A deal between Big Machine Records and a broadcaster, this time Entercom Communications, was announced at the NAB Radio Show giving the record company a royalty on the broadcaster’s revenue from over-the-air broadcasting in exchange for lower royalties on digital operations. This deal follows one announced by Clear Channel back in June. Talking to broadcasters around the country, many seem confused by the deals, not understanding why they were done, how they work, or what they accomplish. More than anything, many broadcasters fear that the deals will lead to a generally applicable royalty payable to sound recording copyright holders (i.e. the record companies) on over-the-air broadcasting. Let’s start with an explanation of how these deals work.
While the details of these deals are not public, a session at the NAB Radio Show shed a little more light on the subject. The session also included a promise from a Clear Channel representative that more deals are on the way. Perhaps the biggest news was at least some indication of the parameters of the financial terms of the agreements, with the President of Big Machine saying, in response to the question of whether the deal was an agreement to pay 1% of over-the-air revenues in exchange for a 3% digital royalty, that these numbers were certainly in the ballpark. If those numbers are in fact accurate, the digital royalty is substantially smaller than that paid by most webcasters, where royalties computed on the usual per song per listener basis can range from 45% of revenue to several times the total revenue of most webcasters.