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SomaFM General Manager Answers Your Questions 73

Posted by Cliff
from the the-battle-is-far-from-over dept.
Last week, you posted your questions to SomaFM's General Manger, Rusty, and today he delivers. In this interview: answers about CARP (which was wisely rejected by the Library of Congress, this week), the RIAA, the workings of an internet radio station, and of course, Big URL.

1) how much does the recording industry really care?
by Laplace

I was curious to know how much the recording industry cares about small stations. Do you think that the Recording Industry Association of America is going to come after these tiny internet broadcasters, some of which are run out of someone's bedroom, and actually try to enforce this legislation? Given the bandwidth small stations operate on, their lack of mainstream exposure, and the tiny bang for the (litigious) buck, it seems that the record industry can spend their resources elsewhere with greater effect.

Rusty:

I think the RIAA is very concerned with small broadcasters, and that they will go after them the same way they've gone after small web sites that post MP3 files. Just like the movie companies were sending cease and desist letters to all the fan sites out there.

Think about it, just in the last few months we've been hearing about how the RIAA's been suing companies who have MP3s on company fileservers.

If you can stay under the radar, more power to you. But once you start getting more than 50 concurrent listeners, you'll start getting their attention. Small stations have been getting letters from ASCAP and BMI for a long time, and the RIAA stands to gain much higher revenues than they do. With the proposed rates of 0.14 cents per song per listener, that works out to roughly $0.50 a day per concurrent listener, or $180 a year per concurrent listener. You can see that even a small station with 10 average concurrent listeners could owe them a decent amount of money each year.

I think they'll come after anyone listed in a popular listing directory, be that Shoutcast.com or the Icecast YP.

This whole CARP thing also seems more about control by the record companies rather than just pure monetary greed. The major labels only want to push their superstars. They're not interested in a diverse marketplace. CARP isn't just about money, it also includes some overly burdensome reporting requirements (including stupid things like each listeners time zone!). To me, it's pretty obvious that the major labels want to control what the public is listening to. That's why they're paying huge amounts in "legal payola" to the big broadcast chains. They don't want independent programmers fragmenting their potential audience.

And the way they'll enforce it is by going after the ISPs. The DMCA has some pretty clear methods for dealing with that. So it will be simple for the RIAA to use provisions of the DMCA to shut down the ones that aren't worth suing.

2) Thoughts about Digital Rights Management?
by SPYvSPY

Given the availability of programs like streamripper (and others like it, I guess), do you have any plans to accomodate the myriad of digital rights management schemes in the pipeline? Which, if any, do you support or intend to implement? Do you think that you have an obligation to do so? BTW, keep up the good work. I can say with total sincerity that your stations have introduced me music that I would otherwise never have heard. I thank you, (and so does my iPod). ;)

Rusty:

The bottom line is that DRM doesn't work. It's like a speed bump, not a barrier. You can always use something like Total Recorder to record the bits going to the sound drivers. You can always plug a minidisc recorder into the audio outs on your computer. And you can always make a cassette off of the radio.

That being said we're not big fans of streamrippers. Bandwidth costs real money, and we have licensing fees (ASCAP/BMI) that are based on numbers of listeners and revenue. If someone is streamripping all day long, and they're not listening, they're costing us money. The latest versions of the Shoutcast server as well as the Shoutcast YP are not too friendly to streamrippers but again, that's just another speedbump.

Streamrippers do have their place for time-shifting, and taking a program with you in the car or on your iPod. But in those cases, you'd be ripping a continuous chunk of audio, not trying to split it up into discrete audio tracks. After all, we want people to listen to our full presentation. We may implement things to make it harder to split the tracks automatically.

As for an obligation to implement other forms of DRM, I guess I would have to see what that DRM was. And since our music is segued and we talk over the intros, when people do streamrip us they're not getting cleanly split versions of the tracks we're playing anyway!

3) Pirate Mythology
by tcd004

Right now Internet Radio enjoys a sort of "pirate" image, which I think endears it to many people because they feel like they're supporting independent media.

