Does Internet Radio Deserve To Die?

Jun 21st, 2007 | By | Category: Audio Podcasting, Commentary, Digital Music, Podcasting Law

Internet Radio Day Of SilenceThousands of U.S. commercial webcasters plan to go silent Tuesday, June 26, to draw attention to an impending royalty rate increase that could threaten the viability of stations that broadcast mainstream music.

Earlier in the year, the United States Copyright Royalty Board announced new royalty rates for webcasting traditionally licensed music, to be effective from 2006 to 2010. The rates are substantially higher than before, and could force many webcasters to either go off the air or to take whatever deals they can get from the mainstream music industry.

“The arbitrary and drastic rate increases set by the Copyright Royalty Board on March 2nd threaten the very livelihood of thousands of webcasters and their millions of listeners throughout the country,” said Jake Ward, a spokesperson for the SaveNetRadio Coalition. “On Tuesday, thousands of webcasters will call on their millions of listeners to join the fight to save Internet radio and contact their Congressional representatives to ask for their support of the Internet Radio Equality Act.”

Many webcasters are planning to shut off access to their streams entirely, while other webcasters plan to replace their music streams with long periods of silence (or static or ocean sounds or similar) interspersed with occasional brief public service announcements on the subject.

Maybe Mainstream Net Radio Deserves To Die

But while SaveNetRadio calls itself a grass-roots coalition, it counts as its members a long string of big media companies – companies like Yahoo!, Live365, Rhapsody and MTV. They’re really not trying to save Net radio, they’re trying to get the government to legislate favorable business conditions so that they can profitably run mainstream Internet radio services.

In other words, they’re trying to make Internet radio safe for Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and Celine Dion.

It’s too bad that these netcasters are getting their profits siphoned off by the music industry. But when you make a deal with the devil, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get a devil’s deal.

By making themselves dependent on RIAA major label music, these stations have created businesses that need government protection to survive. They’re also helping to support the mainstream music industry that often seems like it’s happier suing music fans than paying musicians.

They are part of the problem with today’s music industry.

There are hundreds of thousands of musicians that would like to share their music with you, but they don’t get played on traditional radio or on mainstream Internet radio. The reason these musicians don’t get played isn’t that they don’t make great music – many of them do. They don’t get played because the music industry doesn’t think it can make money off of them.

There’s an amazing wealth of Creative Commons licensed music which is licensed to permit webcasting. Not all of it is licensed to allow commercial use, but much of it is. There’s public domain music. There’s music that artists release specifically to get played on net radio.

Podcasters have been pioneering the idea of making free music shows available over the Internet for years now, and they’ve found that there’s plenty of good free music to go around. Check out our feature 31 Days of Free Music for a taste of the variety of free music podcasts that are available.

The fact is, mainstream netcasters want the government to enforce the status quo in the music industry, so they can keep promoting RIAA artists and feeding a cut of the profits to the big labels. The status quo means that what you hear is what the major labels can make the most money from.

Next Tuesday, if netcasters like Yahoo! and MTV want to go silent to protest the deal they are getting from the music industry, let them. Take it as an opportunity to listen to one of the thousands of great free music podcasts, and decide for yourself if it’s time for mainstream Internet radio to die.

No Responses to “Does Internet Radio Deserve To Die?”

  1. Alicia says:

    Ouch!

    Sounds like next Tuesday should be music podcast day!

  2. Podcastmama says:

    Alicia,

    That’s a great idea! Have any suggestions of favorite music podcasts?

  3. […] On June 26, 2007 a huge coalition of Internet radio stations from Yahoo and Live365 down to small mom and pop organizations will be going silent to protest the recent CRB ruling in the U.S. which hikes fees dramatically for Internet radio stations potentially putting a lot of them out of business. But Podcasting News is wondering out loud if maybe mainstream Net radio deserves to die. […]

  4. While I am sympathetic to this argument, check out my post at The Rock and Roll Report for my response and comment away!

  5. info says:

    If your interested in a counterpoint to this article, check out Mark’s post at the Rock and Roll Report.

    Mark – interesting points – but I’m still not convinced.

    Doesn’t supporting mainstream netcasters just give them money to cut deals that will help bury the work of podcasters like you? If they’re playing the latest pop pablum that’s being pushed, people are less likely to look beyond mainstream and check out the amazing variety of good music that’s available as podcasts. Doesn’t protecting the status quo mean that Internet radio will end up sounding a lot like old radio?

  6. Geoff says:

    It’s easy to blame internet radio for making deals with majors. But that fact is that SoundExchange doesn’t just represent RIAA labels. They represent thousands of indie artists as well. You’d really need a backhoe to go underground enough to get out of SoundExchange’s way. As a musician myself, I’d love to get some of the internet radio action, but if you are broadcasting artists that 99% of the public has never heard of, you won’t get listeners. And that’s sad … but true. I really don’t see a way out of this for internet radio the way it is currently set up.

  7. info says:

    Geoff

    I don’t see indie musicians like you getting much internet radio action with the status quo. Maybe if SoundExchange F’s up net radio, podcasters and indie artists will benefit from additional exposure.

    It’s not like netcasters are forced to use SoundExchange tracks – they’re doing it because it makes business sense as long as they have government-enforced rates.

  8. Info

    From my experience, the issue seems to be that people are fed up with the crap that mainstream radio, and by extension Net radio pushes out. They are actively looking for something fresh and new and they are now getting the tools to find it. Sure podcasters like myself have to compete with the “big boys” and yes the system is screwed up but music fans really seem to be exploring the podcasting niche in growing numbers.

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