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Performance Tax baked into new music licensing bill

 - 17 Texas congressman silent on measure

Four members of Congress jointly introduced an omnibus music licensing bill this week that includes a Performance Tax on local radio stations and several other provisions that would drastically alter the commercial music landscape in the U.S. and likely force many music radio stations to change formats or go dark.

The bipartisan effort served as the opening act for this week’s “Grammys on the Hill” lobbying fly-in taking musicians and performers to advocate for the measure before Congress which is just returning from a two-week spring break.

Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-NY; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; John Conyers, D-Mich.; and Ted Deutch, D, Fla.; are claiming co-authorship of the measure which takes verbatim the text from the “Performance Rights Act” bill defeated six years ago. That measure would have granted performers a performance right, set flat rates for smaller and non-commercial radio stations and allowed the copyright-friendly Copyright Royalty Board to set royalty rates for all other stations.

The bill also includes language mandating the same “willing buyer, willing seller” standard for setting broadcast, satellite and streaming royalties known as “platform parity” and requires that any royalties flowing from a direct licensing deal be split evenly between the record label and artist. Another provision attempts to shield songwriter royalties from declining as artist royalties increase.

The measure further incorporates the RESPECT Act introduced last year which requires payment of royalties for pre-1972 music on digital platforms and the AMP Act which deals with publishing compensation.

The legislation has been anticipated for months and comes on the heels of the reintroduction of the Local Radio Freedom Act, a nonbinding resolution expressing opposition to a Performance Tax. Called H.Con.Res. 17 and co-authored by Texas Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, and Gene Green, D-Houston, the measure has garnered 132 co-sponsors to date. 

A majority of 218 is needed to forestall a Performance Tax and the NAB has set an even higher target. Local broadcasters are urged to contact their lawmakers who have not yet signed onto the resolution.

To date, Texas has more co-sponsors than any other state, but the 16 lawmakers listed below have not yet weighed in and need to hear from their local radio broadcasters. Contact Information/Talking Points

  • Brian Babin, R-Woodville
  • Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands
  • Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound
  • John Carter, R-Round Rock
  • Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio
  • Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin
  • Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler
  • Al Green, D-Houston
  • Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas
  • Sam Johnson, R-Flower Mound
  • Michael McCaul, R-Austin
  • John Ratcliffe, R-Heath
  • Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio
  • Mac Thornberry, R-Amarillo
  • Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville
  • Randy Weber, R-Pearland

Questions?  Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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