Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at http://rusty.somafm.com/. You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here. For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to http://rusty.somafm.com/feeds/posts/default.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Signing off for a while

I've published this blog using tools from Blogger for quite a while, and as of May 1st, Google/Blogger.com are discontinuing the way we publish this blog. They want blogs to be hosted completely on their machines, rather than on our webservers.

So for a while, I'll be signing off this blog. The posts should stay around, but the comments will no longer work. The same goes for the SomaFM blog.

As soon as I have some spare time, I'll install something new (likely Moveable Type) and port the old blog into it.

So after May 1st, this version of the blog will go into a hibernation state. In the mean time, you can follow @SomaFmRusty on twitter.



Thursday, April 8, 2010

Speaking at RAIN Summit in Las Vegas

Going to Vegas for the NAB show? I'll be attending and speaking at the RAIN Summit on internet broadcasting at the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel, Monday, April 12, 2010, 10am-7:00pm. Hope to see you there!

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Monday, March 22, 2010

WorldSpace announces potential decommissioning of satellites - washingtonpost.com

The satellite radio business isn't doing so well. Worldspace, the Sirius XM of Africa and Asia, is in bankruptcy and has announced plans to shut down.

WorldSpace announces potential decommissioning of satellites: "The procedure would involve steering the WorldSpace satellites into a higher orbit, out of the way of others, said Tobias Nassif, vice president of satellite operations and engineering at Intelsat, which would assist WorldSpace."

Part of the problem stems from the fact that there was no "standard" receiver for Satellite radio. Not only were Sirius and XM's systems proprietary, so were Worldspace's. It's a shame there wasn't a single platform that will work with both services.

I'm wondering what next will happen with Sirius XM. Their two satellite systems are incompatible. Will they turn off one to save money? I'm still betting they'll make one exclusively into a mobile video delivery system, and the other will be for audio services; at which point they'll spin off the TV service to Dish or DirecTV.

I'm also curious as to what it costs to run the uplinks and control for those satellites. If someone wanted to run Worldspace as a non-subscription service what would the base transmission operations cost? (I guess I have to look at their SEC filings to find that out. Maybe a better question is: how inexpensively could you operate the system for?)

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another study shows that listening to free internet radio leads to music sales

ArsTechnica, quoting NPD analyst Russ Crupnick speaking at the Digital Music Forum East conference in New York this week:

"NPD noted that free Internet radio is tied to a 41 percent increase in paid downloads too. Not only could it be sating people's interest in hearing songs before they spend money (one of the major reasons to use P2P in the first place), but it's helping users discover new music as well."

That certainly goes along with all the email and comments we receive from listeners about how SomaFM has expanded their musical horizions and led them to buy more music.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

OiNK Admin Found Not Guilty

via Torrent Freak: OiNK Admin Found Not Guilty: "the jury returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty"

I love this quote:

“In many societies he’d be an innovator, a creator, a Richard Branson. His talent would be moulded, not crushed by some sort of media organization,” he said.

One of the most important things about Oink was that it indexed a huge number of rare, out of print vinyl releases. Oink was full of music that was impossible to find through any other ways.

I look forward to the future when the big record labels learn to embrace services like this, entering into licensing deals which will make more music available to more people, rather than trying to shut down a service that facilitates the distribution of otherwise impossible to find music.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Hello dear radio station!

We get email messages like this, all similarly worded, all asking for free promotional items or photos or stickers, etc.
Hello dear radio station!
I like listening to your transmission!
For many years I'm your fan, your transmission is very interesting!
I would like to know more about your radio station.
I'd like to get your photo with your autograph DJ.
And then an address in Russia.

The funny thing is we get several of these a week, to various email addresses at SomaFM, all from different addresses and cities in Russia.

Some are more demanding, asking for caps and t-shirts for them and their friends; or asking for CDs and other free giveaways.

By now, we've probably received over 100 letters like this. At first, it was fun thinking that we had fans all over Russia. But then I noticed that all the messages were generic and none of them actually referenced our programming. Some say things like "I love Black Metal music!"... obviously they don't actually listen to our station.

Is it some fad in Russia to have overseas radio promo items?

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Phasing out 24-56kb MP3 streams

We're going to be phasing out our lower bitrate MP3 streams in 2010, and replace them with aacPlus feeds. 24-32k MP3 streams will become 32k aacPlus streams, which sound so much better than the existing 32k streams. 56k MP3 streams will become 64k aacPlus streams.

Eventually, we'll offer 32k and 64k aacPlus streams for all our channels, 128k MP3 streams for compatibility, and 32kb Windows Media streams.

iTunes 9 now has full support for aacPlus (AAC-HE) streams, and this was the main player that didn't support it. Since 1/3-1/2 of all our traffic is people listening in iTunes, this was something that held us back from making more of a switch to aacPlus before now.

