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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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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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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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Webcasters deserve the same deal as over-the-air Broadcasters

The terrestrial broadcast performance royalty bill, officially known as "The Performance Rights Act" (H.R. 848) [alternative link], will also be considered by the House Judiciary Committee today. Unlike webcasters, the rate would be $5000 a year for stations with revenues up to 1.25 million dollars. A webcaster with 1.25 million in revenue would be paying about $140,000 a year to play the same music.

Doesn't seem fair does it?

If this indeed passes, and there is a good likelihood it will, then we need to demand that webcasters who broadcast non-interactive radio streams should also get to pay those same rates.

Here's the relevant text from the bill:

SEC. 3. SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR SMALL, NONCOMMERCIAL, EDUCATIONAL, AND RELIGIOUS STATIONS AND CERTAIN USES.

(a) Small, Noncommercial, Educational, and Religious Radio Stations-

(1) IN GENERAL- Section 114(f)(2) of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

(D) Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraphs (A) through (C), each individual terrestrial broadcast station that has gross revenues in any calendar year of less than $1,250,000 may elect to pay for its over-the-air nonsubscription broadcast transmissions a royalty fee of $5,000 per year, in lieu of the amount such station would otherwise be required to pay under this paragraph. Such royalty fee shall not be taken into account in determining royalty rates in a proceeding under chapter 8, or in any other administrative, judicial, or other Federal Government proceeding.

(E) Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraphs (A) through (C), each individual terrestrial broadcast station that is a public broadcasting entity as defined in section 118(f) may elect to pay for its over-the-air nonsubscription broadcast transmissions a royalty fee of $1,000 per year, in lieu of the amount such station would otherwise be required to pay under this paragraph. Such royalty fee shall not be taken into account in determining royalty rates in a proceeding under chapter 8, or in any other administrative, judicial, or other Federal Government proceeding.'.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rusty speaking at SXSW on DMCA issues

I'm speaking at SXSWi on "Rewriting the DMCA: How to Improve Section 114":

``This panel will discuss the ugly bits of the Section 114 compulsory license for digital/internet music usage, and what parts are in it for historic reasons that don't apply in todays world; as well as changes that both users of the licenses (webcasters) and content providers (artists, labels) would agree to.``

Tuesday, March 17th; 11:30 am - 12:30 pm Room Hilton E

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Billboard: No Deal Reached For DIMA, SoundExchange

Billboard is reporting No Deal Reached For DIMA, SoundExchange:

The fact that the two parties did not reach a settlement comes as somewhat of a surprise. In the weeks leading up to the deadline, representatives from both parties expressed confidence a deal was imminent. However that changed early in the week, prior to the deadline, when talks fell apart during a conference call with all involved, according to sources. Exactly what issue sparked the fallout is unclear.
Doesn't this always happen at the last minute with SoundExchange negotiations with the internet broadcasters, both small and large?
"Pandora has threatened to shut down completely if it was forced to pay the full royalty rates, which raised the fees due to SoundExchange and other rights holders in some cases by 300%. RealNetworks previously said it would consider severely limiting the streaming radio options currently available to subscribers."
While I still don't think Pandora will completely shut down, they'll have to drastically change their service to a paid subscription service or one with audio ads every 2-3 songs.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

SoundExchange to small webcasters: here's your one offer. Take it or lose it.

SoundExchange continues to try and strangle small webcasters like SomaFM, RadioIO, DI.FM, RadioParadise and others. They've offered us a not very good agreement... that among other things says we can't publicly complain about or discuss the agreement, and we can't talk to Congress about anything related to internet radio royalties or copyright law, and we can't participate in the CRB process for the 2011-2015 period.

They have us between a rock and a hard place. The deadline is Sunday, but for all practical purposes, the deadline is Friday, tomorrow.

Pretty soon I may not be able to post any of this in our blog, because we're going to get forced into an agreement that will limit our audience (and hence growth) and create a serious financial drag on us and other webcasters who aren't big enough to enter into direct licenses with the parties that own the copyrights to the music they play.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Muzak Files Chapter 11 to Refinance Debt - NYTimes.com

Muzak Files Chapter 11 to Refinance Debt - NYTimes.com:

"Many of Muzak’s biggest creditors are music companies that license songs for use on Muzak playlists. While the company is known as the creator of elevator music, its business is now more focused on creating playlists for use in retail stores, installing professional sound systems and providing other services."
So even industry giant Muzak is being crushed by the high cost of licensing music.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Does the New Administration change anything for radio royalties?

