Save Internet Radio!!!

Those who visited this site in recent weeks may have noticed one major change in the layout. Instead of the embedded song that was set to automatically play whenever you hit this page, I subscribed to an internet radio service called Last-FM.
Last-FM allows one to choose a favored artist, and besides a plethora of songs by that act the playlist consists of songs that Last-FM’s research indicates are generally enjoyed by fans of that featured act. Listeners can then fine-tune the choices by clicking on buttons that will either indicate you love that tune or never want to hear it again. One can also just click to go to the next song if you’re just not in the mood for the selection. Most importantly, if you love what you hear one quick click sends you to a page where you can purchase a download of the track or the entire album it came from. Please keep that in mind as you read below.
Obviously, my band of choice is the Replacements. As I sit here writing this piece, I’ve also been hearing cuts by the Meat Puppets, Wilco, Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Built to Spill, Wire, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Stooges, and (obviously) solo material by ‘mats leader Paul Westerberg. I like to call it Scott music for Scott people.
Is this service too good to be true? Possibly; in fact it was almost shut down last week. Earlier this year, the Copyright Royalty Board issued new royalty rates that were supposed to go into effect May 15 that would increase by ten-fold the copyright fees that all internet radio stations pay.
Before this ruling, webcasters paid SoundExchange – the RIAA-associated organization that pushed for these new rules – between 6% to 12% of their revenue, depending on the size of their audience. Under the new system, internet companies would pay a flat fee per listener (retroactive to 2006), and industry analysts immediately calculated that all but a handful of webcasters would owe significantly more in fees than they take in total revenue.
It makes absolutely no sense for the record industry to take such an aggressive stance against people who use the internet to promote music. Nobody is making any real money; the majority of people who program or utilize these services are fanatics like myself who just want people to hear the tunes that get us through our day. The Timberlakes and Beyonces of the world are not generally found on these sites; it’s the relatively unknown cult artists that we’re trying to push to a higher profile. It’s this sort of devotion that helped lead acts like Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes, and the Shins to the top of the charts earlier this year.
This is why the sales link I mentioned earlier is so important. Internet radio providers not only want to spread the word about bands; they want people to purchase the music they discover on these services. In this era of reduced opportunities for artists to be heard or seen by the masses, it’s only through a presence online that the field can be made slightly more level.
Luckily, there’s still some hope. On April 26 a bill was introduced in Congress that would overturn this royalty system. This compromise proposal would set the rate at either 7.5% of the webcaster’s revenue, or 33 cents per hour per listener, and this rate would also apply to satellite and cable radio operators. As this bill makes its way through Congress, SoundExchange has agreed to delay until July 15 to implement the new rates.
Yet it’s still an uphill battle for internet radio. The RIAA is an extremely powerful lobby that never believes in compromise. Remember, they firmly believe that every single download is a lost sale, and think nothing of losing customers in exchange for a few thousand dollars of blood money in the name of “stopping piracy”.
In fact, there’s an even scarier bill that Alberto Gonzalez (or his successor if the rumors of his resignation are true) is about to introduce to Congress. The Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 could actually bring 10 years of jail time for people who simply “intend” to copy a CD or movie. If you follow through with that intent, forfeiture laws similar to those used in the War on Drugs could lead to the government owning all of your property. They even want to hand down life sentences to those who use software they didn’t pay for, and under this bill Homeland Security will now be checking your bags at airports checking for CD’s and DVD’s that you bought in other countries. Yes, Big Brother is really out to get you, and if you don’t believe me I encourage everybody to check out I’d really hate to see anybody go to jail for borrowing that awful new Linkin Park album.


Anonymous said…
I was just on the Don Stugots show and he had spoke a bit on this issue. The internet is our last and only medium for free exchange and expression. The goverment hands should stay away. If I show my friend a movie in my house or share it with them over is the same as downloading it from a peer to peer service. I just have alot of friends. :)

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