However, my guess is that as it grows and becomes more profitable, most Internet radio is bound to end up owned by 2-5 big players, as is the case with most other media. Do you expect internet radio to get bought up like the movie studios, local TV stations and radio stations, or do you think it will be able to stay independent?

Would mergers and consolidation ruin internet radio, or would it help it?

Rusty:

I'm not sure I agree with the "pirate" terminology, but I get your drift. We're independent, we're not mainstream, we're an alternative, we're indie, we're not part of the system.

I disagree that internet radio will be owned by several big players. Remember, net radio doesn't have the limitations that over the air broadcast stations do. There are a limited number of over the air stations in each city. This is because broadcast radio spectrum is limited (the FM band is twenty whole megahertz wide, the AM bandwidth is just over one megahertz wide!) However, the net is different, while not infinite there is a whole lot of room out there for content. There are over 3,000 stations listed in Shoutcast.com right now, and I'm sure there is an equal number of stations in other formats. There are less than 13,000 FCC licensed AM and FM stations in the United States. In all major metro markets, there is no more room for additional AM/FM stations. There is plenty of room for more stations in the 'net.

Will there be mergers and consolidation? Probably. Will this ruin it? Probably not. Here's how I see it: I think you'll see lots of stations join together into "groups". Maybe they'll be ad supported, and sell ads across the group. Maybe they'll be subscription based, and by subscribing to the group, you'll have access to all the member stations.

I'm sure a lot of stations will "sell out" to big media companies. And then their programming will get just as boring as the programming from the big media companies. Which in turn will mean that people who are tired of the same old shit will look for something different, the kind of programming only being played on the stations that didn't sell out.

I see it as a continual flow, a cycle almost. Would we sell out? Right now we are running purely on donations and donated bandwidth, so if someone offered us a way to keep running it like it is now with guaranteed bandwidth and actually pay me a salary, that would be great. There is also a lot of things we'd like to do to improve the quality of our streams but they'd all cost money. Same with our plans for additional channels. We've got plans for 6 more niche channels in the works but we can't afford to get them going at this time.

SomaFM could even go away tomorrow not due to CARP, but if everyone suddenly pulled their bandwidth. Donations aren't going to come close to covering the potential bandwidth bill of $12,000-20,000 a month. That really isn't control.

4) Cutting out RIAA music
by mcc

Something that has been brought up a couple times in other threads, and that I am kind of curious about:

The CARP is something the RIAA is imposing, correct?

Does this or does this not mean that if an internet radio station were certain to only play music by non-RIAA artists, it could stay in business? It would not be terribly easy to find material for a net radio station that only played independent music, but it would be possible, i think, and at the least i'd listen to it.

But am i just confused? Would that be feasible from a royalties standpoint? What exactly is the royalties relationship between independent record labels and internet radio, before or after CARP?

One more small question: the page on CARP on your site says that non-US broadcasters would not be subject to the CARP fees. How would this work out? Would this just mean that anyone in Canada would be able to netcast worldwide without having to pay any fees other than the ones imposed by their government? Or would stations outside the U.S. be barred from netcasting to U.S. citizens? If stations outside the U.S. are allowed to run free, what would the regulations say about a server in the U.S. that is just repeating what is being broadcast by an internet streaming radio station located outside the U.S.-- so that the lag created by the internet links that go across the atlantic ocean are minimized. Could a repeater of this sort be classified as just another router, or would the repeater be subject to the CARP payments?

Thanks for clarifying things.. just curious. Hopefully, the LoC will see through this blatant attempt by the RIAA to silence internet radio and none of the above questions will ever become an issue. I wish you luck..

Rusty:

The CARP is the outcome of a provision of the DMCA known as the compulsory license. What that means, is that an internet broadcaster can get a license to broadcast any recorded works without getting prior permission from the copyright holder. The compulsory part means that the copyright owners must give it to you. In return the CARP set a royalty fee that would be paid to Sound Exchange, an unincorporated division of the RIAA. Sound Exchange is then obligated to distribute that money to the copyright owners and the performance artists, after keeping a cut for their efforts.

