Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A public service announcement

Click here if you’re a fan of Internet radio. It is a brief audio action alert from SaveNetRadio.org.

To read what David Byrne has written about this issue, click here for his April 1 blog post.

Meanwhile, listen while you can to Mr. Byrne’s own hand-picked music stream, currently featuring the sounds of Iceland. (Actually, Byrne says he’ll probably be able to afford the high royalty rates required under the new law. Many other webcasters might not be so fortunate.)

It’s a freaking complicated issue, to be quite honest. If there are any hardcore Internet radio fans out there who can share some insights on the potential impact of the new law, please drop a comment.


SJ said...

I am a big fan of both Pandora and Last.fm, and I would be sad to see them go. Since I am not a citizen I can't do anything about it though.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

I've done my part and contacted my Congressperson.

I can see both sides of the argument. From the perspective of Internet radio, they don't have the apparatus to pay the same royalty rates as CPR-funded and commercial stations. The artists desire the same royalty rates they feel deserved. Too many have ripped off over the years.

This problem would have been resolved if the Internet radio stations had been included at the table when this bill was being negotiated.

The bill is solution in search of a problem. The artists still get paid royalties. Plus they receive exposure they're not getting on the other outlets. I know in listening to Pandora daily at work, I keep a notepad to write down music that was off my radar - and I consider myself an amateur musicologist.

So let's pull together on this one.

Dave, check out my comment to your Frederick Douglass piece.

Undercover Black Man said...

Beautiful, DeAngelo. Now I see the issue clearly.

And what you said is the thing... I assume that without Internet radio, a lot of under-the-radar artists would go unheard and undiscovered.

J said...

Broadcast radio hasn't had to pay any royalties; the idea is that what they're doing is essentially promotion for the recording industry, so why make them pay too. The industry has wanted to change this and went after the people without the bucks and clout of broadcast radio and hit internet radio with the charges.

As for getting ripped off, that hasn't been radio stations' fault, but the fault of the recording labels, who are famous for ripping off artists. That's why artists (except for a very few) typically make little money from their recordings compared to touring, or songwriters' royalties if they write their own songs.

Brad LaBonte said...

A bit late on the reply, I am.


Above is the relevant legal document to the discussion. Deangelo is correct in that the majority of Internet radio stations are not really equipped to pay the grossly inflated fees that will be retroactively applied, but there is a cavaet to this - the majority of internet radio that would be crushed by such fees have a small enough listenership that the fees are relatively irrelevant.

The shame of it is that, as reflected in the document, Sound Exchange and the music industry went after these stations anyway, and are pretty much forcing them to pay the same minimum licensing fee that 'commercial' stations pay, $500 yearly. Not enough to put these streams out of business, and certainly a hollow victory for the industry, but a victory nonetheless.

Streamers like AOL and Yahoo! Music, categorized as commercial streams, can definitely take their hits, as well. The controversy comes up with NPR and non-commercial terrestrial radio stations, legally obligated to avoid the advertising base that fuels commercial radio and largely dependent on underwriting and listener support, that stream their on-air content online. NPR is basically viewed by the music industry as competing in the same marketplace as commercial stations, and therefore should be subject to the same fee increase - and they will be, and they have enough listenership that the fees will have an effect.

Rally troops...

Undercover Black Man said...

Thanks for that, Brad. So tell me... are the SaveNetRadio.org guys being unduly alarmist when they say these new royalty rates will "crush" Internet radio, and put a lot of them out of business??

Brad LaBonte said...

Yes and no...looking over my last comment, I should've highlighted that there are two groups that can be seriously effected:

1. Large non-commercial stations like NPR.

2. Small commercial stations like AccuRadio, 3WK, etc.

Small commercial stations are subject to the ridiculous fee increase and stand to fare the worst if efforts to stop the legislation fail. Many could conceivably go bankrupt, and it sucks, as they do offer alternative content and provide a platform for artists, as all the testimonials would indicate.

Large non-commercial stations are subject to the fees if they're listenership rises above 218 stream connections, the average listenership for the average NPR stream. As this benchmark is based on NPR listenership, it's obviously a thorn in their side, b/c if they exceed their average listenership, they have to pay fees, and if they drop below, they're losing listeners and potential support. It's lose/lose.

However, smaller non-commercial stations, a.k.a. those that have fewer listeners than the average NPR station (the vast vast majority of these stations), only have to pay the flat $500 fee. In other words, if you're a non-profit station smaller than NPR, you can play and do whatever you want for $500 a year.

Given how incredibly easy it is to set up a webstream, there won't be a shortage of alternatives to AOL. There's no chance in hell that Sound Exchange and the music industry can target every person who sets up a webstream, just like they can't stop illegal downloading, and a revolution similar to downloading post-Napster will probably occur here. The ruling is garbage and doesn't really benefit anyone other than the record labels, but it won't shut down interesting and vital internet radio by any means.

Undercover Black Man said...

My deepest thanks, Brad.

dez said...

Like deangelo, I would write down under-the-radar bands I would hear (on 3WK, in my case) and seek out their albums. I can hear some of thos kinds of artists on Indie 103.1, but not all. I'd hate it if stations like 3WK get "crushed" by this ruling.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ The irony is, commercial broadcasters don't have to pay the royalty because they're promoting the records... but Net radio promotes them even better because, like you say, the text information and song title is right there on the screen. What better way to promote records??

relieved redcoat said...

Net Radio has a reprieve. Wired's Eliot Van Buskirk (it's worth following his Listening Post blog if you're interested in music and technology issues) has the following to say:

For now, the parties involved in what's described as ongoing negotiations have agreed to waive at least temporarily the minimum charge of $6,000 per channel required under a scheme created by the Copyright Royalty Board, or CRB.

You can read the full story at: http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/news/2007/07/webcasters_face_music

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Thanks for the heads-up.

dez said...

but Net radio promotes them even better because, like you say, the text information and song title is right there on the screen. What better way to promote records??

No kidding! Sometimes, I want to hang the blessed DJs for not back-announcing (or saying beforehand) what the name of a song is or who the band is that's singing it. So glad that Net Radio's getting a reprieve!