The OPM bill – what it means to musicians, fans
It's the biggest buzz among musicians and music lovers. It pits legendary artists and longtime friends against one another, and mainstream music establishments versus independent artists. It has led to heated exchanges in online forums and impassioned appeals at congressional hearings.
Its effect is global, from the thousands of local musicians abroad as overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to foreign acts that come to perform in the Philippines. At stake are hundreds of millions of pesos a year, the price local music lovers pay, the livelihood of tens of thousands, and the future of Filipino music.
We are talking about the proposed Original Pilipino Music (OPM) Development Act of 2014, otherwise known as House Bill 4218. It was introduced by Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat in the 16th Congress.
What it says it does
The proposed measure declares that:
- Tax credits will be given to radio stations that play a minimum of 4 OPM songs per hour. The amount of tax credits will be determined by the National Committee on Music (NCM), under the Subcommission of the Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
- Equity fees will be collected from all foreign music artists performing in the Philippines. The equity charged to a foreign artist will be equal to the equity fees being charged to Filipino artists performing in that foreign artist's country of origin.
- The income from equity fees will go to funds exclusively for the benefit of guild organizations accredited by the NCM. Only one guild per category of performer will be accredited. The NCM is tasked with collecting, administering, and managing the fund as well as choosing which organization benefits from it.
Noteworthy are the following:
- All radio stations are already required by an existing law – Executive Order Number 255, signed in 1987 – to play a minimum of 4 Filipino songs every hour. But while EO 255 imposes a penalty on radio stations for breaking this law, HB 4218 rewards broadcast stations that follow it. Many broadcasters currently disobey EO 255 openly without penalty.
- The NCM has been in existence since the creation of the NCCA in 1992. With HB 4218, the NCM will be tasked with the systematization of royalties – the fee paid for use of an existing song by others, be it for use in advertisements, remakes by other artists, or airing in establishments. It will also be in charge of collecting equities and determining who benefits from these profits as well as how big a tax break is given to broadcasters. Paragragh (d) of Section 5 of HB 4218's first draft states that the NCM will “review and provide for a system of payment of royalties to Filipino creators and owners of original musical works.”
- HB 4218 currently does not specify exactly how the equity funds collected and dispensed to the accredited guilds will be used to benefit musicians.
Who are in favor of the bill
The proposed OPM Development Act is supported by the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (Organization of Pilipino Musicians or OPM). Its board of directors includes singers Ogie Alcasid, Noel Cabangon, Gary Valenciano, Christian Bautista, stage actress and comedienne Mitch Valdes, singer-composer Jose Mari Chan, and actor Dingdong Avanzado. Its membership includes some 260 musicians.
Equally supportive is the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Incorporated (FILSCAP), with Cabangon as president. Its board of trustees includes Jim Paredes, Nonoy Tan, and Rico Blanco, as well as the heads of Universal Records, Star Records, GMA Records, Alpha Music Corporation, and Polyeast Music Entertainment Incorporated. It claims over 1,000 members.
Initially supporting the bill, although with reservations, was the Asosasyon ng Musikong Pilipino (Association of Pilipino Musicians or AMP) headed by Ernani Cuenco. It claims some 79 members.
What it means
House Bill 4218 has several possible implications:
- It will require anyone who wants to benefit from equity fees to become a member of the accredited guilds for each particular category, creating a continuous government-incentivized membership drive. Without membership in one of these recognized musical organizations, there is no feasible way of certifying someone as a bona fide professional Filipino musician worthy of benefits.
- It will favor applicants to various accredited musical guilds who conform to the established standards, tastes, and preferences. Musicians with radical and revolutionary new genre-defying artistry may have difficulty finding their place. (Rock n' roll, soul, punk, and rap were all considered indecent and were not even considered music at all by the contemporary music establishment when these musical genres all first appeared.) Artists may be less inclined to criticize the government, through their songs or otherwise, when they are beholden to a government agency for collecting their royalties and equities, as well as ensuring they get exposure on radio.
- It will reward broadcasters for playing OPM, the very definition of which may be determined by the standards, tastes, and preferences of the NCM and its guilds. Broadcasters may favor playing songs of artists under the various accredited guilds of the NCM – which determines if they get their tax break over local musicians who are not members of any guild – over Filipino musicians who are not members of the NCM accredited guilds.
- It will ensure the royalties of artists by assigning the NCM – a centralized government agency no less – to regulate and systematize the collection of royalties. For music publishers such as record labels, it will mean having the NCM to back them up. For composers whose works are often revived by new mainstream Filipino artists, it assures continued revenue.
- It will protect the revenue of local artists, most especially those who cover foreign songs, follow foreign musical styles, and most likely share the same audience with the original foreign artists that they emulate.
Cabangon and other proponents note that these are all speculative, stating that it is a work in progress until it is enacted into law and that critics should be constructive in helping improve HB 4218.
In an interview prior to the bill's first hearing on March 2, Cabangon said, "The proponents reiterated that the bill should be given the benefit of hearing in Congress and appreciate the spirit or purpose of the bill before killing the idea."
"There have been a lot of issues and concerns that were said on social media that has muddled the main aspects of the bill, but we said that the proper forum to discuss this is during the hearing, which is also a public consultation with all the parties concerned,” he continued. – Rappler.com
Writer, graphic designer, and business-owner Rome Jorge is passionate about the arts. Formerly the editor-in-chief of asianTraveler Magazine, Lifestyle editor of The Manila Times, and cover story writer for MEGA and Lifestyle Asia Magazines, Rome Jorge has also covered terror attacks, military mutinies, mass demonstrations, as well as Reproductive Health, gender equality, climate change, HIV/AIDS and other important issues. He is also the proprietor of Strawberry Jams Music Studio.
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