If a radio station was to get permission from the holder of the copyright of the sound recording - they could broadcast it without being subject to the DMCA compulsory license. It would not be easy to do this, and would require a lot of paperwork, but it could be done. The biggest issues that arise is what happens when the copyright is sold? This has happened with many electronica artists. They created the recording, they gave us permission to play it. But then they sold it to a record label who no longer gives us permission to play it. So the only way in that case we can play it is through the compulsory license.

This is what is hurting SomaFM the most. When we started back in 1999, we were playing unknown obscure ambient music. Labels would contact us after finding their tracks in the playlists and thank us for playing them. But as ambient electronica became more and more popular, big labels started buying the rights. Now those big labels won't even return our emails... and we're the people who did so much to expose and popularize their artists.

As for non-US broadcasters, the CARP fees don't apply to them, but similar, albeit substantially lesser, fees do. European stations have to pay a "Phonographic Performance License". My understanding is that this is a 3-6% of revenue fee. Stations outside the US won't run free, they'll just run at an affordable, reasonable rate.

As to the question of whether repeaters would be considered a "source of broadcast", we are not sure and it will probably take a court challenge to clarify it.

5) Royalties loophole?
by Dan Crash

The statutory royalty rate for Internet simulcasts of FM radio broadcasts is only half that of Internet-only broadcasts. So couldn't any web station cut their royalties in half by spending $34.95 (plus shipping) to buy a micro-FM transmitter?

Here's what the law says in Title 17, ? 114. Scope of exclusive rights in sound recordings:

The performance of a sound recording publicly by means of a digital audio transmission, other than as a part of an interactive service, is not an infringement of section 106(6) if the performance is part of ...a nonsubscription broadcast transmission.

It doesn't require you to be a licensed or noncommercial broadcaster, simply that your performance is broadcast freely over the airwaves.

Has the webcasting industry looked into this loophole at all? Seems to me that cutting your operating expenses roughly in half could be the difference between economic life and death for most companies.

Rusty:

You are correct that the compulsory rate for Internet simulcasts of FM radio broadcasts is only half that of Internet-only broadcasts. However, that is still a huge amount of money. For SomaFM, that would still amount to over $150,000 for the next year, or about 6-7 times our estimated revenues.

But buying a micro FM transmitter doesn't help. If you read further on, you'll note that Section 114 of Title 17 defines a "broadcast" transmission a transmission made by a terrestrial broadcast station licensed as such by the Federal Communications Commission.

Remember, in the US, you can't broadcast freely over the airwaves except in certain designated bands, and then only within certain limits.

6) Fraunhofer, and OGG Vorbis
by E1ven

What amount do you currently pay in MP3 liscensing, in order to stream SomaFM over the internet?

With all the threats and attacks to MP3 streaming by Fraunhofer, have you considered moving to streaming OGG Vorbis files?

As Winamp is now shipping with native support, this could be a good way of shaving down some of the fees regarding your business.

Rusty:

We are not paying licensing fees to Fraunhofer, although we do own a licensed copy of their encoder. We currently use LAME for all Mp3 streams.

We are intrigued with OGG Vorbis compression, and would like to start experimenting with it soon. We've been kind of kind of busy with all the politicking lately to spend time on technical experiments.

There are a few problems we face: all our music is currently stored as high bit rate MP3 files. (192-320kb). From what I've seen, OGG does not do a good job recompressing MP3 files. Our broadcast playback software plays back and segues music files, does some audio processing (automatic gain control and some light dynamics compression), sends the bit stream to the LAME encoder and then onto the server. This sounds pretty good even though in the end, the listener is getting a file that has been double MP3 compressed. But add OGG to that equation, and the recompression could sound pretty bad. We still have to experiment with this more. OGG is in our future. As storage gets cheaper, we'll re-encode our music in a non-lossy format.

And as soon as Tag and Tom ship a version of the Shoutcast DSP with OGG codec support that is stable, we'll start running an experimental stream.

7) Popular (internet) music on the Radio?
by Traa

As much as I love internet radio and hope to see it stay I have been wondering why some of the more popular music themes on the internet are not available on commercial radio. I am talking about the sounds of SomaFM's Groove Salad, Digitally Imported and other internet radio stations playing Ambient, Trance or any of the other more mellow versions of Electronic House. What in your opinion is the reason we can't find these styles on commercial radio?

