Conclusion: The OPM bill – what it means to musicians, fans
The proposed Original Pilipino Music Development Act, as vigorous as it is in defending the interests of music establishments such as publishers and broadcasters, is as of yet, silent about the exploitative practices that have long plagued independent artists and music industry novices.
Not currently addressed by HB 4218 are:
- The exploitative contracts new artists are forced to sign with certain record labels and music publishers that require turning over more than half of their earnings and/or giving up most or all of their royalties.
- The payola or the bribe radio station managers secretly demand in return for including songs on their playlist.
- The dubious terms demanded by concert organizers, venue owners, and "productions" to whom venue owners often outsource the trouble of finding the lineup of bands for each night's performance.
- The fees and other requirements demanded by the Optical Media Board (OMB) – created by the Office of the President to stop the piracy of CDs, DVDs and other similar media – without which the replication and distribution by independent artists of their own CDs would be illegal and punishable by law.
- The exploitative practices sometimes experienced by musician OFWs, a huge and vital portion of the expatriate workforce. All across Asia, the "Filipino band" is a selling point in marketing live entertainment. However, there is no organized push to capitalize on the acclaim and esteem OFWs have earned across Asia.
Cabangon, in an interview on March 16, clarified, "We are under no illusions that the bill answers all the needs of artists. The bill specifically addresses two concerns: equities and airplay. No one is stopping anyone from filing other bills to address other concerns."
The proposed OPM Development Act is opposed by Indie Pinoy, Pinoy Hiphoppaz Organization, Malayang Ugnayan sa Industriya ng mga Komposer ng Awit (Musika), Musicians For Peace, Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), Songwriters Philippines, Lapis, Heart of Music, Folkcause, and Sining Bugkos.
The opposition is spearheaded by Skarlet/Myra Ruaro, Chikoy and Monet Pura, Nolit Abanilla, Atek Jacinto of Band Alliance, to name a few.
Within the brief time they were allotted during the first hearing on the OPM Development Act on March 2, the Philippine Musicians’ Alliance for Welfare, Rights & Development (PMAWRD) delivered its position paper on the matter. In part, it declared:
“We are independent musicians. We comprise the majority number of Filipino musicians. While we do not oppose the development and progress of the music industry, we cannot be expected to remain silent if such progress and development militates against our rights and welfare.
"We oppose HB 4218 because it does not address our rights to employment protection, access to health and other social services, rights protection, among countless others.... As an alternative, we propose a law that caters to the specific and immediate needs of majority of Filipino musicians and which will:
- Recognize the role of Filipino musicians as a vital component of the economy, and as part of the country’s labor force whose economic and political rights are duly protected under the law
- Redefine and strengthen the rights of musicians to freely market their own music, and this includes the abolition of the OMB that suppresses the independent artists in producing and selling their own CDs
- Implement a more comprehensive and effective presence of Filipino music in all media (radio, TV, in-store music, public places, etc)
- Provide government-sponsored free music education programs
- Review and create a tax implementation program on artists, and policies on issuance of receipts
- Review and implement a more comprehensive program on OFW issues
- Review and create booking policies, and provide workshops and assistance on standard contracts and deals, as well as legal assistance
- Provide a program for medical, health and retirement benefits for artists
- Provide free use of recording and concert production equipment for the purpose of promoting and disseminating Filipino music especially for new and independent artists
- Provide access for musicians to cheaper instruments, accessories and gadgets
- Standardization of talent fees
- Review the law on taxes affecting concerts or production shows of foreign performers, which is currently being given to local officials and is subjected to corruption
- Provide tax incentives to production groups who will produce shows and concerts of Filipino artists"
In an interview on February 28, Ruaro contended: "Equity is equal to labor is equal to union. No other organization but a union should collect equity fees. Actually, they crippled the Philippine Musicians Union (PMU) that was around from 1953 to 2000 to get the equity fees."
By her own account, there are more than P145 million in estimated collected revenues from equities yearly. The PMAWRD's position paper also asks: "For almost two decades, OPM, AMP, and FILSCAP have been collecting equity and royalty fees, respectively, on the purported goal that these will redound to the benefit of its members and other artists. Where did these fees go? Most of the musicians actually do not know."
After initially supporting HB 4218 with reservations, the AMP released a position paper on March 7 that concluded, "Let us drop HB 4218 in favor of two new bills that are more specific in scope and with proper consultation from all concerned parties."
OPM, AMP, and FILSCAP, in each of their official documentations, said that they offer benefits to their members such as legal advice and representation, life insurance, reimbursable hospitalization funds of their members, as well as promotion of Filipino music through events, outreach program, and online registry of Filipino music. Many of their members also attest to receiving benefits.
OPM and AMP have already been collecting equity fees since 1987, based on a memorandum of agreement with the Bureau of Immigration. FILSCAP, founded in 1965, has been collecting royalty fees for publishers and composers.
