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Billy Corgan Fights for Artists To Get Radio Royalties at DC Hearing

March 10, 2009 6:33 PM ET

The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan was in Washington, DC, today to testify at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the recently reintroduced Performance Rights Act. Corgan was speaking on behalf of all the artists in the Music FIRST Coalition, an organization aimed at getting artists royalties whenever music is played on terrestrial radio — as it stands now, only the songwriters get paid. "Fair Pay for Air Play," as Music FIRST says in its mission statement.

At first, we were wondering why Corgan was selected to talk to the Committee. During the Pumpkins' 20th anniversary tour, Corgan's stage banter made him sound a little unhinged, plus he's not included on Music FIRST's long list of founding artists. According to Coolfer, however, "Corgan proved to be an excellent witness. Artists were very well represented."

Corgan's entire statement can be found at the Chicago Sun-Times Highlights:

 

Like many of my peers, I come from a working-class background, beginning my musical journey playing in dingy bars and college lunchrooms. Being a performer requires countless hours of dedication to your craft. It is not an easy business to undertake, and for every success story, there are many who have not had the opportunities that I've had.

 

...

All areas of the modern music business are currently feeling the shifting tides as new models emerge and old ones are broken up. Ours is a business that always begins with the brilliance of the artists. Contrary to long-held myths, it does take money to create new music. As the traditional revenue streams have dried up, most notably in the overall decline of record sales, it has placed stress on who continues to benefit from the old models. The future demands new partnerships and a rethinking of long-held practices about how artists should be compensated for their music.

 

Corgan condemned the current law as a "longtime inequity." Senators quizzed the singer-guitarist regarding how this bill will help the struggling record companies, considering radio currently serves as free promotion for the labels. Corgan commented that he wouldn't mind if labels received half the radio royalties.

RIAA CEO and Music FIRST member Mitch Bainwol made the strongest case for passing the Performance Rights Act, which was first introduced to Congress in 2007. Coolfer writes of Bainwol's testimony, "First, broadcasters currently pay nothing to performers but collect billions in revenue. Second, the U.S. is unique in that it does not pay the royalty, and other platforms other than terrestrial pay the royalty. Third, more than half of songs played on radio are oldies. Promotional value is not as great as it used to be. Fourth, the bill focuses on big, corporate radio. Eighty percent of stations in the U.S. are accommodated. Fifth, the issue is not about transferring money to record labels."

So all in all, it sounds like things went well for Music FIRST and the Performance Rights Act at the hearing, even though radio stations will counter with the fact that they have enough struggles as is without having to pay royalties. And no, Billy Corgan didn't wear his "ZERO" shirt, opting for a suit instead.

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Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

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Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

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