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March 22, 2002
So long Internet Radio...
There are only two words to sum up how I feel about the latest legal developments in the world of Internet radio: awww, HELL.
You probably have no idea what I am talking about. You would only understand it if you were an Internet broadcaster yourself, or a really, really active listener. I am going to try and give you the "Idiot's Guide" version of all the happennings, and trust me, it's the only one I understand, too.
One day in the 90s someone woke up and declared, "Internet! Let's make some money!" and the World Wide Web as we know it was born. See, at the beginning the Internet was utilized for research and education, and the only folks who had access to it were universities, a few corporations, and some pretty crafty hackers. The folks who ran the show decided to open up the medium to the public, and all of a sudden the thing exploded into a commercial landscape of AOL, Yahoo!, and all the millions of other websites that we surf today (further, did you know the Internet was invented by the Department of Defense? Did you know that while you are reading this very rant you are using a tool of nuclear warfare????).
This scared the crap out of a lot of people. Remember that "dotcom" bubble? Millions of dollars made and then lost within a two year period when everyone thought they could run an online company (we miss you urbanfetch.com! we really do!). That brief period was extremely threatening to the big corporations that thought they would loose revenues because of the transfer of business to online technologies.
Enter the federal government. The feds looked around and said, "Uh oh. We have a whole new distriubition medium going on!" It became evident early on that once something appeared on the web it became "free" and the distribution of information was spiralling out of control. This was a heck of a lot worse than the invention of the tape recorder or VCR. The feds decided to enact legislation that would help ensure that copyright laws were not violated through the new digital medium that we know and love as the Internet.
With the assistance of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act (DPRA) came about in 1995 to protect copyright holders, and then the Digital Mellenium Copyright Act (DMCA) came along in 1998 to provide specific guidelines for the use of digital information.
These documents together enact laws to protect copyright owners, and allow them to sue the pants off people who misuse copyrighted material (the DMCA is what gave the RIAA the right to sue Napster). The DMCA specifically addresses the issue of Internet broadcasting, ie the presentation of real-time, streaming audio material over this digital medium. The act was groundbreaking, because for the first time it stated that the record companies were entitled to performance royalties from a broadcast medium. FM radio does not pay royalties to record companies. But the feds considered digital music to be a more "perfect" copy of the original recording (as opposed to the analog transmission of AM/FM radio), so they decided there was a huge danger of illegal duplication and distribution. Thus, the record companies had to be protected.
Now comes the fun part. The act says that it is okely-dokely to broadcast audio recordings over the Internet as long as certain rules are followed. Mostly they refer to the length of programs, what artists you can play, etc. etc. They closely resemble the rules governing terrestrial (AM/FM) radio. Ever notice how a DJ on FM radio will tell you the artist that is coming up, but will never explicitly tell you the name of the song? Or how about the fact that you rarely hear the same artist for two songs in a row, and never hear a whole album played from start to finish in its entirety?
If you follow their rules, you are granted a statutory license to broadcast over the Internet. However, you also need an ASCAP and/or BMI license, which provides authorization to perform copyrighted works. An artist registers their compositions with one of these associations, and they negotiate on behalf of the artist for royalty payouts from radio stations and other organizations.
Here's a real life example: live365.com wants to host Internet radio stations. Their programming adheres to federal rules so they are granted a statuatory license as per the DMCA. They buy a blanket license from ASCAP to cover the performance rights of every piece of copyrighted material ASCAP has registered (which is about 95% of all the music that exists), and the money they give to ASCAP is distributed to the registered owners of recordings, and therefore the artists and publishers get their cut.
I hope you're still with me. I'm a little confused, too, but let's see if I can wrap this up concisely.
The DMCA said it was up to the RIAA and the webcasters to determine the appropriate fees for record company royalties. They couldn't agree on anything. So the US Copyright Office set up the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP) to determine an appropriate rate for webcasters to pay the record companies.
