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A Lobbying Fight Over Monkee Business

Photo The Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz met with members of Congress — and then even performed “I’m a Believer” with some of the more musically inclined lawmakers — as the latest performer to lobby for the Performance Rights Act.

That’s the bill being championed by artists and record labels that would require that broadcast radio stations pay performers when their music is played over the air.

During a break after meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chief of staff, Dolenz summarized his message: “This is my life, this is my art, and one should be compensated for it. In a sense, my voice is my art. It is my copyright.”

Most people, Dolenz said, are surprised to find out that musicians are not compensated when their music is played on radio stations, and even he found it “odd” when “The Monkees” was on the air that he received residuals for his acting but not when the music was played on radio stations. 

But “you didn’t pay attention to that because you had no choice,” he said.

Only when he moved to England in the mid-70s, and received compensation because of laws there, did he realize that there was a disparity.

The spectacle of a singer doing a Capitol gig, in this case Dolenz with Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) on guitar, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) on keyboard and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) on drums, is no longer all that unusual, given the flow of musicians who have been coming through to lobby for the bill. (A recent performer was Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary). The celebrity lobbyists aren’t exactly in the Top 40, but that may be the point: their songs are still being played on the radio. The total number of “spins” for the Monkees in 2009 was 28,455, according to Mediabase.

Dolenz drew enough attention to trigger a response from the Free Radio Alliance, the coalition of radio stations which opposes the Performance Rights Act.

Its spokeswoman Peggy Binzel said, “The irony is that there are few bands in history that have benefited as much from broadcast airplay as ‘The Monkees,’ who still generate revenue through unparalleled promotional value of oldies airplay on free and local radio.”

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