Today marks a voluntary day of silence for internet radio stations to raise awareness of the recent royalty rate hikes affected by the Copyright Royalty Board. These hikes are not only retroactive for 17 months and due July 15th, but greatly increase the amounts of royalties that thousands of internet radio stations will have to pay to SoundExchange (the long arm of the royalty collecting law). This means everyone from the corporate giants (AOL, Yahoo — who can afford it) to the little guys and gals at home running their own music-lovers’-paradises streaming over the web (who can’t) will be hit with a massive bill. It also makes no differentiation between commercial and public radio.
There is an interesting article in the new July ’07 Paste Magazine about online radio with this quote from John Simson, executive director of SoundExchange, which literally made me laugh out loud — mostly from indignation. He very grandly stated to the Washington Post that, “The attitude that really has to change is that the people playing this music on the web are somehow doing artists a favor.”
Seriously? Does Mr. Simson have any idea how many fledgling bands out there are making really good music and would love to have that music heard by any means possible? This drinking-from-a-firehose era of digital music means pretty much exactly that: getting airplay exposure (or, by extension, blog coverage as well) isn’t exactly doing a favor for a band –because they’ve earned it– but it is a dang good thing which shouldn’t penalize those spreading the word. Most internet radio stations make a fraction of what these royalites will cost, and the hikes represent a sort of death knell to a huge source of vibrant, free-form creativity for new listeners.
They are going about this in completely the wrong way. You might consider visiting the Save Net Radio site if you think so too, or signing the petition that the good folks over at WXPN have going. I worry about the future of music discovery in all its forms.