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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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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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Performance Rights Act (HR 848) Approved, on way to passing

The House Judiciary Committee approved the Performance Rights Act (HR 848) today, with 21 in favor, 9 not in favor.

It includes these rates that apply only to over the air broadcasts:

Any station that makes less than $100,000 annually will pay only $500 annually for unlimited use of music.

Any station that makes less than $500,000 but more than $100,000 annually will pay only $2500 (half of the amount in the original version of the bill) annually for unlimited use of music.

Any station that makes less than $1,250,000 but more than $500,000 annually will pay only $5000 (unchanged since the bill was introduced)) annually for unlimited use of music.

The bill also includes a statement of "Parity for all radio services" which establishes a “placeholder” standard to determine a fair rate for all radio services that will encourage negotiations between the stakeholders

As I've mentioned before compared to AM/FM broadcasters, Webcasters currently get a really bad deal: A webcaster with 1.25 million in revenue would be paying about $140,000 while an over-the-air broadcaster would only pay $5000. A webcaster with $250,000 in revenue would be paying $25,000 a year while an over-the-air station would pay 1/10th that.

SomaFM joined over 300 other broadcasters in signing a letter to Chairman Conyers and Ranking Member Smith [PDF] asking them to amend the Performance Rights Act to extend small broadcaster protections to small webcasters.

On the webcasters side, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California spoke passionately and convincingly of this need to extend small broadcaster royalty limits to small webcasters. Unfortunately, a specific webcaster inclusion was not put in this version of the bill, so we'll need to do more lobbying of Congress to get it included in the final bill.

In related news, The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009 was also introduced. The text is basically the same as the WSA 2008, the biggest difference being instead of a specific date for submitting deals for publication (a deadline which has already passed) the new bill gives 30 days from enactment to finalize deals.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

NAB and SoundExchange make deal.

Radio Ink and other journals are reporting that NAB and SoundExchange have made a deal:

"The new agreement keeps the per-performance rate structure but reduces the rates set by the Copyright Royalty Board for 2009 and 2010 by about 16 percent and establishes rates for 2011-2015. This year's rate is $0.0015 per streamed recording, moving up to $0.0025 in 2015. The CRB rates were $0.0018 for 2009 and $0.0019 for 2010."

For a station that plays music 24/7, and assuming 10 songs per hour, this equates to about $11 (in 2009) scaling to $18 (in 2015) per concurrent listener per month (or AQH persons) for their internet broadcasts... or in listener hours, 1.5 cents (2009) to 2.5 cents (2015) per listener hour per month for internet streams.

For a station doing 150,000 hours a month (205 average concurrent listeners per month) that would be around $2250 a month in SoundExchange royalties. 150,000 hours a month is typical of a lot of larger-market FM simulcast netcasts, to that's a typical number.

But we have way more listeners on net than that, and do more like 3 million listener hours (counting only US listeners). So SomaFM would be paying over $45,000 a MONTH at these rates. (Actually more, because without commercials, we play more songs per hour than an AM/FM station does.)

The only way this makes sense for broadcasters is if they're predominately talk or they're getting waivers in exchange for airplay of tracks.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

H.R.7084 passed in the Senate!

Monday, September 29, 2008

NAB drops opposition to HR 7084

I just got a call from Dennis Wharton at NAB, who told me that the NAB is now supporting the bill.

From what I'm reading on cnet and a few other places, NAB was concerned that they wouldn't get their own deal in time and didn't want to have web-only broadcasters get an unfair advantage over them. But a compromise they asked for was simple: extend the date of the bill to Feb 15th, 2009, and they're all for it.

No problem! The date extension is useful to other groups as well who are trying to negotiate deals, and the only possible opposition of the date extension would possibly be SoundExchange- just because they want to see this settled ASAP and not to continue dragging on.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Zoe Lofgren supporting the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008

Zoe Lofgren (D - CA) on the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008. It passed in the house, but still needs to pass in the Senate, and the NAB is opposing it.

Don't forget: we still need to get it passed in the Senate!

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 passes in the House!

Thanks to everyone who called their representatives. The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 has passed the house, now it's onto the Senate. We'll need to call them in the next 24 hours and ask for the support of "HR 7084, The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008" (it's still called HR even though it's in the Senate).

Look up your Senator's phone number and call them. You can leave a voice message after hours.

All you need to say is "Please support HR 7084, The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008, in the Senate. I support internet radio and want to see a fair royalty agreed upon."

