Sunday, May 21, 2006

I'm From the Government and I'm Here to Help

Long time readers of the Wizard, fkap Journal are at least aware that I operate three Internet Radio Stations. The links to those three stations are on the Links bar to the right of this essay. To say these stations are unique in quite an understatement. If you've never listened to Internet Radio you are in for a real treat. Click on one of the links and find out for yourself.

There is a real possibility that in the not too distant future that these three stations and thousands of other Internet radio stations like them will cease to exist. Why? Because the Federal Government is here to help! The same folks who have made FEMA such a monumental success want to enhance the listener experience in Internet Radio.

But they have a lot of help! Advising our Representatives and Senators are the major media companies like RCA, Sony, and more. The major record labels through their professional association, the
Recording Industry Association of America (or the RIAA for short) are taking steps in several arenas that will actually make it impossible for Internet radio to survive in its current form!

Today's villain is called the PERFORM ACT, sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). This certainly proves the RIAA can effectively lobby both political parties. Or that they RIAA has the finest senators that money can buy!

The focus of the PERFORM ACT is on satellite radio, but it has significant implications for internet radio as well. If this act passes as currently written, internet radio stations would no longer be able to use the standard digital formats currently in use, but would instead be forced to adopt proprietary (i.e. more expensive) formats and rewrite their software to match. These actions would also have a by product of removing most creativity from Internet Radio Broadcasts. You can learn more about the PERFORM ACT from my friends at the
Electronic Frontier Foundation's Action Center.

Wizard Radio is a non-profit "hobby" station. There are thousands more just like us. We make no profit , but gladly pay hundreds or thousands of our own dollars in royalties and broadcasting expenses (like bandwidth, storage, and music acquisition).

In addition to the PERFORM ACT, we also face an effort by the RIAA to force Internet broadcasters to pay even higher royalties to recording artists and, much more importantly, to the recording labels themselves.

Internet Radio ALREADY PAYS THESE ROYALTIES and always has. Traditional AM/FM radio stations that broadcast over the PUBLIC AIRWAYS are exempt from paying royalties to artists or record labels. Only Internet Radio actually pays the artists for the music they have created!

There are actually two types of royalties that Internet broadcasters pay. The first set of royalties go to composers and lyricists and are paid through organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. It is these songwriter (composer) royalties that are also paid by AM/FM, and satellite radio as well as internet radio stations. The rates for composers are extremely fair and are applied equally to all media. No one objects to these royalties.

Ahhh, but the second set of royalties are those that go to the artists (performers) of the musical work (50%) and to the RECORD LABELS that sign the artists (the other 50%). AM/FM radio has always been exempt from paying these royalties. Only Satellite and Internet radio pay these royalties, but at different rates that put internet radio in the position of paying a much higher percentage of its revenues in royalties than satellite radio pays.

Have I confused you enough, yet? Stay with me, it gets worse.

The royalty rates are set via a process involving the Library of Congress. If the record labels get their way in this process, Internet Radio will pay huge rate increases that will make it absolutely impossible for anyone to broadcast, except...... you guessed it.... the actual RECORD LABELS THEMSELVES!!

What a neat trick. Pay royalties to yourself and it actually costs you nothing!!! And that is the RIAA goal.

The RIAA really hates Internet Radio because we play independent and unsigned artists. The RIAA (the big labels) gets no money from these independents and, worse yet, when you find a new artist you like on the Internet, you're less likely to buy the RIAA's latest dream act!

The RIAA wants you to be able to hear only the big artists and only the music they promote. If all you hear is Clive Davis' latest Idol, he or she are likely to be only CD you'll buy! What we really have here is legalized payola!!

What can you do? If you love Internet Radio and the endless variety we offer, please contact your
Senators and Representative in Congress and tell them that you support internet radio.

Because many of our Senators and Representatives are not familiar with Internet Radio they have no idea that Internet Radio actually support artists by paying them royalties. And they are probably unaware that Internet Radio is promoting independents and emerging artists that has no outlet in corporate controlled AM/FM radio.

My guess is that the huge and well financed RIAA lobby is drowning the Senators and Representatives in misinformation. Your voice can help clarify the situation and you can help level the playing field.

Internet Radio Stations like
Wizard Radio offer the one thing you can't get anywhere else: VARIETY!! We play hundreds of different genre's of music including international, classical, folk, jazz and musical theatre.

Let your
Senators and Representatives know that you value what internet radio offers and that you want to see it supported and strengthened, not killed.

We need help. Hurricane RIAA is bearing down on our shores. Don't let the Senate send us the RIAA's version of FEMA.


Wandering Scrybe said...

First, thanks for the invite Bob. I completely agree with what you have to say here regarding this upcoming legislation being a bad idea.

Now, I wonder if there's a way we can really get through to these senators. I can vouch for the idiocy of both California senators, but in general senators don't seem to have much of a clue as to what is going on. So, they rely on their experts and/or the lobbies paying them $$$. Both these groups are telling them that more restriction on internet broadcasting is a good thing. Add that to the massive re-election rates of our senators in general and now tell me how we (the internet radio community) have a voice? I'd really like to know.

Vigilante said...

Never have I heard about Internet Radio. I think I'm going to have to read this two more times to get an idea......