I've enjoyed comic books ever since I was old enough to read. One of my favorite series was a Marvel Comics title called "What If?". It took established storylines, twisted one thing about them, and then followed the progression of the story post-twist.
For example, a "What if Peter Parker never became Spider Man?" story line might show Spider Man enemies reigning triumphant over New York City or somesuch.
And of course, who could forget issue #67, "What If Spider Man Smoked Meth?"
Today, I'm going to play the "What If?" game with the Performance Tax Bill that's winding it's way through Congress as we speak. This bill would force radio stations to pay a fee that would go to (mostly) foreign-owned record labels every time we play a song. As you're about to see, there are several possible outcomes.
DISCLAIMER: WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE OPINION OF TERRY STEVENS, AND IN NO WAY IF MEANT TO REPRESENT WHAT MIDWEST COMMUNICATIONS WOULD DO IN A POST-PERFORMANCE TAX WORLD. I'M JUST SPECULATING HERE.
WHAT IF CONGRESS PASSES THE PERFORMANCE TAX BILL?
Consequence I: New Music gets stifled
Every song a radio station plays is a risk. New songs are the riskiest of all. Nobody has heard it before. If it ends up being a hit, you're golden. If it stiffs, you're risking losing the ears of thousands of listeners every time you play it.
Today, radio takes risks on a pretty substantial number of new artists. WDEZ plays a ton of new Country. Our Top 40 station down the hall plays no small amount of new tunes as well.
However, when each song becomes another bill the station has to pay, the incentive to take a risk on a new act is tempered by having to pay the electric bill. Who would want to be the guy or gal who loses money on a song that makes you lose listeners?
Sure, I would, but that's because I'm a dumb as a bag of hammers and therefore, not in charge of the music around here.
Taylor Swift, U2, The Zac Brown Band, Shania Twain and thousands of other artists are where they're at today because some radio programmer took a chance on their music.
There's a place for cowardly radio, but it ain't America
Consequence II: Old Music disappears
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me "How come you don't play any of the old country/rock/etc. on the radio any more?" I'd have enough nickels to build a life-size replica of Thomas Jefferson, innards and all.
Like this, but with nickels.
The ratings in Central Wisconsin have proven it over and over again. Stations that play new music destroy stations that play old music in the ratings. Seriously, it isn't even a close fight. We're talking Godzilla versus Bambi bad here.
If the Performance Tax bill passes, the Oldies and Classic Country songs you love could end up having a lot in common with a certain deer.
Consequence III: Music disappears
What do Rush Limbaugh,
and Howard Stern
have in common? They host some of the highest rated, highest profit radio shows in America right now and they don't play a single song when they're on.
If the Perfomance Tax passes, I hope you like talk radio. A lot.
The Part Where I Plug Tomorrow's Blog:
Those are just a few things that could happen on-air if the Perfomance Tax passes. If any of the above makes you think a Performance Tax on radio would be a bad idea, please visit this page, and find out how to let your representatives know that you support local radio.
Tomorrow, I'll take a look at what could happen off-air.
Your TTPK Hint for yesterday is: "Musical fruit"
Your Blog Keyword for today is: "noradiotax". It's good for 250 WDEZ Club Points until 1700 on 02/17/10.