CARP just came back with their recommendations. They are ridiculously expensive. Especially since they require webcasters to pay retroactively back to the enactment of the DMCA, which was October, 1998. Without getting into the details, large corporate broadcasters such as Yahoo! and Launch will be able to write a nice fat check and be done with it. However, smaller companies that work with the average joe broadcaster (such as myself) will effectively be shut down by the exorbitant fees.
Here's the pisser. Not a dime of that money will go to the artist. This is for the record companies.
Now that you know what's going on, here's my rant about the whole situation:
2. Streaming Internet radio is not a widescale distribution medium. Internet broadcast radio is not an in-demand MP3 service. You have to listen to it as it comes over the broadcast; the listener has no control over the playlist. It is not like owning a Rio or iPod and downloading songs from Napster to load up and make your own super-fly mixes. Internet radio is a programmed, non-interactive service for playing MP3s. There is software that can be used to "capture" Internet streams, and with a little computer savvy a person could extract the MP3s and give them away. However, given the DMCA, this is illegal; and therefore the feds should go after the people who program this type of software, not punish the web-broadcast hosting companies.
3. Streaming radio promotes artists. Terrestrial radio does not pay record company royalties because of the belief that the airplay promotes the artist, and therefore leads to greater record sales. This same argument can be applied to Internet radio. Enough said.
4. Internet radio promotes artists who otherwise do not get airplay. Terrestrial radio is hampered by programming restrictions. Corporate executives sit in an office and under pressure from record companies decide that Britney Spears should be played once an hour, but Radiohead just isn't "poppy" enough for the airwaves. Internet radio provides a medium where independent and lesser known artists can get worldwide airplay. A listener in Argentina, say, can turn on a computer and be exposed to music that they may have never heard otherwise.
5. Internet radio can only assist in increasing record sales. Given point #2 (Internet radio cannot be distributed because of the nature of the streaming format), and especially point #4, Internet radio can only aid record companies in increasing CD sales, especially for smaller record labels and independent artists.
Look. I can accept the fact that webcasting companies have to give the record companies some money. That is the law, as per the DMCA, and I'll be content to follow the federal government's mandates, even though I disagree with them. My issue is with the fees that CARP has come up with. They are unrealistic in an economy where the Internet marketplace is no longer a predominant player in commerce.
Oh dear, wasn't that a loaded sentence. Allow me to justify my statement.
I worked for an online entertainment company (a "dotcom", if you please) and I have seen first hand how the costs associated with operating an online company far exceed the revenue that can be generated through standard business models. Internet business is currently in a holding pattern as companies revise their business models into a manner that will generate revenue. The dotcom economy failed because online businesses took their cues from television and radio, relying on advertisting to generate income. However, when it costs $200,000 per month in servers, bandwidth, technical support, e-commerce vendors, and all the other fess associated with online business (this doesn't even include employee payroll, mind you), a few cents per click on a pop-up ad are not going to drive the company into a profit. Live365.com, for example, used to be free. But they saw the reality of the situation and started charging a small fee for their services. They have been able to stay afloat because they found a new business model: fee-for-service.
Unfortunately the majority of Internet users are unwilling to pay for stuff on the web. Face it: we're spoiled. We've had all this information and multimedia for free since the birth of the World Wide Web, and paying for the privilege of using it just doesn't sit well with the majority of websurfers. It will take some time before subscribers get used to the idea of paying, and companies start generating a consistent profit.
The RIAA and the federal government are amazingly shortsighted in this respect. In 1998, the domination of online companies and e-commerce was a reality. I can understand how the fear of an Internet economy drove the DMCA into action. But four years later the outlook is completely different. I humbly invite every Congressman and RIAA executive to visit Fucked Company and find out what is really going on with Internet businesses. They are laying off employees. They are filing Chapter 11. They are closing their doors. A good example is Spike Radio, an online entertainment/webcasting site that was around only for a year because they couldn't make any money.
