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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

Online, off the air

This past weekend, in the course of co-writing an article, my partner and I were given the opportunity to interview members from two fantastic, critically-acclaimed, up-and-coming rock bands. (Which bands? Read tomorrow’s IDS Weekend to find out.) In undertaking this endeavor, I had faith that they would want to talk to us despite our being “lowly” student reporters (albeit for an award-winning paper) – and was proven right. Why? Because it has become so absurdly hard to introduce people to new music, that even great bands need all the publicity they can get. \nYou’ve probably heard some of the major reasons for this already: terrestrial radio conglomerates like Clear Channel with narrow, nationally-homogeneous playlists; Viacom’s near-monopoly on music video channels (they own MTV, MTV2, VH1, BET and CMT) and its seeming predilection for filling them with nonmusical programming; the major record labels’ tendency to concentrate marketing money behind established artists and formulas in the hope of a big payday, rather than hedge their bets on many newer sounds, etc. \nAnd some of the hopes for music’s future aren’t quite panning out either. The satellite radio broadcasters XM and Sirius are trying to merge; and MySpace, while providing an outlet for many, many bands, is simply a miserable, headache-inducing mess. \nThus, I find it amazing that the music industry is preparing to wipe out one of the most promising publicity outlets available (with the help of the federal government, no less). A March 2 ruling by the Library of Congress’ Copyright Royalty Board has mandated the more than doubling of royalties that Internet radio stations must pay to broadcast music (from 0.08 cents each time a listener hears a song to 0.19 cents by 2010) and will require broadcasters to pay a minimum $500 for each channel they offer. This 0.11 cent increase may not sound like much, but it adds up quickly given all the listeners, and significant Web broadcasters such as Kurt Hanson of AccuRadio and Tim Westergren of Pandora.com, have estimated that it will wipe out their businesses. This is on top of the fact that Internet radio already pays higher royalties than terrestrial radio, thanks to a profoundly misguided twist in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act which makes Internet broadcasters pay royalties not just to composers (as terrestrial radio does) but also to performers (as terrestrial radio does not – based on the fact that they are compensated by the free advertising radio provides). \nThis decision is so revolting that it has actually managed to get Clear Channel and National Public Radio to make common cause against it. In the latter case, as a noncommercial station, NPR would still be hit with a $500 per channel fee – as, I believe, would our own WIUX (I asked station manager Zach Pollakoff about this and, while he expressed doubt that it would affect WIUX too much, he said he thought it would make things more expensive).\nSo, if you love music, petition and bug your congresspersons. Here’s one place to start: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/saveinternetradio/index.html.

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