Clear Channel Ammends It’s Artist Agreement is reporting (article here) that Sen. Russ Feingold is questioning radio’s commitment to ending payola in a letter sent to CBS Radio, Clear Channel and Entercom. “The letter was prompted by the recent accusations by the Future of Music Coalition that Clear Channel was forcing musicians to give up their digital copyrights in order to get the airplay that broadcasters are required to give under the payola consent decree.”

Although encouraging, the payment of royalties for Internet, or streaming radio play (digital copyrights) will still mostly affect the big boys and not the independent bands. While independent bands do get digital airplay we often trade our right to royalty payment in exchange for the “free promotion.” While most sites do this, corporations and conglomerates are making this a mandatory in exchange for traditional radio play. If you don’t give up your digital royalty you won’t get radio play.

Up until recently, Clear Channel’s artist agreement had the language, “You grant to Clear Channel the royalty-free nonexclusive right and license in perpetuity (unless terminated earlier by You or Clear Channel as set forth below) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, digitally perform, publicly display and distribute any sound recordings, compositions, pictures, videos, song lyrics …” (from FMQB). I was considering submitting Atomic Brother for play on Clear Channel for exactly this language. However, in researching for this article it seems that Clear Channel have changed the terms of agreement.

“In the instance when Clear Channel makes the decision to use the Content for terrestrial broadcasting and, as a result, for simultaneous transmission through online streaming (“online streaming”), Clear Channel shall be subject to and pay for all applicable current and future statutory royalties as well as public performance royalties due for any such use of Content.”

Wow. Sounds pretty good. Looks like, Clear Channel ARE paying out royalties to the performing rights organizations and the newly proposed “digital royalty.” Except in the case of “on demand streaming.”

“For Content made available or used through “on-demand streaming” (internet only transmission to specific consumer upon request), Clear Channel shall be subject to any royalties for the public performance use of the underlying compositions contained in the Content as long as these compositions are covered through Clear Channel’s current or future agreements with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. For the avoidance of doubt, Clear Channel shall not be subject to any other royalties related to “on-demand streaming”

Here Clear Channel is willing to pay the fee to the PRO, but not the “digital royalty,” administered by Sound Exchange. This is one that covers performances on satellite radio, and internet and is paid to the artist for performing on the recording, not just the songwriter, which is covered by the traditional royalty administered by ASCAP, SEASAC and BMI. It’s a step in the right direction, but not quite all the way there yet.