Best of luck and keep up the good work!

Rusty:

The audience isn't big enough to make it worthwhile to advertisers. The broadcast band isn't big enough to hold fringe formats. Formats succeed on internet radio because the audience is NOT limited to a geographical area. I think the place you'll see these formats first is satellite radio. We've talked a bit to XM, but they are still under the impression that electronic music = dance music. They don't realize how broad the genre is, and lumping them all together would be like mixing Dixieland jazz and blues and smooth jazz together on the same channel. XM is starting to come around and we've been told that they're actively considering some type of "Chill Out / Downtempo" channel.

8) Will CARP (crap) affect overseas operators?
by an Anonymous Coward

The beauty of the Internet is that no single government (or stupid government person) could stop an entire class of service - look at Internet gambling. That said, why not relocate to a co/lo service in India?

Or, better yet, just run amok of the law? Last I heard, the Library of Congress is a library, not an authorized body to create policy. Since they are attempting to do so, why not block them on the grounds that they are exceeding their charter, and therefore, acting against the constitution?

Also, the fact that internet based transmissions are treated differently than FM based transmissions is ridiculous. This is the foundation of the "separate but equal" crap that CARP is funnelling.

128k MP3 (and less) is not a perfect reproduction of sound, as the LoC contends. It is no more perfect than FM, and no less perfect. Both formats mangle stereo separation, both add audio artifacts, and both deduct from clarity and depth of the source's timbre. The only real difference is one is digital, and the other analog.

And both formats HELP drive record sales. The big difference to the RIAA is that they don't control the channels of distribution for MP3 servers. All SomaFM, or any other internet broadcaster needs is a music library, a fast connection to the net and powerful servers. In order to broadcast on the air, you need to give some slimy FCC official a kickback, and/or be owned by TimeWarnerAOL, Vivendi, or Viacom.

I can't help but see the future of the RIAA - all the offices burned to the ground and the leadership decapitated. This another one of those infuriating instances where their feeble attempts at limiting distribution channels so that everyone listens to the same, soulless crap that record producers are puking at us.

Rusty:

Why not set up in India? Well, I like living in San Francisco and can't afford to move to India (I have to have a day job to pay my bills, SomaFM loses money). So we'd have to "virtually" run out of India and control things from here. That's a pretty lose loophole and won't protect us. It sounds good in theory but when you dive into it you realize that we would still be a target for the RIAA. Unless we were buying the CDs here and mailing them over there to be digitized and loaded into playback systems over there, we would still be breaking copyright law. Not to mention we could never do any more live broadcasts from the US. So that option is out.

While the Library of Congress is only setting the royalty rate, they're not charged with enforcing the law. The law is set in place by the DMCA. And as I get older, it's scary enough for me when I get a letter from the IRS, let alone a knock on the door from the FBI.

If we were rich enough, and had enough money or a bunch of lawyer friends, we would form a LLC and challenge them. But just to give you an idea of what it would cost- the costs associated with being a part of the original CARP hearings came out to $300,000 per each participant. Yahoo and MTV can afford that, but we can't.

Keep in mind that CARP only sets the fees that are required by the DMCA. We can't change provisions of the DMCA by going after the Library of Congress, or complaining about CARP. We can only hope to get a fee basis from CARP that will not bankrupt internet stations.

9) Business Model
by Everach

How does SomaFM compare fiscally to a traditional FM or AM business?

Specifically, are there any fiscal advantages to using an internet-only format to outweight the disadvanges (like a lack of big-name advertising)?

Rusty:

The fiscal advantages to being internet-only:

Massively lower startup costs. We were able to get started almost immediately. Even if we could have gotten a license and construction permit to build a new FM station, it would have taken a year with all the regulations you have to go through. Not to mention the ongoing regulations that over the air stations have to deal with (FCC licenses bring with them lots of FCC mandated record keeping and such).

