be for Congress to enact a performance royalty for radio that goes exclusively to the artist.
Since we’re fantasizing, it would be nice if Congress also enacted a law placing formal fiduciary responsibility on the labels in terms of their handling of artist royalties, which would create a strict legal mechanism to correct the current state of affairs, which allows labels not to pay royalties essentially with legal impunity.