The Senate will resume Monday morning, September 29th, and will consider this in the morning. If we leave messages this weekend, we can show that there is considerable grass roots support for it, and it will greatly lessen the impact of the NAB's opposition to it. And calling on Monday as well is a good thing to do; as there is a good chance it won't be passed first thing.

Summary & Background

H.R. 7084 contains technical amendments to the Small Webcasting Settlement Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-321) which will permit commercial and noncommercial webcasters to negotiate royalty rates and terms other than those determined by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) in its May 2007 decision. That decision was the basis for legislation introduced last year and is currently subject to a legal challenge at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has, thus far, upheld the market rates and terms set by the CRB.

The principal purpose of the legislation is to facilitate a reduction in Internet streaming rates, something H.R. 7084 will permit to be voluntarily negotiated by willing parties rather than imposed by Congress. Essentially, this bill will allow SoundExchange, the organization which collects royalties on behalf of the music industry, to reach a settlement with the Digital Media Association, the national trade organization for the online audio and video industries.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

NAB opposing Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008

According to CNET: NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters, is opposing the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008:

(CNET quoting a NAB representative) "NAB has concerns related to Congress attempting to fast-track a bill introduced less than 24 hours ago that could have serious implications for broadcasters, webcasters, and consumers of music. NAB spent more than a year trying to work out an equitable agreement on webcasting rates, only to be stonewalled by SoundExchange and the record labels. We will continue to work with policymakers on a solution that is fair to all parties."

I don't get it, you'd think this would be in AM/FM's interests as well, as it will let NAB negotiate a deal and have it codified as well. This doesn't limit deals to a single, specific organization.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property passed the Performance Rights Act

The fight between the RIAA and the NAB is heating up.  The RIAA scored one when the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property passed the Performance Rights Act. I have mixed feelings about this.  I don't like the fact that net radio has to pay high royalties while over the air radio doesn't.  On the other hand, I don't want to see AM/FM broadcasters forced to pay the same ridiculous rates that we have to pay. 
I really think this is going to backfire on the RIAA and it's major label members.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Performance Royalty Debate

I'm going to miss this as we'll be setting up for the Bay Area Takeover day party at SXSW, but if you care about the state of radio royalties, go check out this panel.

south by southwest festivals + conferences: "The Performance Royalty Debate
Room 12AB
Thursday, March 13th
11:45 am - 1:00 pm


The United States is the only territory in which terrestrial radio is exempt from paying performance royalties to performers. A coalition of groups is seeking to reverse this anomaly and bring US policy in line with the rest of the world. This legislation faces strong opposition from the broadcast lobby. What are the issues at stake, and what are the chances that Congress will make it law?"

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Friday, November 16, 2007

No one is listening to over the air radio anymore.

Over the air radio continues to bleed listeners. Is is the technology? Is it the programming? Of course, I think it's the latter. Regardless, it's losing audience share. Why? More choices. And as soon as we have internet in cars, AM/FM listening will plummet even more.

Inside Radio 14-Nov-07 reports:

SafariScreenSnapz002.jpg Summer book Persons Using Radio (PUR) numbers declined to their lowest level since Arbitron began keeping statistics in Fall 1998. Radio usage dropped in every cell except 50-54s. Steepest declines continue to be among teenagers and young adults, as their attention is increasingly diverted to other media. That’s especially true among males, with Men 18-24 and 18-34 cells posting the biggest year-over-year declines. But the crowded media world is also taking a toll on the 25-54 money demo, which fell 15.1-14.9. There’s also a disturbing trend among female demos. In the Summer book not a single female cell saw an increase in listening. All but two (50-54 and 65+) declined. Compare that to male demos. While older women mirror the trend of listening less, the Summer book shows Men 45-64 were listening to the radio more.
via Hear 2.0

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Notes from the Platform Equality hearing

Rep. Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, held a hearing on "Platform Equality", which would end the decades long royalty exemption for terrestrial broadcasts.

House Hearing on Ensuring Artists Fair Compensation

Howard Coble (R-NC), Steve Cohen, (D-TN), Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) were among those voicing support for the proposal to end the terrestrial broadcast sound recording performance royalty exemption.

The three main arguments for this according to Berman:

    • The exemption was never justified under copyright law
      Calbe, Satellite and Internet have to pay these royalties. There should be no discrimination based on platform.
      US us the only major country that doesn't have a sound recording performance right.
  • Terrestrial broadcasters currently only pay royalties to the composers of the music; the "musical work". They do not pay for the use of the sound recording. In 2005, broadcasters paid $450 million in muscical work performance royalties.