The companies that survive best are the ones that have major real-world coprorations behind them. AOL from the begnining was an ISP (Internet Service Provider), and currently generates revenue through monthly access fess. MSN has the mutil-billion dollar backing of Bill Gates and Microsoft. Even HOB.com and barnesandnoble.com exist because they have real-world businesses to feed their operating costs. Sonicnet is run by MTVi, which is associated with MTV, which belongs to Viacom, who also owns VH1, Nickalodeon, and all sorts of other stuff.
Websites operate economically only if they are used to back up pre-existing corporations.
Getting back to the point. All this being said, the only webcasting companies that can afford to pay the new royalty fees (an "Internet tax" is more appropriate) are professional services and large corporations such as Yahoo!, MTVi and AOL. The small companies that are still trying to feel out the Internet economny and generate consistent revenue are going to close up shop. That is all there is to it.
Most of the Live365.com and Shoutcast radio stations are run by independent, non-profit broadcasters, such as myself. The variety of music that is being playing on the Internet today is enormous. And it has been made possible by these small services. Even Live365.com charges a few hundred dollars a month for professional broadcasting services. But as an independent broadcaster, who runs a station for an independent artist, those professional services are not an feasible option. And I submit that most independent artists and broadcasters are in the same position as I am.
So, my dear readers and listeners, we are looking at the downfall of a medium that has been instrumental in promoting independent musicians and small record labels. Without Live365.com and other small webcasting services, we will be listening to the big guys; Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Launch, etc. etc. Their programming is just like that of terrestrial radio: they play only what they are pressured to play, locked into pre-programmed playlists that leave little if not zero room for the independent musician's voice.
Could I buy my own server and set up my own little station? If I had the money, sure. There are other options if small webcasting companies go out of business. But when I see a law that is based on false assumptions, and an outrageous fee schedule based on said assumptions, I see a serious injustice.
And something needs to be done about it.
You can pay a visit to Save Internet Radio for ways in which you can help. Mostly this involves writing your Congressman. Personally, I am dedicated to being outspoken and spreading the facts about this issue; the best I can do is disseminate information, and that's what this little rant is all about. If you see an erroneous error in my facts or logic, please point it out to me. I want to make sure the information I relay is valid.
Here's where I got most of my facts, feel free to check them yourself:
posted by DJOktober at 12:59 AM | link this post! | Comments 
...80's music Rushmore? I nominate Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran), Mike Reno (Loverboy), Pat Benetar, and Dale Bozzio (Missing Persons). (OK, really, I couldn't think of anyone really deserving after Simon and Pat...)
Chaotic Dischord -- Bob and the Boys
Suicidial Tendencies -- Institutionalized
Dead Milkmen -- Big Lizard
Neurotic Outsiders -- Jerk
Dead Kennedys -- Viva Las Vegas
Sex Pistols -- Friggin' in the Riggin'
The Circle Jerks -- When the Shit Hits the Fan
Yello -- Oh Yeah
Trio -- Da Da Da
Julie Brown -- Cause I'm a Blonde
Thomas Dolby -- Hyperactive
Tones on Tail -- Go
Falco -- Rock Me Amadeus
Beastie Boys -- Girls
Revolting Cocks -- Beers, Steers and Queers
Ministry -- Jesus Built my Hotrod
The Timelords -- Doctorin' the Tardis
Meat Beat Manifesto -- I Am Electro
Eiffel 65 -- Blue
Mousse T. v. Hot N' Juicy -- Horny
Basement Jaxx -- Where's Your Head At
Basement Jaxx -- Do Your Thing
This almost illustrates a chronological map of how my musical tastes have shifted over the years. Most of the punk stuff from the beginning I was listening to in High School (except the Neurotic Outsiders which are from 1996; check out this Steve Jones website for more information on them). There are three tracks from the Repo Man soundtrack, a movie I watched at least five dozen times ("Driving makes you stupid..."). The Dead Milkmen rocked my world for years; I saw them at least six times in concert. I used to own the Chaotic Dischord LP "Goat Fucking Virgin Killerz from Hell" (which enraged my parents, of course) and I was always so distraught that I missed the eras of the Sex Pistols and the Dead Kennedys.
