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Today the web is silent.

Today, the web is silent.  Oh, the chattering classes of bloggers will continue to comment, ridicule and converse as liberally as ever.  But the radio stations are silent.  Thousands of streaming audio stations from the tiniest to media giants like Yahoo! and MTV will either cease streaming altogether, or play static interspersed with public awareness announcements. 


They're protesting a short sighted ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board which threatens to shut down the entire Internet radio industry.  According to Lawbean:

In March, the Copyright Royalty Board announced that it would raise royalties for Internet broadcasters, moving them from a per-song rate to a per-listener rate. The increase would be made retroactive to the beginning of 2006 and would double over the next five years. After the announcement, a group of broadcasters spearheaded by National Public Radio petitioned the CRB for a rehearing, but a panel of judges denied the request less than a month later. Internet radio sites would be charged per performance of a song. A “performance” is defined as the streaming of one song to one listener; thus a station that has an average audience of 500 listeners racks up 500 “performances” for each song it plays.

Internet Radio is still a new medium with new business models associated with it.  Until recently, and option existed to simply pay a percentage of revenues as royalty, which allowed small stations to exist.  However, under the new regime it's a flat rate per listener, and it's a high flat rate as well.   According to Kurt Hanson's Radio and Internet Newsletter:

… the royalty rate decision — for the performance alone, not even including composers' royalties! — is in the in the ballpark of 100% or more of total revenues.

The new royalty rates will go into effect on July 15, 2007, retroactive to January 1, 2006.  More than a few Internet broadcasters will likely cease business on that day.  Or, they may just move offshore. If they do that, though, what that likely means is that terrestrial broadcasters who broadcast a simultaneous internet stream will cut the internet stream.  For me personally that means the loss of KMTT (Seattle's The Mountain), a favorite of mine.   

If you believe in Internet Radio, and want to save it, here's what you can do.

  1. Donate to the SaveNetRadio campaign.  If you're a Facebook user, install the Causes app, join the SaveNetRadio cause, donate money and get others to join.  They're both easy!
  2. If you live in the US, contact your representatives and senators.  If you don't, you can still join the Save Net Radio coalition
  3. If you write a blog, discuss this issue.  If you don't write a blog, join the discussion on somebody else's blog.  If you prefer Facebook, join any of the nine Save Net Radio discussion groups that have been created there, and join the discussion. 

Here is a partial list of some of the media organizations participating.   

Yahoo!, Live365 stations, Rhapsody, MTV Online, AccuRadio, KCRW (Santa Monica, CA), Pandora, Radioio, DigitallyImported, RadioParadise, 3WK, myMVY, Wizard Radio, Born Again Radio, Pearadio.com, Ear.fm, WGLI (Bablylon, NY), WMUK (Kalamazoo, MI), Head-On Radio Network, Zecom/Gemz Radio, monkeygrip music cafe, KFCF (Fresno, CA), LuckySevenRadio.com, Blue Power/Guitar Speak, PNA (Oak Park, IL), 60's Chicks Radio/Seasons & Celebrations Radio, STAR 107.9, WRPS/WebRadioPugetSound, Puregold Rock 'N Roll, NeverEndingWonder Radio, RadioMilwaukee, BAGeL Radio, Gotradio/100hitz, KDUN (Reedsport, OR), GDRadio.net, KQLZ (Los Angeles, CA), XPR/KXJZ (Sacramento, CA), NiceNoise.Net, BlackLight Radio, Pure Pop 24/7, Smooth Jazz and More, Reggae Nostalgia, WCH Radio/The Wave, WYGS Southern Gospel Radio Network, BluegrassCountry.org/WAMU.org, WRAJ Internet Radio

The time to act is now.  Today.  Because in three weeks time it will be too late.

UPDATE: Here's a link to a great posting from Yahoo! Music's Ian Rogers

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Peter Childs June 26, 2007, 2:08 am

    While the issue is important the strategy to address it is dumb. Instead of a day of silence they should have day with no copyrighted material.

    What stations should run is anything that connects with their audience and makes the point that the copyright board decision looks unbalanced and possibly a tad cozy. They also should be instructive on what their listeners can do.

    If they can activate a significant public response – and they should be able to – they need use community building tools to shape a strategy and co-ordinate it implementation to show that this issue has legs.

    They should build on any perceptions of favoritism or special relationships in government decision making – and a divide and conquer strategy with artists and labels. For the latter identify which are susceptible to public pressure from concert or label boycots and co-ordinate.

    Unfortunately the wheels of government are slow – and July 15 will come and go without any changes – so the strategy has to be long term.

    24 hours of silence – while it makes a point – is probably 22 hours more than necessary and much less engaging than it needs to be.

  • Alec June 26, 2007, 6:30 am

    You may be right, Peter. I can well imagine, though, that after having publicly fought this battle for so long, they might feel the need to raise the stakes.

  • Alec June 26, 2007, 7:16 am

    James, it's not necessarily "free internet radio" support by "repetitive advertising". Right now I am listening to a commercial station — KMTT out of Seattle. http://www.kmtt.com

    Frankly, I like their mix. New Music Tuesdays, the Mountain Music Lounge (accoustic renditions of lots of my favorites) — these are all things that my local "dinosaur rock" radio stations don't have. So I buy their CDs, listen to the station, etc.

    Would I PAY for it? Don't know.

  • James June 26, 2007, 10:17 am

    LaunchCast Plus by Yahoo! seems to be up and running fine.

    Free internet radio is apparently a poor business model, an attempt to play some repetitive advertising at people who also probably favor Limewire over iTunes.

    I do agree that retroactive increases are pretty despicable, but apparently that didn’t concern Yahoo! since they just renewed my contract for LaunchCast plus. Apparently they have a sound enough business model.

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