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How NOT to fight a “Performance Tax”

Words are important.

In fact, words are all-important.

Whether we're talking about "classic rock" or "death panels" or "too big to fail," the way we talk about things has much to do with how the public's opinions on those things take shape.

Two phrases are often used in association with the additional fees that would be leveled against radio stations to pay for performance rights.  

They are "performance tax" and "radio tax."

Both are great terms – if you're the music industry – and horrible terms – if you're the broadcaster.

Here's why….

A "performance tax" will be interpreted as a fee paid by radio stations to the artists every radio listener enjoys every day.

It is a tax for "performance," after all.

Good luck finding a listener who's against that notion.

Meanwhile a "radio tax" is even worse, from radio's perspective.  It implies a tax on radio stations for reasons unknown. But the fact is that the only tax listeners care about is the one THEY have to pay.

Using either term plays into the hands of the music industry even as a legitimate case can be made against these fees by and on behalf of broadcasters – if we use the right words (assuming that influencing the public is part of our agenda, which it should be).

What are the "right" words?  That depends on a bunch of factors which are beyond the scope of this post.

But ultimately, the "right" words that compel real, regular people are the ones that affect them personally.

Not the ones that affect you and me.

If the radio industry wants to win this battle we need to get smart about our language.

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