Most people think of Internet radio as their favourite local radio stations, streaming everything they do. They couldn't be farther from the truth. Real Internet radio is not a terrestrial station rebroadcasting their signal on the Internet. Internet radio is an independent entity putting together a station and broadcasting only on the Internet.
I used to do a weekly one-hour show for such a station out of England called, Radio Samantha. It was reminiscent of, homage to the pirate radio, of the 1970s, such as Radio Carolina, loaded on a ship moored in international waters off the UK. My old air check friend, Russ Horton, got me involved with the station owner, Brian Young, who welcomed me aboard with a big smile and huge thanks.
The beauty of Internet radio is that you can do whatever you want! There is no FCC, consultant or corporate office telling you what or what not to do. I gave Brian some ideas I had for these specialty one hour shows and he said I could do whatever I wanted.
I did. Such shows included One Hit Wonders, Cool Jazz, Classic Rock, Hot Country and even tributes to artists that passed away during the time I produced these shows. I always said that I was "Live on CD from my basement in New York!" It was a great gimmick; it got some great international attention.
It ended when it wasn't fun anymore. A one-hour show took me about three hours to produce. It took an hour or more to put together all the music and other recorded elements; another hour to record it in real time and then I had to edit and upload it. It's amazing how the time just flew by, but it was still three hours a week, which I no longer could afford.
Radio Samantha used to rotate my shows even after I left, which was fine by me. It was probably six months to a year after I left that Brian closed the station down. He later told me it was for various reasons, the most important being he was having some health issues.
Then there was the announcement by The Sound Exchange. Royalty rates for micro and small webcasters would change; going up instead of remaining the same or going down.
Ironically, the large broadcasting corporations do not pay any royalties to the Sound Exchange. Where is the fairness in that? They sell commercials, give away CDs or concert tickets and usually make a profit on their radio stations. Yet, they are not required to pay royalties? What's wrong with this picture?
I was recently chatting with Randy Raley, the proprietor of PlanetRadio.us and a long time St. Louis radio personality. I asked him for an explanation of what is going on. This is what he told me.
"The agreement on royalty rates expired on 12/31/15. While the new agreement was being finalized, [the] micro and small webcasters pretty much dropped the ball, not really thinking about what kind of legal or lobbyist representation we needed. The agreement for us was not renewed.
“The bigger webcasters, usually associated with the big corporations, got their rates lowered, while we were basically told to shut down for lack of representation to address our situation. Meanwhile, since the agreement expired, we were left in the dark as to what to do. I'm still on the air, absorbing what increases I can. I have helped form a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving St. Louis web radio.
“I think there will be some resolution to this as there are webcasters and their various vendors affected by this. There is lots of money being lost here. I can't think that the musicians would be for this, because this lack of renewal has played into the hands of the corporate culture.
“There will be fewer outlets to get their music heard and less money than before to distribute. There are a few petitions circling around, but I'm not sure what that will do."
The bottom line is that once again the small operation is getting screwed by the big guys. The Copyright Royalty Board set the rates and Sound Exchange collects the money on behalf of the record companies and artists.
My opinion is this; small webcasters can only help expose the music, especially for newer artists that most corporate radio stations don't play until they are established. Then there are the independent artists that are rarely, if ever played on large corporate stations. The independent webcaster is giving them play and exposing them to an audience.
How long will it be before Internet radio is as boring as over the air radio? Personally, I'm sick and tired of the same commercials playing, repeatedly, and that goes for the music as well. We're must hear the same songs repeatedly.
Last year, Pandora paid over $400 million in royalty rates! The ironic part is the service draws listeners looking for a wide variety of music. Yet, as their audience grows, they have to may in royalty rates to keep playing the music.
How soon will it be before all the small webcasters have to shut down and turn off their lights? Most of them just do it for the love of "being on the air" and it's a hobby, not a way to make a living.
Show support for your favourite webcaster and write to Sound Exchange protesting the rules they are putting these small webcasters under. Remember, the station you save could be your favourite.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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