The disadvantages:

Incremental costs increase as audience increases (bandwidth mostly). Can't reach people in cars, which are a huge potential audience. We don't get respect from record companies (e.g. we have to call and beg just to get copies of CDs, they rarely automatically send them to us), nor do we get the legalized payola known as indie promotion to play their music.

But to me, the most important thing is the global reach we get by being internet only. We can now get decent sized audiences for extremely niche music genres and formats.

10) Big Earl [spelled 'Big URL' actually] by hitchhacker

Hi Rusty, thanks for the beautiful music!

I wanted to know what you use for Big Earl's voice synthesis. It sounds awfully similar to Dr. Sbaitso from the early 90's.

Also, I noticed that there are many songs that have disapeared from Groove Salad's playlist from around last year. (GOOD songs). I wanted to know if this is because you were forced to remove them, and how many other artists/labels are being held back this way. This music is so good it gives me goose-bumps, and I can't stand the thought that there is more that I am missing.

my letter is off to my controllers^H^H^H^H^Hrepresentatives.

Rusty:

Big Url's voice is driven by an old bell labs text to speech demonstration site. He's the "Big Man" voice. Google for Bell Labs TTS and you'll find it. Sadly, the site crashes from time to time - I'm not sure but I get the feeling it's one old timer who keeps the site working. We're glad whoever keeps it up does, because we'd miss his voice otherwise.

The only songs that have disappeared are songs that we only had in MP2 format and have lost the original CDs for them. We try and re-encode them as we re-discover them. The reason for this is that the playback automation software we now use (from OtsJuke.com) only handles MP3 compression. But there were less than 50 songs that way. I don't think there are any others we are missing, we generally don't completely remove songs, we just play them a lot less frequently. In the last year, we've removed less than 20 songs from the playlist. There are probably close to 15,000 tracks that we play on the air.

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SomaFM General Manager Answers Your Questions

Comments Filter:
  • Soma FM (Score:1, Insightful)

    Let me just say that I finally got my throughput ironed out last night and it's a really awesome experience to sit back in the easy chair and listen to Electro through the stereo. I may even break down and send them some money. Convergence is coming! Now some dipwad congresscreeps want to kill it because their friendly neighborhood trough swill suppliers tell them they just can't bear to think that somebody out there is actually enjoying themselves without paying them through the nose. Makes you want to barf.
  • Bandwidth relays (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @01:41PM (#3566586) Homepage
    Wouldn't it make sense to try and shift some of the bandwidth pressure to the listeners? Look at it this way, broadband users normally have their upstream capacity idling. Why not have them retransmit the stream to a few modem users, or another broadband user for instance? Is there software that does this?

    It's a cludgy hack though, what's really needed is for widespread deployment of multicast routers. That'd solve the problem nicely. Anybody know how likely this is to happen/timescales? thanks -mike

    • It's an interesting idea. Companies like "on the I" are gambling on Multicast.

      More info on it, for people who are interested, at on-the-i.com [on-the-i.com].

      Unfortunately it still takes a special player to download. But worth looking into.

    • Re:Bandwidth relays (Score:2, Interesting)

      by alphaseven (540122)
      That'll work until more ISPs starts implementing a 3-5 gigabyte per month upload/download limit(like has happened recently in Australia and with Sympatico in Canada).
    • It would probably make sense to handle this at the ISP level, rather than the client level.

      The ISP could setup some sort of repeater (the shoutcast server is basically just that) and then each ISP is only pulling 1 stream and distributing it locally to each of it's subscribers. This saves bandwidth for both internet radio stations *and* ISP's.

      AOL currently donates bandwidth to many of the more popular streams. While this bandwidth can be a godsend for internet broadcasters, it also is an example of the method I've just described since each AOL subscriber that listens to the stream is not using any of AOL's external bandwidth.
  • by samhart (89298) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @01:50PM (#3566649) Homepage
    You know, it's amazing how many people must have actually gone and searched google for bell labs tts:

    http://www.bell-labs.com/cgi-user/tts/voicestts-nj ?voice=bigman&text=i+appear+to+have+been+slashdott ed. [bell-labs.com]

    Perhaps we broke it, and they wont be able to use it for Big Url anymore :-/
  • India!?!?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nachoman (87476) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @01:54PM (#3566672)
    "That said, why not relocate to a co/lo service in India?"