It seems that the RIAA, Recording Academy and MusicFirst think the new administration will be more on their side than the old administration:

Neil Portnow, CEO of the Recording Academy said last night at the Grammys:

“When it comes to protecting a musician's intellectual property and the right to earn a living, The Academy says, "Yes, we can!" And with a new Congress, we will champion the passage of pending legislation to ensure, that just like in every developed country in the world, all music creators are compensated for their performances when played on traditional radio.”

Historical datapoint: he DMCA was passed under the Clinton administration, and the DMCA is what has placed huge royalties on internet radio. The Performance Rights Act of 2009 will add those same royalties on over-the-air broadcasters that internet broadcasters now pay. While on one hand, I think it's great that there is equality for over-the-air (often referred to as terrestrial) broadcasters, but I'm concerned that rather than one fair, small royalty placed on everyone will actually end up being one really large royalty levied on all broadcasters, terrestrial and internet.

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SoundExchange Offers Settlement To Webcasters

Billboard is reporting that SoundExchange has made a new settlement offer to webcasters: but it's not the results of negotiation, it's a unilateral offer, and it's ultimately won't work for webcasters like SomaFM.

I'm quoted in the Billboard article saying:

"'We're disappointed with the offer,' says Rusty Hodge, founder of SomaFM. 'It effectively is worse that the previous [one]. Basically SoundExchange has done nothing to comprise with webcasters at all.'"

This hasn't been a negotiation. This has been a series of offers that gets worse each time. The original SWSA passed in 2002 was better than the current offer. The offer made about 18 months ago was the same as the current offer except that there were less strings attached; and because at that point, the offer only applied to SoundExchange member artists.

The current offer is just the same old offer with more restrictions and limitations. There has been no compromise. Every counter-offer webcasters make is met with a less-desirable offer from SoundExchange.

The really big issue for SomaFM is the traffic limits of 5 million monthly aggregate tuning hours. While that number sounds big, in January, we did did about 6.2 million. 5 million monthly tuning hours equates to 6720 average concurrent listeners. And the SoundExchange offer technically applies to US-only listener hours, which is about 50-55% of our listeners, so we're still technically under the limit. But this means that as we grow in the future we're going to hit that cap, and we'll be forced to limit the number of listeners we have.

The big RIAA labels are threatened by independent internet broadcasters and want to make sure that we're constrained to a niche market.

We're very disappointed with this so-called "offer".

The RIAA is still out to kill off independent webcasters like SomaFM.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Conyers, Issa Re-introduce Bipartisan Performance Rights Legislation

This bill as it stands probably doesn't do much for webcasters, other than propose to take away the exemption for terrestrial broadcasters. I'm disappointed that it doesn't say that all forms of broadcasting will pay the same price, be it terrestrial or digital. Media Week has more on the story, including the response from the NAB, including this quote from NAB's letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
Three of the four largest record label conglomerates -- Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI -- are internationally-based" and "although the big record labels have seen their revenues decline over the last decade, local radio broadcasters are not the reason the recording industry is losing money, and it should not be the industry to fix it.
 

Here's the text of the press release:  

WASHINGTON. D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Darrell Issa (R-CA), introduced The Performance Rights Act, a bipartisan measure that takes a first step at ensuring that all radio platforms are treated in a similar manner and that those who perform music are paid for their work.   

The legislation would amend an inequity in America's copyright law that exempts over-the-air broadcasters from paying those who perform the music that we listen to on AM and FM radio.  Webcasters, satellite radio providers and cable companies are presently required to pay for music they broadcast.   

"Beyond the fairness that this bill provides for performers, we have an opportunity to show the rest of the world that the United States practices what it preaches in protecting intellectual property," said Issa. "For the past 70 years Congress has ignored the constitutional mandate that we protect copyrights by completely exempting broadcasters from paying performers, while the vast majority of countries have no such exemption.  Our ignorance of intellectual property rights on this issue is a worldwide embarrassment and it must end now."   

"All those in the creative chain of musical production - the artists, musicians, and others who enrich us culturally - deserve to be justly compensated for their work," said Conyers.  "We have introduced the Performance Rights Act to ensure fairness so that any service that plays music pays those who create and own the recordings - just as satellite, cable and internet radio stations currently do. Working with the Senate, I hope that Congress may act quickly to pass this important legislation to level the playing field between different technologies and ensure rightful compensation to performers."  

  The Performance Rights Act is cosponsored by Reps. Issa, Berman, Waxman, Blackburn, Hodes, Wasserman Schultz, Weiner, Cohen, Nadler, Wexler, Peterson (MN), Johnson (GA), Schiff, Sherman, Shadegg, Jackson Lee, L. Sanchez, and Harman. Companion legislation was introduced Wednesday in the Senate by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and former Chairman Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).   

