You all know the phrase, also a popular song title: “Video killed the radio star.” Well, at the time, everyone seemed to think that radio was doomed with the onset of music television. Usually, drastic new technology replaces old technology. But as it turned out, it didn’t happen. Sure, radio took a hit in overall listeners, but it’s far from dying out. Nowadays, people can listen to music on music television, special channels on most satellite and even cable packages, satellite radio, and on the internet – either through songs you pick on popular sites like MySpace.com or dedicated internet radio stations. I know I’ve been enjoying Pandora’s internet radio station with their emphasis on customizing the station to suit your tastes. Unfortunately, recent governmental decisions may cripple or kill most if not all internet radio stations that are currently available.
I personally believe that internet radio is by far the best advancement in the public distribution of music. Not only do most net radio stations have far less commercials (and they’re usually graphic, not even interrupting the music), but they also have a far wider range of styles available that usually aren’t commercially feasible on a local level. You’re probably familiar with a “hot now!” local station changing to a style that you don’t like, or even an oldies station deciding to start playing music from the following decade – you know, the one you were avoiding by listening to that oldies station. Well, with net radio it doesn’t matter if a station changes. There are plenty more to choose from and it should be easy to find what’s most suited to your tastes. So, why is the Copyright Royalty Board trying to change that? This is an organization that should be devoted to making sure music artists get their just desserts when their music is played on the radio. Until internet radio made a vastly larger audience available to potential broadcasters, most lesser-known musicians had no chance of being broadcast publicly. In this manner, internet radio has enabled the music industry to expand quickly and more broadly than ever before possible. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason to stop this valuable expansion now.
On March 2, 2007, the Copyright and Royalty Board issued new royalty rates that applied specifically to internet broadcasts. The new royalty rates are almost triple their previous rate (which was decided only two years ago). Why the sudden drastic increase? Who knows… it certainly jumps much higher than the rate of inflation. Standard radio broadcasting does not have to pay royalty fees at all and the new rates for internet radio are more than four times as high as satellite radio has to pay. There is no apparent reason for this drastic attack on internet radio. Not only are the new rates ridiculously high, but they’re retroactive to the beginning of 2006. Most net radio stations don’t operate with the huge budgets that local and national broadcasters have, and they’ll likely bankrupt just trying to pay retroactive fees. There’s certainly no way they can continue with these incredibly unfair rates. On top of what appears to be an obvious injustice, the Copyright Royalty Board released another statement on April 16th denying a motion for rehearing the raised royalty rates.
Are you an internet radio fan? Are you remotely interested in ever having the chance to check it out and see if it suits you better than traditional broadcasting forms? If so, action must be taken quickly to save the almost sure death of all net radio. Thankfully, a coalition of music artists, record labels, listeners and webcasters has formed to rally support for internet radio. Their website is easy to find: SaveNetRadio.org . From there, you can spread the word to friends, send e-mails or letters directly to your congressional representatives and find out any other steps you can take to stop this ruling before it destroys the diversity of net radio. I’ve e-mailed all of my congressional representatives and have already received a response from one of them. He assured me that as a member of the Energy and Commerce committee, he’ll exert what influence he has to revoke this ruling. Big government rulings like this usually aren’t changed based on the opinion of one person, but if we all do our part, they’ll listen. We are who elects them and they need our support and are willing to listen to our collective voice. So, let’s work together and save net radio!