Tomorrow (Tuesday) is Internet radio’s Day of Silence. Most, but not all, Internet radio streams will be mute.
Terrestrial radio simulcasters are on the fence. Greater Media will not stream, CBS will. Clear Channel, at least at this moment, will neither confirm nor deny what it intends to do, which is s.o.p. for those s.o.b.’s.
There’s no need to go into the rationale for this passive protest. It’s been covered here and elsewhere many times over.
After World War II, when some radio stations first played recorded music, the labels protested, contending that if recorded music could be heard for free, no one would buy it.
There was even an ephemeral flap about music being played on FM since that frequency could broadcast music in cleaner fidelity - and in stereo! That protest ended abruptly with the advent of the album rock format. The labels realized that they now had a frequency that could sell big records with small holes to the masses.
Labels have a history of challenging and being hostile toward new technology. They were against releasing music on compact disc before they were for it. They claimed CDs flawlessly duplicated their master recordings. They flip flopped when they realized that baby boomers would buy their vinyl record collection all over again on CD.
(Some labels, in their rush for greed, didn’t thoroughly check over their recording contracts, which, in some cases, had loopholes allowing artists like The Beatles and David Bowie control of their masters for release on CD.)
When did you start listening to music? How old were you? Six? Eight? Ten? Twelve? Age doesn’t really matter. What does is how you and your friends listened to music.
Of my five closest friends, two of us bought records – weekly. Three didn’t. But we all listened to the radio daily and had had our favorite songs. Those that didn't buy records couldn't be encouraged to do so. They listened to our stuff.
When radio fundamentalists seized control and changed it into a predictable antiseptic medium, younger demos, those most in tune with new media, found other sources and Internet radio and illegal downloading, along with word-of-mouth supplanted terrestrial radio as destinations for new music. Terrestrial radio played what they were paid to play while Internet radio provided the veritable cultural soundtrack. Those downloading new music based on street buzz and word-of-mouth do so to check out a recommended song.
Of those I know who illegally download music – of all ages – roughly two out of five, four out of ten - the same percentage as forty years ago - buy music. They replace an illegally downloaded song they like with a superior fidelity version from iTunes and delete whatever songs didn’t hit their hot button. The music buyer forty years ago didn't want singles that skipped. Today's music buyer won't settle for second-rate highly compressed versions of their favorite songs.
If you’ve read this blog before, you know my views as well as the facts about the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Calling them scofflaws and serpents is being kind. Some of the best embezzlers maintain impeccable reputations – but the RIAA can’t even pull that image off.
To the rascally RIAA a symbol is more important than the truth.
Moving right along, we come to the mailing lists of the major labels. They don’t promote or e-mail music to Internet radio stations and for good reason. The label promotion departments only care about chart positions. That’s why Billboard carries so many. Since they can’t track and chart Internet radio airplay (yet) – they ignore a potentially huge new music audience.
Even worse, the reprobates at the RIAA want to penalize you. The more listeners an Internet radio station has, the greater the fee they want to charge. Isn’t that rewarding failure? Isn't that just plain bass-ackward?
It’s not just an industry where rust never sleeps, corrosion is actually encouraged.
True, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Clinton in 1997. It may be law – but that doesn’t mean it's fair.
Among other things, my company, in partnership with another, offers career consultation to artists, which provides services and opportunities to maximize their revenue – including payment for performance – whether live or recorded.
Trying to rip-off Internet radio is not among them.
Getting their music exposed and reaching as many potential fans as possible is.
Even if I believed the RIAA – the lobby wing of the multinational label groups – would actually pay the performers for airplay, I’d be against it in its present form.
We know better. Most artists never receive all – and often any - of the royalties owed them. And it’s as prevalent today as it was back in the fifties and sixties.
What makes one think the ethically impaired RIAA would insure that every artist played on Internet radio would get their fair share of royalties? Absolutely nothing. We’re supposed to take the RIAA at its word?
To paraphrase an old R&B hit - who’s gonna police the R I double-A / while they’re out policing you?
The RIAA claims they’re getting ripped off by Internet radio? Pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot. They’ve told that lie so many times even they’re starting to believe it.
I won't even get into the RIAA's plans to go after terrestrial radio airplay, too - though I believe it's just a diversion from Internet radio's plight.
Click, if you will, the Music First Coalition’s web site. http://www.musicfirstcoalition.org/.
I read where Motown artists like Martha Reeves (Martha & the Vandellas) and Mary Wilson (formerly of the Supremes) support this issue. I would, too, if my label never properly paid me the royalties due. Didn't Florence Ballard of the Supremes die broke while living in a Detroit housing project? Considering they were the Supremes – one of the top selling acts of the sixties – one would think that Flo would've been rolling in the dough.
Internet radio is a fledging industry. It’s where Internet commerce was a decade ago. To jump start Internet sales Congress agreed that retail business on the Internet would not be taxed.
Terrestrial radio likes to flaunt that Internet radio accounts for only one percent of total radio listening. That being the case, the law should be rewritten that any royalty rates should be calculated by profit. Once an Internet radio station turns a profit, charge ‘em a reasonable percentage based on the top of their rate card. It’s fair, it’s equitable – and it actually provides the labels – whether they want to know it or not – one of the best new mediums to expose their music, regardless of genre.
It makes sense.
Maybe that’s why the RIAA and the labels can’t figure it out.