"In introducing the Performance Rights Act, we are sensitive to the needs of broadcast radio stations," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  "I want to ensure that the performing artist, the one whose sound recordings drive the success of broadcast radio, is compensated fairly.  Our legislation, appropriately, permits noncommercial stations to take advantage of the statutory copyright license subject only to a nominal annual payment to the artists.  Similarly, we intend to nurture, not threaten, small commercial broadcasters.  Smaller music stations are working hard to serve their local communities while finding the right formula to increase their audience size.  I will continue to work with the broadcasters – large and small, commercial and noncommercial – to strike the right balance."    

"This legislation would ensure that musical performers and songwriters receive fair compensation from all companies across the broadcast spectrum - not just from Web casters, satellite radio providers and cable companies," said Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  "It is an attempt to strike a harmonious balance between fair compensation for artists and a vibrant radio industry in the U.S."   

 

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Friday, January 16, 2009

SoundExchange, Public Radio make deal

FMQB is reporting that SoundExchange and Public Radio has made a deal on royalties:

The agreement will cover approximately 450 public radio webcasters, including CPB supported stations, NPR, NPR members, National Federation of Community Broadcasters members, American Public Media, Public Radio Exchange and Public Radio International.
They go on to say:
Under the new deal, SoundExchange is to receive a single up-front royalty payment of $1.85 million together with consolidated usage and playlist reporting from CPB on behalf of the entire public radio system.

David Oxenford in his Broadcast Law Blog has this additional info:

In some reports, the deal is described as being based on 'consumption' of music, and implies that, if music use by covered stations increases, then the royalties will increase.  It is not clear if this increase means that there will be an adjustment to the one time payment made by CPB, or if the increase will simply lead to adjustments in future royalty periods.
Read "SoundExchange and CPB Reach a Settlement on Webcasting Royalties - More Deals to Come?" by David Oxenford

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SoundExchange Royalty Update

A lot of people have asked if we've gotten everything settled with SoundExchange yet. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Basically, SoundExchange is in negotiations with some of the larger webcasters represented by DiMA. Once those negotiations have concluded, SoundExchange will then be negotiations with the small webcasters. I'm expecting that it won't be until Feb 2009 when the agreement is finalized.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wasn't internet radio killed last year?

KG Writes in:
I thought internet radio was killed last year. What gives?

SomaFM and most other internet broadcasters have technically been operating "out of compliance" (that is, we're not paying the royalties we are supposed to be paying). At some point, we can't keep doing this... someone will sue us for copyright infringement. SoundExchange has informally agreed to not sue any broadcasters who continue negotiations with them, that's why stations are still on the air. Other large services like iMeem and Last.FM have made direct deals with the large record labels, in most cases resulting in the "Big 4" record labels owning a part of those companies. (And with that ownership comes influence over the music they feature.)

So making a deal with the big record labels is not acceptable for most broadcasters who strive to be independent in the music they broadcast.

We have continued to negotiate with SoundExchange (the agency that collects the royalties) over the last year, and are close to a settlement. Originally, one problem was that a SoundExchange settlement would only cover their members, and not apply to all music as the CRB ruling did, unless congress acted to codify any settlements. HR. 7084 which was recently signed into law, does exactly that: it tells the CRB that they have to codify any settlement internet broadcasters and SoundExchange agree to. This is the only way we can get the royalties reduced to a reasonable level.

Internet radio is running on borrowed time. But even without a deal, big, venture-capital funded services like Pandora will likely survive in a slightly altered form: they'll have to make deals with all the major labels which will cause them to lose some of their independence. But small stations like SomaFM will be put out of business: either by lawsuits from the RIAA if we continue to operate without paying the royalty fees or more likely by just not having enough money to continue our operations after paying all these royalties.

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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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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The internet radio royalty issue is NOT settled, as some news sources have reported

The Internet Radio proceeding has not been settled. We are still trying to get a settlement with SoundExchange which can be approved by the CRB judges.

This ruling only applies to Section 115 of the copyright law, and covers "interactive streaming music and limited digital downloads," and it's only the royalties that cover the "composition" of the recording, not the sound recording. Interactive streaming is defined as music on demand, such as Rhapsody or Napster, and not services like Pandora or SomaFM.

Basically, this settled things for Rhapsody, iTunes, Napster and a few others; it doesn't affect streaming radio stations at all. :-( Our issue is with SoundExchange over the "sound recording" part of the copyright royalties, we already have a suitable agreement with the licensing agencies that handle the "composition" (BMI, SESAC, ASCAP).