The 80s tunes actual pre-date the punk stuff; I am a child of MTV and the video for Thomas Dolby's "Hyperactive" remains branded in my memory to this day. Same with the Julie Brown clip; would you believe I didn't actually see Earth Girls are Easy until 1998???
Tones on Tail, Ministry, Timelords, Revolting Cocks and Meat Beat Manifesto all came along during my college years. This is when I got into industrial music. Unfortunately I didn't actually buy much of it (I was poor, damnit!); my introduction to this brand of music was in the NYC industrial clubs and via mixed tapes from friends. I was insanely thrilled when WaxTrax! (now WTII Records) released their Black Box set in 1994; it is a must have for anyone who dug industrial music from the early 90s (FYI my streaming station Oktober Musings plays a lot of this style of music).
And finally we have a few dance tunes. "Horny" is a nostalgia tune from my days at the Clit Club (a lesbian club in NYC that was made famous because Madonna used to stop by... *gasp*), "Blue" came out when I lived in Miami Beach, FL, and if you've read one of my first blog entries, you'll remember that Basement Jaxx is my current fave groove ("Where's Your Head At" is still my song of the week, by the way).
The cool thing is that I still genuinely enjoy all these styles of music. My musical tastes have expanded over the years, and have never tapered. I think the only music that I will still never enjoy is Country. Oh, and most disco; there's a ramble about that down below (under Yowza, Yowza, Yowza).
Does anyone want a copy of this CD? I love giving shit away, you know....Oh. And if anyone reading this remembers the house song that was from the early 90s and has the phrase "I'll Suck Your Pussy" repeating over and over again, please e-mail me; I need need need to know who sang it 'cause I must add it to my music collection.....
"True Faith" by New Order is a leisurely 4.1 miles an hour.
And in case you like the stairmaster.....
After 9/11 Nile Rodgers re-recorded the song "We Are Family" with a few changed lyrics, and used the song to raise money for various charities. Nile was involved with a movie of the same name, also in reference to 9/11. I looked on the web for more information but couldn't find anything; however if you are in the NYC area, you can see the film at The Screening Room.
Getting back to Nile and Chic. Me and a good friend had gone to Orlando, FL for New Year's Eve 2000-2001 at Disney's Pleasure Island to see Duran Duran. Chic was there as well, playing on a smaller stage. The only part of their show that we actually saw was the sound check. We spent the whole evening watching Duran Duran and in between their sets trying to get warm (it was 40 freakin' degrees that night; under 30 with the wind chill, and we were not dressed for it!!). So we missed Chic entirely. We figured the gigs here in NYC were a good chance to make up for our loss a year and a half ago.
First, the venue. B. B.'s is one of a dozen theme restaurants in midtown Manhattan. I used to love Times Square, in the days of XXX stores, hookers, and sketchy drug dealers. It had a bohemian, artsy feel to it and it was a badge of pride to say, "I am so hardcore I go to Times Square at night." Now it looks like Disney World. It's a place where you emerge from the subway at 11:00PM and find that it is daylight; there are so many spotlights, neon signs, and sparkly, glittery things that for ten blocks New York City is stuck in a state of mid-afternoon. And the people! God, don't get me started. The place is always packed. And god forbid you are trying to do some shopping while N'Sync is on TRL. One whole block becomes imbued with teenagers screaming their lungs out in front of the MTV building.
B. B.'s is right next to the Hello Kitty store, and right across from Madame Tussaud's wax museum. I was standing outside the club remembering the days when that very block had been full of small abandoned theaters with Haikus spelled out on the marquees.....*sigh* Why the hell didn't I take pictures of that block when I loved it so much??
The set up inside was more like a dinner theater than a club. The floor in front of the stage was packed with tables, and there was only a tiny rectangle for dancing. We got there reasonably early and had a good table; we were fairly content to sit down but it would have been nice to have the opportunity to dance if we wanted to. Also, I couldn't smoke. That really sucked. I am a chain-smoker, and when I'm grooving to good music I want my damn nicotine. At least I could smoke at the bar, so I did excuse myself once in awhile to have one.