    Why India... I live in Canada and as far as I know, there is no CARP proposed here. Move your stations to Canada. It's not too far and wouldn't be as much of a culture shock.
    • by ultramk (470198)
      It's not too far and wouldn't be as much of a culture shock.

      Wait, have you ever tasted Canadian food?
      D'oh, that's a lame question. No one's ever tasted Canadian food. That's the problem.

      Gravy over french fries. *shudder*

      m-
      • At least they have good beer. Mmm... Labatt Blue (Bleue)...
      • Actually it's called 'poutine'... It's french fries with cheese curds and gravy on top. It's really big in Quebec. They have it at all the KFCs and even Burger King and other fast food places too.

        You'd be surprised how good it tastes. Think about it... It's just potatoes. No one complains if you put gravy on your mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving Dinner.
    • This is kinda missing the point.

      Rusty mentioned that SomaFM actually loses money. It is more a "labor of love" than a business. He has a day job. So, even if Canada has roughly the same culture, he'd still be uprooting his life in order to save an endeavor that actually loses money...why would he want to do that?

      (not to mention the fact that all of his donated bandwidth is probably in San Francisco and would have to be replaced when he got to Canada)
    • Yah, just learn to play ice hockey and say 'Eh?' and you're all set, eh?
    • Moving to a country where the CARP ruling doesn't touch is only delaying. If the US adopts CARP, other countries will soon follow -- most notibly, Canada.

      Moving to another country just /sounds/ like a good idea unfortunetly. Believe me, if it were that easy I too would be moving my station to some other country.
  • by sulli (195030) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @01:58PM (#3566692) Journal
    The question and answer above about non RIAA music leads to the following idea: why not develop a standard license a la the GPL that allows non RIAA producers to contract directly with net radio stations for a reasonable fee? Maybe something like the following, with sections in CAPS to be modified as needed (IANNNHIEBAL):

    1. AMBIENT-HOUSE DJ MOFO hereby grants a license of his CATALOG OF SICK BEATS to SULLIRADIO for MP3 STREAMING.

    2. SULLIRADIO agrees to pay AMBIENT-HOUSE DJ MOFO a sum of 25 PERCENT of all revenue associated with this MP3 STREAMING. Revenue associated with this artist's music shall be considered total monthly revenue multiplied by the exact number of minutes streaming his SICK BEATS, divided by the exact number of minutes in the month.

    3. This license lasts until SOME DATE IN THE FUTURE and can be renewed by mutual consent at that time.

    4. Both AMBIENT-HOUSE DJ MOFO and SULLIRADIO agree to waive all rights and obligations under any compulsory license adopted by the Librarian of Congress.

    5. NO FUCKING WARRANTIES OR GUARANTEES OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT WOULD EVER MAKE YOU SUE, EVER, SO DON'T EVEN FUCKING TRY.

    If someone created such a thing, and standardized it, with standard royalties, wouldn't this mean the artists got paid, the radio stations didn't go bankrupt, and the RIAA could go fuck itself?

    • Well...based on the agreement you posted, each internet radio station would need 2-3 accountants just to figure out what "25 PERCENT of all revenue associated with this MP3 STREAMING" would be for each artist that signed the agreement. Not to mention the hassle of removing songs from the playlist when "SOME DATE IN THE FUTURE" comes up.

      The RIAA realized some time ago that accounting with that level of granularity is more hassle than it is worth. Stations would much prefer to only have to mail one check to ASCAP/BMI than to deal with the hassles of paying every content source.

      Then there's the fact that many small labels have an explicit goal to be bought out by the RIAA labels. That's the business model for many small labels. So why would they want to sign an agreement that makes them less appealing to the RIAA?

