This may stretch your definition of “good news” for webcasters, but the latest on the Internet Radio crisis runs something like this:

Webcasters don’t yet have to pay new fees for their broadcast. But they’re still accruing debt — fast. Sort of like our credit card debt.

Webcasters may get a small break on the minimum fee, one that could literally have shut down “personalized” radio services. SoundExchange explains the deal thusly:

Under the new proposal, to be implemented by remand to the CRJs, SoundExchange has offered to cap the $500 per channel minimum fee at $50,000 per year for webcasters who agree to provide more detailed reporting of the music that they play and work to stop users from engaging in “streamripping” – turning Internet radio performances into a digital music library.

Note the big attached “ifs”, which are vaguely worded in the official SoundExchange announcement, and sound all the more threatening given, according to SoundExchange, the previous rates are already in effect. Whichever side you’re on here, you have to give SoundExchange some credit for, erm, negotiating skill. “Hey, so while you’re dangled over this bridge, I wonder if we might … negotiate some small items?”

The one shred of good news: apparently Congress has applied some pressure on SoundExchange to negotiate, meaning public action has actually made some difference. Whatever the ultimate solution, it’d be nice to think some sort of public involvement might push the government to do something effective.

Wired has some good reporting on this:
Net Radio Wins Partial Reprieve as Royalties Loom

Meanwhile, I have a partial vacation to get back to. See you soon.

  • Adrian Anders

    Analog hole FTW!

  • The whole idea of blocking “stream ripping” is rather pointless. A look at today sent me here:

    That article talks a little more about stream ripping and some of the things that were suggested on how to beat it, most of which internet radio stations have not done. Besides, there’s still the ability to record the output of the computer audio card. I wonder if the “powers that be” thought about that?

  • Peter

    I'm skeptical about the backroom deals being cut in the name of "saving Internet radio."

    You might want to take a deeper look at what's going on. It looks like the mainstream music industry is jacking up rates just enough so that it can cut sweet deals with a few big partners.

    This will give RIAA labels the same power with Internet radio that they have with traditional radio. They will decide what you hear and don't hear, and by listening to Internet radio, you'll be paying for them to sue you.

    Not such a sweet deal for people interested in a more diverse music scene.

  • How does net radio factor into this? Stream ripping? lol! It was popular among technoliterati (horrible term) during the 'napster' era, but who really bothers now? Perhaps a few, but 192k CBR mp3 streams are rare, and 128k CBR AAC even rarer. 128k CBR mp3 and 24-32k AAC are the norm, and V2 (up to V0) VBR is the preferred format for mp3 along with 256k AAC, at least according to people who develop and obsess over these codecs. So imo stream ripping is a straw man, thrown out merely because it's easy to point at as a 'hole'. The problem is again *diversity*. With the thousands of uncontrolled internet streams out there, some people might even be satisfied to merely listen to them and buy little 'purchased' music, mp3/aac or cd. I doubt that this plays out in actuality, but u can see the same level of concern that the music industry originally had with radio.

    Yes, diversity (imo) is the big hole in the 'profits' they've been showing. It's not 'illegal' downloading either. Diversity is difficult to market, impossible for 40-60 yr old 'industry' executives to fully understand, and impossible also to 'control'. Not to mention that with increasing levels of diversity trying to hold onto a manufactured product (CD) poses serious issues for projecting. And I don't think that 'multimedia kiosks' panned out they way they thought they might, lol. (Some of the guys here on the West coast seemed to think that the kiosks would make it so people wouldn't want their own burner at home, since 'everything they could want' (from 2-3 labels) was available on them.

    Many 'modern' business models are still stuck at the Henry Ford level of trying to pump out as many copies of as few things as possible (we've got all the choices you ever need! What color will that be, black or black for you?) But rather than adapt models, it's better (?) to just use strongarm tactics and coercion to keep people 'in line' (at Sam Goody). If that doesn't work, sue!

    Now in addition to this,

    When it comes to music (and movie) delivery online, the black market isn't even an issue. You market your commercial download service based on immediate availability, consistant quality of product (the encodings and tagging in this case) and ease of use/transparency of playback mechanism (ie, not what DRM offers). What this does is make things easier to find (than searching dozens of torrent engines and/or limewire or gnutella networks). And then the quality of things on the 'black market' services is so incredibly hit & miss that half the time you spend getting stuff is wasted. And the final aspect, transparency, is where the black market still wins. Once you've got a bit of music from the black market, you can do whatever you choose with it. Delete it for the crap it really is (either due to poor encoding, possible mistagging, some band's crappy cover of a song u really wanted etc), make 14 backups to make sure u always have a copy, give it to anyone u want, listen to it on any playback device you have, burn it, transcode to another format, etc etc etc.

    Now you look at the mainstream offerings, and they're all still catching up to itunes on the 'availability' level (and even iTunes is still hit & miss for independant offerings). Consistant quality? Check! (Though it's taken a few years to get the bitrates up). Transparency? Ok, 10 yrs later they're starting to consider that DRM might slow down the 'consumption' of their wares, all iPods aside. But now you've got a new generation coming up that has had plenty of time to find ways of getting music through the black market and learn the ins & outs of how to identify a quality download versus a horrible rip. 10 years is a LONG time…and these habits didn't start with the young generation, they started with the working generation, the ones that had NOTHING but napster for several years. That vacuum was filled whether or not the majors wanted it, and instead of identifying the obvious 3 factors I pointed out above and capitalizing on what strengths they could offer, well we all know the story.

    So back to streams. A modern music distribution network could work something like this:

    Listen to a music stream. Hear something you like. Either manually or automatically use the info from that embedded artist/album/track etc info to feed into a database somewhat like LastFM where you can identify the artist's catalogue, similar artists, find shops etc. Connect instantly to one of several online shops to download and/or order a CD .

    But the reality is that the Womb and LastFM are not connected, LastFM & Pandora seek to offer their own streams rather than connect to others (isn't this what xml was intended for?). Mainstream labels would rather shut down all of the above than use the new technology to get rid of an outmoded production & distribution system that has already paid for itself so well that they've been successfully sued for price fixing in most states (on cd manufacturing costs). etc etc etc.

  • poopoo

    Crazy record companies. According to this salon article…

    .. record companies pay radio stations $3,000,000 a week of payola to get their crap songs on the radio. So much money changing hands and all the while the artist get stooged.

  • @Synthtopia…

    Skeptical doesn't even begin to cover how I feel. 😉

    Dread? (Ahem.)

    But the specific negotiations here are with the organization representing the webcasters, including both large and small and even college broadcasters. So this isn't about backdoor deals with big players, yet. In fact, to their credit, the big guys like Yahoo went and partnered with the little guys. So one positive in all this is that it demonstrates broadcasters will present a united front on this.

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