As with most themed clubs we had to order something; ten dollar minimum per person. We ordered some food and me and my friend settled in for a nice chat. We hadn't been there more then fifteen minutes when the man himself, Nile Rodgers, writer and producer extraordinaire, was spotted right next to our table saying hi to some friends. Now, I had explicit instructions to flag Nile and tell him who had sent me to the gig, but I get nervous around famous people and so I sat there frozen. My friend took up flagging duty, and when he walked by our table a few minutes later she just yelled out his name. So we introduced ourselves, he said to enjoy the show, and he sat down with some friends at the table next to us.
Me and my friend returned to our conversation and our food. About ten minutes later Nile turns to me and goes, "I recognize you. Did someone e-mail me your picture or something?"
Talk about a momentary freak-out. For the next 10 seconds I did a mental catalog of the people I knew and all the pictures I had scanned and I was thinking, "That naked picture from 1992...oh my god, is someone circulating that in spam mail??" Then I realized that I had indeed met him before; sort of. At Disney's Pleasure Island we had shared the same air space in the VIP audience section, and later in the Green Room. It didn't occur to me that perhaps he had seen Late Bar Radio; there are plenty of photos of me on this website. So I mentioned New Year's Eve to him and then said, "In fact, I believe we chatted about the weather!!"
Well, the truth was that my friend had talked to him about the weather. I had just stared at the guy. Ah well, it was me he recognized, so who's paying attention to the details???
And so we talked for a bit. He asked if we had seen Chic at New Year's, and we hung our heads in shame and murmured, "No." Nile replied, "OH! So you were only there to see DURAN DURAN, huh???" My friend came to the rescue (as she always does when I have trouble with social interaction) and quipped, "But we saw your sound check! You sounded really good!" Then we both reassured him that we were there on that night to make up for our terrible oversight on New Year's. Then we chatted about the weather again, New York City, 9/11...some of Chic's gigs, etc. He said he was going to take a nap before the show and excused himself, and left me and my friend...well, stunned.
I couldn't believe Nile recognized me. My hair right now is cropped, short, and bleached, and on New Year's my hair was natural and down to my shoulders; I really looked a lot different than I had a year and a half ago. My friend pointed out that I had a "Very distinctive face." So it was the nose and lip jewelry that jogged Nile's memory. God bless body piercing; it certainly makes one memorable!
Moving on to the gig...allow me start with a disclamer: I know nothing about 70s music. I hate disco. I have no urge to put on bellbottoms and platform shoes and shake my groove thang at 70s night. Although I was a child during the seventies, I grew up on my parents record collection, which was mainly The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Who. That was until I discovered 80s pop group Duran Duran, of course.
My introduction to 70s funk/disco was in the NYC gay clubs in the early 90s. Every night at the Clit Club they played "I'm Coming Out" or "We Are Family" and for years I actually thought those songs were written specifically by and for gay people. I was thinking, "Wow! We have our own songs!" I am older and wiser now and much more educated on the likes of Chic, Diana Ross, and Sister Sledge. I also know now that Nile Rodgers either wrote or produced most of the great songs that the gay community has adopted as their own.
When I put together the very first broadcast for Meltdown Radio (if you don't know what that is, go here), I had to conduct some research on Nile Rodgers and Chic. John Taylor had named Chic as one of his biggest influences, and that first broadcast was about introducing John's music through various other artists. I went to Nile's website and read a timeline on his work. I then listened to a ton of Chic tracks and other 70s tunes that Nile had produced. By the time I was done programming the broadcast, I was a dedicated Nile Rodgers and Chic fan.