We will also be adding Flash-based streaming this year, which will work well for many people in office settings where they can't install a media player.

The listener numbers for the low bitrate MP3s has drastically fallen over the last year, and I can't think of any reason to keep the low-bitrate MP3 streams running. If you think we should for some reason, leave a comment and let me know.

I'm hoping that we'll get more adoption of the 64kb aacPlus streams which frankly sound as good or better than the 128k MP3 streams.

Happy 2010!

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Senate Judiciary passes Performance Rights Ace

Nasdaq wire is reporting The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill to require radio stations to pay royalties to performers when their music is aired. (Music First representatives have also confirmed this.)

While the bill is still a long way from passing, this is the most important hurdle it needed to clear.

I have mixed feeling about this. While I don't think it's fair that one group (terrestrial radio) gets to use something for free that another group (digital broadcasters) has to pay a large fee to use. (We pay 10-12% of our revenues because we're a "small webcaster", large webcasters like Pandora have to pay 25% of their revenues just to cover the sound recording copyright. (BMI,SESAC,ASCAP royalties for the underlying composition amount to another 4-5%).

The more commercial indie labels I talk to all want a reasonable royalty that's consistent across similar platforms (analog or digital). They value the exposure they get from the radio, but they're also looking for additional streams of revenue. I can understand that.

There are also plenty of netlabels and very indie-artist run labels who aren't to the stage of "maximizing revenues" from their portfolio of works, and are more interested in getting the free publicity that radio offers them. To many labels, the exposure is much more important than the royalty revenue.

My fear is that despite the intentions of MusicFirst, soon after this gets passed, the RIAA labels will band together to raise the rates paid by the over the air guys to match the levels paid by (and that some say is bankrupting) internet broadcasters.

And if that happens it will be the end of terrestrial broadcast music. The only thing on the FM dial will be talk shows, religious and spanish programming. And that will be kind of sad. And ultimately not serving to the music industry.

Hopefully, my fear won't come to pass.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

You have to pay them to play their stuff?

SomaFM listener Robert hits the radio royalty thing on the head:
Beginning with iTunes and through that my intro to your excellent station, I was not listening to music at all. For me was impossible to listen too on a lot of levels. So you introduced me to electronica, remix jazz and the like. Well now I am looking at my purchased iTunes library with  1700 + songs. I was thinking; "You have to pay them to play their stuff?", they should be paying you for bringing them customers like me , where else am I or anybody else going to hear this. Personally I like listening to music again, Thank You!
Most of the indie artists we play feel this way, and many of the independent labels feel this way too. For the most part, it's the big labels with lots of back-catalog that don't see the value in radio play.

If the royalties we pay were much lower (in line with what is proposed for terrestrial radio), this wouldn't be a big issue. But considering that SoundExchange is now pushing for higher and higher rates, there isn't much hope of our getting a royalty rate on par with what the terrestrial guys will likely get.

Looks like our ultimate solution will be directly licensing tracks from artists and indie labels, and play less and less music from the big labels. (We already play less than 20% of our music from big labels, so that won't be too hard.)

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Snow Leapord support for aacPlus

I just noticed that the Snow Leopard Quicktime player now plays aacPlus over http via a .pls file right out of the box. If you get info while playing an aacPlus stream, it doesn't say anything special to indicate it's aacPlus: just AC, 2 channels, 22050hz. But it really is playing back as a 44.1 stream (remember that aacPlus synthesizes all audio over 10khz).

Strangely, though, RTSP streams in quicktime are NOT playing back in aacPlus! The are played back only as AAC (and hence sound like they're 22khz files rather than 44.1.)

To try it out, open up http://somafm.com/groovesalad48.pls from within Quicktime Player. You don't get Metadata but you do get the stream in full fidelity.

Now try the RTSP version:


Also, seems that the new Quicktime X doesn't support QTL files anymore. (This breaks all the quicktime links on the SomaFM site, we can change them to .mov files).

PS- Rumor is tomorrow's announcement of iTunes 9 will include aacPlus playback. That would indeed be exciting is that was the case!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Yahoo Launch wins appeal ruling over license fees

Newsday: Online radio service wins ruling over license fees:

"In short, to the degree that LAUNCHcast's playlists are uniquely created for each user, that feature does not ensure predictability,' the appeals court said. 'Indeed, the unique nature of the playlist helps Launch ensure that it does not provide a service so specially created for the user that the user ceases to purchase music."
This bodes well for Pandora as well, rumors were circulating saying that the RIAA was going to go after Pandora claiming it was an interactive service as well.

Interactive services, or "Music on Demand" services, are not covered by the DMCA/CRB compulsory license, and have to be individually negotiated with the copyright owners. The original suit dates back to 2001 and originally was settled in Yahoo Launch's favor.

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