    Issa stated that congress is preparing to reorganize section 114 of the copyright act. (This is the sections that covers royalties for internet, satellite and cable services and provides exemptions for some other uses, such as use of music in business environments.)

    Issa spoke a lot about HD radio, and the threat it makes to sale of CDs. He is under the impression that the 64kb or lower compressed digital audio sounds as good as CD. HD does not stand for High Definition. It stands for "Hybrid Digital". Unlike HDTV, which improved the signal quality delivered to consumers, HD radio is not a marked improvement. Signal to noise ratios are improved, but there are audible compression artifacts in the audio.

    Issa also talked about a flood of HD radio recording devices that automatically split tracks coming out soon. (I think he's extremely wrong on this, there is so little uptake on HD hardware, there are only 2 or 3 HD radios on the market right now, and they're selling very poorly. I've heard a statistic several times that say an American is more likely to be run over by a bus than they are to listen to HD radio in the last year.)

    Steve Cohen, who represents Memphis, TN,

    San Jose, CA representative Zoe Lofgren was the only rep to speak out on the importance of small, independent internet (and non-internet) braodcasters. While she's not necessarily opposing the rate, she wants a rate that won't hurt small and non-commercial broadcasters.

    (more later)

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    Monday, July 30, 2007

    Performance Right and Platform Parity webcast

    Tuesday, 31-Jul-07, Elise and I will be attending the hearing of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Hearing on Ensuring Artists Fair Compensation: Updating the Performance Right and Platform Parity for the 21st Century hearings will be webcast live(RealVideo)

    I'll post an archive link as soon as I get it.

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    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    SoundExchange starts new lobbying organization

    SoundExchange starts new lobbying organization: the Music First Coalition to go after over-the-air broadcasters and remove the exemptions they were granted in the copyright act.

    Mark Kadesh is the executive director of the Music First Coalition, a new lobbying coalition started by SoundExchange to go after over-the-air broadcasters for more music royalties.

    Mark Kadesh, previously the Chief of Staff for Senator Dianne Feinstein, recently joined Bartlett Bendall, and they've changed their name to Bartlett, Bendall & Kadesh.

    You can see why Senator Feinstein hasn't been too receptive to internet radio issues; her former chief of staff seems to have been in bed with the RIAA lobby.

    And SoundExchange is one of Bartlett, Bendall & Kadesh's clients, as is the RIAA, MPAA and NBC Universal as well as Universal Music Group.

    Their current and past clients include:

    ALDRICH CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM
    AMGEN, INC
    APPLIED DNA SCIENCES
    BICKEL & BREWER
    BLACK WARRIOR - CAHABA RIVERS LAND TRUST
    BOND MARKET ASSN
    CALIFORNIA HEALTHCARE INSTITUTE
    CITY OF CALERA, ALABAMA
    COALITION FOR FAIR & AFFORDABLE LENDING
    COUNTRYWIDE FINANCIAL
    EASTERN HEALTH SYSTEM INC
    EQUIFAX
    FEDERAL HOME LOAN BANK OF ATLANTA
    FEDERAL HOME LOAN MORTGAGE CORP
    FINANCIAL SERVICES INSTITUTE
    FIRST DATA
    GENENTECH, INC
    HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
    INTEL
    LINCOLN CENTER FOR PERFORMING ARTS
    LOVE TERMINAL PARTNERS
    MAINE MEDICAL CENTER
    METLIFE
    METROPOLITAN WATER DISTRICT OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
    MORGAN STANLEY
    MOTION PICTURE ASSN OF AMERICA
    NATL CENTER FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME
    NBC UNIVERSAL
    OPTIMAL GROUP INC
    PMI GROUP INC
    RESOURCES LEGACY FUND FOUNDATION
    SOUNDEXCHANGE
    SOUTH COAST AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT DISTRICT
    SOUTHEASTERN ECONOMIC ALLIANCE
    SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON
    UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP
    WASHINGTON MUTUAL BANK
    WESTERN UNION

    (Source: US Senate Registrant/Client List and Senate Identification Numbers)

    They also list their current clients on their web site, which includes the RIAA.

    There is some lively discussion about this over at the Slyck Forums.

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    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    NAB supports Internet Radio Equality Act

    From the trade journal FMBQ: "The radio board of the National Association of Broadcasters recognizes that the new streaming rates established by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) will cause significant harm to broadcasters that stream over the Internet," the NAB said in a statement. "The radio board supports a comprehensive approach to addressing the CRB rate determination, including legislation that vacates the CRB decision and establishes an interim royalty rate structure."

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