The gig was fantastic. Jerry pumped out the funkiest bass I had ever heard and the drummer, Omar, was kick-ass. The band was tight and every note for every song was right on the mark. It was great to see such a talented group of musicians perform together with such ease. And they were obviously having fun, too! Nile had seemed tired when he talked to us, but on stage there was no sign of it. He was all smiles and seemed genuinely glad to be there entertaining the crowd. Montel Williams came up and sang a song (I had no idea that guy could sing!) and during "We Are Family" a whole crowd of Nile's friends (mostly actors and musicians) came on stage to help out during the chorus. The small dance space was packed, and by the end of the set everyone at the tables had stood up to join the fun (much to the waitresses' distress). Nile did a good job working up the crowd, and all I can say is...
"Ain't no party like a disco party!!!!"
Seeing Chic live has given me a whole new musical context for the 70s funk/disco genre. I could really appreciate the music: the bass riffs, the brass, the piano lines, the rhythm...they spent twenty minutes introducing the band and each member had a moment to improv and shine, just like one would hear during a jazz ensemble. It was obvious then how the musicians' disparate backgrounds merged together to create a wholly unique sound that is funk. I think Nile said it best: "We got everything! Gospel, jazz, rock, blues...." In the middle of "Good Times" Nile even chimed in with a few minutes of "Rapper's Delight", so we had classic hip-hop to throw into the mix. And he used a percussionist from Peurto Rico who enriched the sound with a Latin flair.
I discovered that this brand of music is interesting. And frankly, I had never considered that before.
I used to be a music snob. I admit that in the 90s I wrinkled my nose at Nirvana and Pearl Jam and declared their music "simple". See, I was a music historian and an intellect and I deconstructed Wagner operas in my spare time and yelled out chord progressions and rhythmic structures at dance clubs. I didn't want to listen to anything that used a standard "I, IV, V" rock chord progression because it was boring. I even turned my nose at Duran Duran, declaring their reign in the 80s as teenage bubble-gum pop that had no musical merit.
I am happy to say that I no longer suffer from such delusions. It's taken me many years to flesh out my CD collection with the music I used to dismiss without giving it a chance. I already have some Chic and Diana Ross and I think it's time to buy some more. This is great, classic goddamn music and no CD collection should be without it.
I still hate disco. That stupid song with the motif from Beethoven's 5th makes me want run out to the nearest punk club and scream, "Give me the basics, man! Go back to the fucking basics!" But within the genre I so despise there are some great tunes, and I just had to delve a little to find 'em.
Hats off to Nile Rodgers, man. Thanks for the great music, and I hope you keep doing it for years to come.
Jagged Little Pill was alright. I first heard "Ironic" and "Hand in my Pocket" and I liked 'em, but then I heard "Head Over Feet" and cowered in a corner every time that horrendous verse to chorus chord change came up. I mean, ICK! That is just so not pretty to listen to!!! Nor is her wailing "It's all your fault!" in the same blasted key and then dropping back with zero transition back into the verse....
Here's someone who takes Alanis hatried to a new level. And he makes a good point: In "Ironic", she manages to use the word ironic improperly about 800 times...
*sniff* *sob* Am I old? I am one of those folks with a huge nostalgia for vinyl. Seven inches were the bomb....twelve inches were an extra-special treat. And I remember them being dirt cheap; as the article mentions, it used to be easy to hear a song on the radio and then pick up just that one song without buying the whole album. These days the CD Singles are 5, 6, sometimes even 10 bucks; when the whole CD is a few dollars more, what is the point of just buying the single?
One thing the article doesn't mention: what about b-sides? Hrmmm? Vinyl singles always had the fun advantage of rare tracks on the flip side, a track you wouldn't find on the full-length LP and was often just as good (if not better) than the A-side. It was a chance for artists to put out songs that they couldn't fit on an LP or just to have some fun with the extra track.
My most recent single purchases: "Get Ur Freak On" by Missy Elliot and "Desert Rose" by Sting. No "b-sides" (what should we call 'em now? "bonus tracks"? ACK!) on either; just remixes. And sure enough, the Missy Elliot single appears to no longer be available. Well damn y'all to hell, record execs.
This is a blog. It's where I can go on and on about whatever I want to. For this site, it will be about music. What about music, I am not sure. But I am going to start with this:
DJOktober's song of the week: