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Some Bad News for the Internet Radio Fairness Act

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Intercollegiate Broadcast System, Inc.; Tuesday, challenging the authority of the Copyright Royalty Board – a panel of three judges appointed by the Librarian of Congress. The goal was overturning the Board’s decision that noncommercial educational webcasters pay a $500 annual per channel fee to stream unlimited music. This is not only a defeat for IBS, Inc.; it’s bad news for online music services in their own legislative battles down the line.

hipster1What’s that got to do with hipsters? The most common jest is that hipsters are always lamenting that they were hip to that band way before they sold out and got… * shiver*… popular. Well now hipsters everywhere will be happy (to the extent they can be happy) to know the problem of good independent artists finding commercial success may have just gotten worse as a result of the Supreme Court’s inaction.

The music business for many decades has had the problems of an un-level playing field in the distribution of the product and unfair access for artists to the marketplace. A relatively small amount of record labels and radio companies controlled the lion’s share of the music people were exposed to and it was tough for an unknown band to get noticed. This led to payola, pay-to-play, cocaine in the record jacket and any number of unethical favors, nepotism and other shenanigans that were necessary for musicians and music companies to engage in to make a profit.

Enter the Internet: Now we’re gonna get paid, baby! Well, maybe…

Here’s the deal: You know about Pandora, and these other online services where you can get “free” music streaming through your computer, Ipad and smartphones, right? Turns out they have to pay around six times what companies like SiriusXM and other cable and satellite services must pay artists for song royalties. And get this: “Terrestrial” radio (regular AM/FM stations) don’t pay artists a dime. It is a not so mysterious loophole that allows them to earn tens of billions of dollars off the backs of artists without paying them anything directly. Now these entrenched, lobbyist and lawyered-up establishment distributors of the music industry are fighting to keep the status quo – and they actually have the big name artists fighting alongside of them!pandora

Not too hard to believe, really. Same old story: A group of 125 musicians, including Billy Joel, Rihanna, Missy Elliot and Maroon 5 are fighting against the “Internet Radio Fairness Act” (IRFA) bill which is being pushed by companies like Pandora. The bill levels the amount of licensing fees Internet services like Pandora and Spotify must pay to musicians to be commensurate with cable and satellite services. Forget that AM/FM conglomerates pay them absolutely nothing – these multi-millionaire artists want the Internet stifled for the same reason the big music distributors want them out: To keep their giant piece of the pie. These phony hippocrates are typical of liberals who say they’re for the little guy and fairness, but when the rubber hits the road, they just look to their own pocket books. They have no interest in the lowly struggling artist who will be affected the most by less choice in the marketplace. And that’s exactly what will happen if the IRFA fails as the appeal by the Intercollegiate Broadcast System to the Supreme Court did on Tuesday.

This bill is really just new price-fixing legislation to fix earlier price-fixing legislation and they could just stop all the price-fixing and let the market determine what artists get paid by everyone, including terrestrial stations… I’m sorry, I dosed off there for a second. But seriously, why don’t they just get rid of the first piece of price-fixing and set a price for everyone if they must? Of course, I also said; “why don’t they just reform Social Security and Medicare?” Then I got run over by a bunch of seniors in their Rascals… but I digress.

Bottom line: If the Internet Radio Fairness Act fails, there will be less choice for consumers, less music will be distributed, less unknown artists will be discovered and more money will be concentrated in the hands of the same companies and big music acts. I love the Internet for the main reason that it allows the individual who wants to work hard to get their whatever out to whoever. There are no excuses when you hipster2have a phone line, a lap-top and 18 hours a day my friend – and if you’re a struggling musician – the world of Internet is where it’s at. If you happen to be a hipster, add a stupid looking hat to the list.



Rodney Lee Conover is a writer / performer, living in Southern California’s Mohave Desert

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  1. $18476877 says

    I listen to internet radio. World wide stations. I hear something I like I search it out; My mood at this time has me listening to, two German stations. It’s not for everyone. I have one from Lima Peru I like allot. I lost interest in lame stream, mega station music a long time ago. Same old crap, over and over

    1. BackRoom Radio says

      I’m trying to start an internet radio station. Its an incredibly difficult thing to do. The audio/networking part is pretty easy. Its navigating the legalities, and cobbling together technologies that the big media players have legislated out of the hands of independent online broadcasters. Apple has recently stopped accepting radio apps.. probably a backroom deal with tunein and iheartradio. I can’t get anyone at tunein to answer my emails and iheartradio doesn’t even allow directory listing for internet stations. Google did a nice job of making it nearly impossible to legally stream to an android… if you try to go legal you’re forced into a royalties umbrella account that is technologically akin to driving a model T ford on the autobahn. And I just learned that mobile streaming is somehow a different licensing scheme (one that I can, in no way, afford).
      Its currently a cart-before-the-horse scenario, where only those who already have a giant audience can prosper. And it’s not fair. I can’t even build up to an audience of 100. Without fair access to directories and mobile phones, a startup internet broadcaster has zero chance of ever gaining traction. Without listeners there is no income. Ridiculous. Internet broadcasting costs pennies per day to produce. It should be a cottage industry.

  2. Troy Berkely says

    Well if that is the case then why listen to them in the first place? The solution is pretty simple when you think about it, just don’t listen to what the industry is producing, don’t buy anything they have to offer, then we will see sales plummet is the only way to get their attention. Fight fire with fire, plain and simple! Hit them where it hurts, in their pocket books!

    1. Tuff Guy says

      Do you really think that our obamabot infested country is capable of that kind of coordinated effort? Welcome to unrestrained, cut-throat capitalism. Where the power has the money and the money has the power. Teach your children. It truly is a jungle out there.

      1. Troy Berkely says

        Your right! I can only speak for myself, and educate my children. But education is a start, and getting away from the system is the right path to be on!

  3. Stagester says

    This industry never learns. They actually think they can control the free flow of information (music). Here come the Napsters again.

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