FILSCAP has clarified that it is not a guild, in its position paper on the OPM Development Act, which in part reads:
“FILSCAP is not a guild for composers and so it is not even qualified to be accredited as such by the NCM. FILSCAP is a collective management organization for composers, lyricists, music publishers and other music copyright owners whose primary mandate is to license and collect the license fees for the public playing and broadcast of the musical compositions of its members and the members of its affiliate performing rights societies. While some of its members are performers, FILSCAP is only mandated to represent their interests and enforce their rights as music creators and copyright owners.”
Cabangon, in an interview on March 16, said their organizations were not aware of the PMU and was not the reason for its demise or failure to either collect equities or benefit musicians.
He also said that many of the organizations opposed to HB 4218 are themselves relatively new and have limited membership. Despite their opposition to HB 4218, Cabangon, a highly respected veteran protest activist, sees good in the increased awareness and activism among the different music organizations. He does lament the increasing partisanship the issue has caused.
He also reminded people that the sum charged by concert organizers for foreign artists is relatively small, and is equal to the equity fee already being charged of Filipino entertainers overseas. He also addressed speculative fears, noting that OFWs work contractually, protecting them from any retaliatory fees.
Regarding the tax incentives for broadcasters to play OPM songs mandated buy HB 4218, Cabangon said, "Laws must benefit all parties concerned. We must meet them [the broadcasters] halfway," noting that EO 255 has failed to get full compliance from the industry.
Cabangon reiterated: "The bill does not curtail in anyway the rights and welfare of artists. It isn't a Magna Carta. No one is stopping anyone from filing other bills to address other concerns."
In summary, Cabangon clarified the following about the bill:
- It specifically addresses two immediate needs: for more airplay of Filipino songs on radio stations and the need to collect equities from the influx of foreign performers. It is not intended to be a Magna Carta for artists.
- It does not impede the filing of other bills to meet other needs of artists. Other bills can be filled to address other concerns.
- Its tax incentives for radio stations to play 4 original Filipino songs per hour is necessary because Executive Order 255, the existing law, has evidently failed to garner full compliance from all radio stations.
(Already, some who oppose HB 4218 have expressed their support for Senate Bill 1707, or the Music Industry Development Act of 2013. It was filed by Senator Lito Lapid.)
Proponents of HB 4218 have highlighted its immediacy. Its explanatory note reads in part:
“Now more than ever, where foreign artists dominate the local concert scene, where there is no month in a year where a foreign artist would be holding a performance in the Philippines, where foreign artists compete with each other, completely obliterating any competition from local artists, should the Philippines take measures to support and promote its local artists and prevent the imminent death of OPM.”
Proponents of the bill claim that the industry needs it immediately, and that they have to act quickly while a showbiz-friendly administration is in power. But opponents allege this is an attempt to rush into law a bill before people can make sense of what it actually does.
It's important to understand why it was drafted only last year, especially since Original Pilipino Music has needed support for decades.
Because of piracy, made possible by digital technology, the music business has been turned head over heels. It used to be that musicians went on concert tours to promote their albums. But albums and singles are now easily replicated, ripped and downloaded. There isn't as much money in album sales.
Now, artists release albums and singles, sometime online for free, just to promote concert tours. That's because live performances can't be pirated. That's where the money is these days.
This is why there have been so many foreign acts performing in the Philippines lately. It's not because they love Philippine music fans now more than before; it's because coming over here and performing live is now the only way they can separate local fans from their hard-earned cash. They can't do that with just their album sales anymore.
Another thing that has upended the music business is that, with digital technology, it's now affordable for independent musicians to record, edit, and produce their own songs; and promote and sell their music online.
Today, many artists feel they no longer need to sign exploitative contracts with major record labels for the recording, distribution, and promotion of their songs. Record labels make money primarily through several ways: a percentage of the actual sales of albums and singles that they help produce and promote; a percentage of the profit from live performances and appearances for managing the artist; and a percentage from royalties for every use of the artist's songs, be it for use in advertisements, remakes by other artists, or airing in establishments, whose copyright they help protect.
With more and more artists distributing and selling their own music online and managing themselves, there's more pressure to make money from collecting royalty fees for the use of artists' songs.
As Internet broadband reach and speed grow, musicians increasingly no longer have to go through traditional broadcast radio stations and pay payola just to get exposure. Soon, artists may not need the record labels to bankroll the broadcast station's demand for payola. Soon, artists may not need broadcast stations at all to reach their audiences and get their music heard.
These emerging disruptive technologies threaten broadcasters and major record labels. It is at this time of massive upheaval and transition in the music business that the OPM Development Act is being pushed into law by mainstream music establishments and opposed by independent music artists.
The outcome of their struggle will determine, as much as any new technology, the future of Original Pilipino Music. Now that the bill has passed the first hearing, a technical working group is in the process fine-tuning the OPM Development Act. – Rappler.com
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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.