      Oh...and what were you thinking with #4? This license would inherantly supercede any compulsory license so you wouldn't need to waive that right. Compulsory licenses only govern situations where there is no other license.
      • Good points, but I think the problems you bring up can be surmounted. And remember, IANNNHIEBAL.

        each internet radio station would need 2-3 accountants just to figure out what "25 PERCENT of all revenue associated with this MP3 STREAMING" would be for each artist that signed the agreement. Not to mention the hassle of removing songs from the playlist when "SOME DATE IN THE FUTURE" comes up.

        Automation, my friend! Some clever type will surely find a way to track this automatically - I could probably do it in Excel, but there are surely better ways. Remember, there are only a couple of variables (expiration date, royalty amount, number of minutes spent streaming each item) and they are NOT hard to track. Total revenue is pretty easy to figure out too. Send a check a quarter to each publisher using Quickbooks. Maybe some very clever type will offer a clearinghouse service that provides all this for a small fee. Not a hard one to solve.

        And really easy to solve if your revenue is zero, eh?

        Stations would much prefer to only have to mail one check to ASCAP/BMI than to deal with the hassles of paying every content source.

        True, and that is the drawback of this. But again: an automated in-house tool or ASP clearinghouse can solve this problem and allocate royalties fairly, not just based on the frequency Britney Spears gets played.

        Then there's the fact that many small labels have an explicit goal to be bought out by the RIAA labels. That's the business model for many small labels. So why would they want to sign an agreement that makes them less appealing to the RIAA?

        Tough shit. If the artist wants to be more appealing to a RIAA label, great; but if this type of license were broadly available, the artist would give up a lot of exposure by choosing to forego this more lucrative and fairer license.

        This license would inherantly supercede any compulsory license

        Under current law, yes; but perhaps Congress might try to make the compulsory license a little more compulsory in the future. Can't hurt to protect yourself.

        • You can virtually count on Congress making the compulsory license really compulsory at some point soon.

          Even with all the regulation piling on to the simple act of putting together a mix of a few cool songs and streaming it, I would be surprised if at least *some* tiny little sub-genre of music gets into a mutual "I hereby grant you permission to play my music" club. Probably several little music scenes will do so. Eventually, some artist will get big enough to attract attention.

          Do you think the RIAAcketeers are going to sit around and let anyone operate without their say-so? Sure, it would mean legalizing a monopoly for the group at a time when they should be charged with racketeering, but do you think that's going to stop anyone in Congress from doing this? I'm sure there's a way to get a "what about the kids" in there somewhere.

          • Right .. which is why it's important to establish these relationships NOW, without a venture-funded company like emusic or MP3.com (now owned by Universal) or Napster (now owned by Bertelsmann) getting in the way. Now, while there's a lot of demand for indie tunes and consumer anger over RIAAcketerring (love that term!) - before the lobbyists and regulators find a way to prevent it.
        • If the artist wants to be more appealing to a RIAA label, great

          Dealing on the level of the individual artist would drive a stream operator nuts. There's just too many of them and since they're all pretty much out to get exposure, there's no easy way to find the good ones. Stream operators tend to deal with indie labels who find talented acts and find ways to promote that talent.

          but perhaps Congress might try to make the compulsory license a little more compulsory in the future

          So you're suggesting that if a copyright holder licenses a piece of content to someone else that the government may step in and declare that license to be invalid in favor of a different license? Compulsory doesn't mean that anyone is forced to use only that license, it *only* applies when no other agreement exists. Compulsory licenses exist so that copyright and patent holders cannot withold content that the public feels need be made public and yet still compensate them for their intellectual property. AFAIK, there's no such thing as a mandatory license. People are free to agree to whatever terms they want as long as they meet the legal requirement of what constitutes an agreement.
  • by Scoria (264473)
    It's truly ironic that we, The Free People (tm), must consider relocating to another country (vacating the "free" one) in order to avoid affiliating ourselves with a monopoly.

    Equal rights, yeah. This country is rapidly becoming a bastardization of what it once was, courtesy of the media conglomerates.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    No one has answered my question...what about college radio stations? I am the IT Director at my college radio station and we would be forced to shut down due to these webcasting fees. While in theory our station could keep running by expanding our talk shows and live sports broadcasts, we will lose probably 90% of our listeners. I know for a fact that I wouldn't want to listen to someone talk all day, I would want to hear some good tunes. So much for being a service to the college community.
    • First, these webcasting fees would have absolutely no impact on your normal broadcasting operations. As long as you pay your ASCAP/BMI fees (which tend to be pretty reasonable), you're free to continue your over-the-air broadcasts.

