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Harry Lyles Says Cathy Hughes is misleading the public on the Performance Rights Act

 width= editorial below was written by consultant Harry Lyles…

Like the rest of the radio industry, I cheered the recent news that the movement in Congress to impose a fee music airplay is almost dead.   A majority of the House and a growing number of Senators have signed the Local Radio Freedom , a resolution that denounces any fee, tax or other royalty charge on music airplay.

However, over the last few weeks, I have read with great interest (and at times real confusion) the reports and blogs about the controversy generated by House Resolution 848 – the so-called ““ the measure that would impose performance fees.   The result is an incredible amount of misinformation regarding black radio and black music performers.

To begin with, some radio execs – who should be more responsible – are making accusations that are inflammatory.   At the epicenter of these charges is a mess created by , CEO of Radio One.

While she certainly has the right to express her views about HR 848, Ms. Hughes was completely out of line in what she said on the Baisden Show about Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) and the negative inferences she made about his ability to discuss or legislate this bill.

I have worked with Representative Conyers on several issues in the past and have found him to be very intelligent.   His House committee has offered an opportunity to air both sides of the performance tax issue in a fair and rational manner.

Ms. Hughes has also tried to lead the to believe that this bill targets black radio only and that its passage would put urban stations out of business and financially swamp Radio One.

Once and for all, let’s make sure everyone realizes that this is not a black radio issue.   It’s an issue that impacts the economy of all music radio stations, no matter what format.

However, over the last few weeks, I have read with great interest (and at times real confusion) the reports and blogs about the controversy generated by House Resolution 848 – the so-called Performance Act ““ the measure that would impose performance fees.   The result is an incredible amount of misinformation regarding black radio and black music performers.

There are many wildly successful black radio stations in America.   And there are also a lot of not so successful black stations.   The failing stations need to stop looking for excuses, honestly examine how they are operating and fix their problems.   Maybe they could model themselves after the successful stations and enjoy similar success.   Or maybe give customers what they want and they will beat a path to your door.

Secondly, supporters of HR 848 contend that performers ““ especially minority artists ““ are being slighted because they are not fairly compensated for their work when radio stations play their songs for free.

This argument is hard to swallow.   It’s absurd that performers would blame radio stations for their lack of financial success.   Good business dictates that the best rise to the top and others struggle until they figure out the game.   The best usually get paid the most.   Admittedly, some artists reject the idea of mass appeal.   For that, I salute them and their principles.   But sometimes principals can come at a price.

I am fortunate to have had the chance to meet and get to know many artists.   It appears to me that most of them are very well paid and in most cases deserve it.

We’ve all watched MTV’s Cribs and seen the artists with multi-million dollar estates and garages full of exotic cars.   These people are not suffering and are proudly living the “mega star” lifestyle.   Did radio help them in any way?     Perhaps their success was partially due to massive CD sales triggered by the hits that radio plays.   Maybe it’s partially the result of concerts promoted by local radio, which in turn bring them additional revenue in the sales of t-shirts, hats and other memorabilia.   And it was all made possible by the massive exposure their songs received on radio.   A coincidence? I think not.

Besides, in today’s music industry, black artists are some of the most highly compensated entertainers on earth. Why they would want to change a system that rewards the best is beyond me.

Let’s clarify something else – HR 848 is not going to result in backup singers and studio musicians making more money.   The people in these professions are all paid early on in the process by the artist or the record label.   If you are a back up singer or a musician and you haven’t been fairly paid, then you have a beef with someone, but it is not radio.

The long-stand ing synergy between the radio business and the record industry has worked well for decades.   While not everyone likes the system, it seems to have worked very well for those people who have the talent and skills to rise to the top ““ whether they are radio executives or music performers.   For those whose skills are not as impressive, they find a place in the system at a level commensurate with their work.   This is the way of the world.   Deal with it.

— Harry Lyles, President, Lyles Media Group


  1. am glad somebody has the gust to say something about all that crying over the air waves, thank you Harry i just beleive it was a better way to do that

  2. Right on about Cathy Hughes but don’t agree that artists shouldn’t get paid for radio play. That’s like saying radio should get to broadcast NFL games for free because they promote games. Just doesn’t work — Support HR 848.

  3. Look I not sure where you get your info from, you must have been under a rock. for there are onaly a few radio station owners. and they dont have the capital to do what other stations owned by whites, & otherwise. Now having said that, the other person was right the NFL gets is on radio, & just to tell you a little about what radio is going through for you dont have a clue, jobs are being lost at a rate never seean before. When you say let them fall where they size up. is that what happen with all these ball outs get real man. wow you people get in a little power and forget what is really going on out here. Do you see any FCC people taking it to the streets no they dont care about radio, Do you see any people of color as a commishner of the FCC no so when it come to our jobs music life yea they dont care. do some thing about that and than I will say job well done.
    Now as for Cathy, yea dont have a clue on how to program good music in most of there markets , and higher the wrong people, so thats their problem.

  4. I only have one point to make. Beyonce’s new rendition of “At Last” is the example. Etta James made “At Last” popular. The song was actually released years earlier by Glenn Miller. Not many people remember that. Do you know why? Because Glenn Miller, while being a very important part of music history, was not powerful enough for his version to make it to current music playlists or syncs.

    Even more important is who wrote the song. Does anyone know? Mack Gordon and Harry Warren wrote the song. How many people know or even care about that? Probably not many. A better question would be…How many people tune in to their local radio station to hear Mack and Harry’s song? I guarantee that their are no people who would answer yes to that.

    How many people tune in to hear Beyonce or Etta sing it, though?

    ALL OF THEM!!!

    Radio makes all of it’s money from advertisements. Advertisers pay a premium based on how many listeners a station has. Listeners don’t give a damn who wrote the song. They tune in because Beyonce sings it.

    Therefore, radio makes money because of the star power of Beyonce. Not because Mack and Harry are great song writer’s. However, the writer’s are the only ones who make a penny off of radio airplay.

    Harry references that there are many radio stations suffering. I agree, but I would like to post the amounts that stations would have to pay with the passing of this bill. As you will see, most of these suffering stations would not go under for paying their fees.

    Stations with annual gross revenues of less than $100,000 would pay $500 each year. Those with gross revenues between $100,000 and $500,000 would pay $2,500. Those between $500,000 and $1.25 million would pay a royalty fee of $5,000 per year.

    The fees wouldn’t start for three years if a station’s revenues are less than $5 million annually, and for 1 year for others.

    I think that we all need to do a little more research and stop relying on third parties to make up our minds for us.

    In my opinion, Radio needs to cut the check and stop complaining.

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