      Second, there's a nice loophole in these regulations for stations that also operate a FCC licensed over-the-air broadcast. This probably applies to you. The fees will probably still be quite exorbitant, but they might not be the death sentence that they are to most internet broadcasters.

      Third, these regulations only govern the compulsory license to stream content. You're free to negociate your own agreement with content owners. Even the large record companies are much more willing to be reasonable with more established entities (a university with a real FM broadcast is more established than a stream run by a sysadmin in his spare time)
  • I've listen to very little commercial radio for the past 3 years but quite a bit of NPR and other public broadcast radio. I've also taken to sending them donations when I can. I listen to Soma quite a bit now too and will be sending them what I can as well. If there's anything your favorite 'net broadcasters need to keep running it's money just as much as hounding our reps. So send it in! Thanks Soma, Indie and Groove salad, good shiznit!
  • multicast (Score:4, Interesting)

    by austad (22163) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @03:15PM (#3567258) Homepage
    Why don't stations stream in multicast? True, many routers are not set up by default to route multicast and some firewalls will not pass it without some extra configuration, but a certain percentage of listeners could certainly utilize it. It would save a bundle on bandwidth costs both for the broadcaster, and for companies who have employees that listen to the stuff (about 20 people here stream music from SomaFM all day long). Multicast has been around forever, but hardly anyone uses it. The biggest app I know of that uses multicast is some crazy stock quote streaming program from dbc.com.
    • Twenty people there stream music from SomaFM all day long?

      Agreed multicast would be Soma's best offering, but have you thought about running a local repeater? Not only would Soma thank you, but your employer/educational institution/bandwidth provider would too!

      It's relatively easy to configure icecast to rebroadcast another streaming session; check out this link [mdn.org] for an interesting test case: Missouri's House and Senate.

      (PS: Pass this link around -- not only is it a good example of bandwith savings, but it also helps alleviate the myth that mp3 == illegal music!)

  • Someone else pointed out that there is an exclusion for webcasts of streams that also go over the airwaves.

    Why don't the webcasters get together and buy a cheap transmition license in BFE Alaska. Then they digitally mix ALL their streams together and broadcast it over their ONE channel.

    It would sound aweful but might solve the problem by triggering the exclusion.
  • I love somafm.com, I really need to give those guys some money. Groove Salad is *exactly* the kind of music I want to listen to when I'm sitting at a computer doing some work.
    If independant net radio gets killed by CARP/DMCA, who is going to provide a service that meets my needs? Sure as hell not the music companies, they'll want me to listen to the shitty bands they're wasting A&R money on.
    I've certainly not come across any AM/FM radio stations in this country (UK) that play exclusively ambient/downtempo stuff. I have discovered so many excellent bands through Groove Salad and gone on to buy their music - the record companies have sure as shit made a profit from me because of SomaFM that they wouldn't have done otherwise.
    Idiots.
    • Re:nicheness (Score:2, Interesting)

      by lpret (570480)
      I just looked at all of the CDs (30) I bought in the last 12 months, and all of them were artists I had heard on internet radio. This is mostly stuff off of GrooveSalad or Bassdrive [bassdrive.com] . I live in Dallas, one of the ten largest cities in the nation, and the only electronica I get is 3 hours on saturday night -- and it's mostly house. Without internet radio, there is no way to find out about the smaller bands thus it seems these smaller bands should be irate over this. Perhaps.
  • They have until June before the final rejection happens. It's up in the air until then.

    Sheesh.
  • If a radio station was to get permission from the holder of the copyright of the sound recording - they could broadcast it without being subject to the DMCA compulsory license. It would not be easy to do this, and would require a lot of paperwork

    Fuck, you can play my music. If you're having trouble finding independant artist music to play, you ain't looking. I will *beg* you guys to play my tunes if you tell me whose ass to kiss.

The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.

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