Attorney David Oxenford discusses this in his blog:

While many press reports (at least some of which have already been pulled) have concluded that this is a settlement of the Internet Radio royalties proceeding - that is wrong. The Internet radio royalty proceeding involves Section 114, not Section 115, of the Copyright Act. Section 114 deals with a royalty paid to the performers, not the composers.

And it's not about paying the RIAA. The RIAA was on the other side of the table from the music publishers. Because Sound Recording copyright owners have to pay the composers when they release tracks (on CD or digitally). So in this case, the RIAA is the buyer, where as with internet radio, the RIAA is in the position of the seller (at least they claim to represent 80% of the sellers).

Internet radio is still in trouble. This did not solve things.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Can Payola can save Internet Radio?

Doug Perlson writing in Silicon Alley Insider thinks that Payola can save Internet Radio from the high royalties that we currently face.

From strictly a financial-gain perspective, he may be right.

But for broadcasters looking for a long-term sustainable business, and not a short term financial gain (such as getting bought out by a larger company), this approach will not have success.

First off, "Payola" is not illegal in the net-radio space. In fact, it's already happening lots of places. The big labels have equity positions in several of the largest webcasters. You don't think those labels are influencing what gets played? Of course they do.

SoundExchange (the agency that collects the royalties for internet radio) is even encouraging this behavior, suggesting that stations work with labels to play the music that labels will let them use without royalties... except those deals are always more complex than that. (Basically, they give the labels control over what gets played. "You can use this particular music for free, only if you give x number of plays to these other tracks.")

I'm happy that some of the larger guys, like Pandora, have demonstrated their opposition to this. But many others, who are proponents of "direct licensing deals" are already playing the Payola game.

Music should be chosen on its artistic merit, not because of a opportunistic financial decision.

Payola, while technically illegal, has still been happening at AM/FM radio stations (under the guise of "independent promotion"). Many FM radio stations were so reliant on "promo money" that it was a significant part of their annual operating budgets- especially in mid and smaller markets. And while this practice has come under fire and largely discontinued just recently, many variations on the game sill exist, and you're fooling yourself if you think that labels have stopped using money to influence program and music directors.

Many people (including myself) believe that this is what has caused consumers to turn away from commercial radio: programmers were playing what they were paid to play rather than choosing the best material to play. So commercial FM became the land of the safe, proven hits of the past and the crap that the labels were paying to get played.

The people who say this would work for net radio have never been on the receiving end of the music promotion industry. There are tons of crappy records that labels (big and small) would happily pay to get played on the radio. But listeners are smart, and have plenty of options to choose what they want to listen to. They'll just start "tuning out" if this happens.

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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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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Save Net Radio Press Release

INTERNET RADIO MAKES A COMEBACK IN THE SENATE The Grassroots Movement to Save Internet Radio from Extinction is Reinvigorated by Senate Judiciary Committee – Brownback Offers Industry Saving Legislation

Save Net Radio Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. – Legislation introduced in the House and the Senate last year to bring parity and equality to the new radio market made a comeback today during a Senate Judiciary mark-up. The Internet Radio Equality Act (IREA), which would establish a flat rate for performance royalty fees paid by cable, satellite and Internet radio providers, was offered as an amendment to the Orphan Works Act of 2008 (S. 2913) by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) during a scheduled mark-up of the intellectual property legislation today.

The amendment, which was later withdrawn, signals the renewed efforts of Net radio webcasters to reverse an unprecedented 2007 rate increase by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) that threatens to bankrupt the industry. Expressing his “strong support for internet radio,” Chairman Leahy welcomed future consideration of Internet radio royalties.

“It has been more than a year since the CRB raised the cost of webcasting to an untenable amount,” said Jake Ward, spokesperson for the SaveNetRadio campaign, “and all we are is a year older. Last year, more than two million people called on Congress to take action, and 150 Members in the House and Senate heard them and signed on in support of the Internet Radio Equality Act, but we still don’t have a solution. In the past year, rates have been set for net radio’s direct competition, satellite and cable radio providers, at a rate three and four times less than their proposals to Internet radio. It is disappointing and absurd that while Net radio is fighting for its survival, the industry has been put at an even greater disadvantage. This is unacceptable and hardly the good faith negotiations the House Commerce committee directed SoundExchange to participate in more than nine months ago.”

“Senator Brownback has been a staunch ally of small businesses and independent artists whose livelihoods depend on Internet radio since this fight began a year ago,” Ward continued. ”The offering of the amendment today and Senator Brownback’s leadership and dedication to equality should serve as a reminder to other Members that Internet radio and its tens of millions of supporters are not going away quietly. We should all be in this together. This continued battle is perlexing but we are committed to fighting for fairness – fairness for artists, fairness for independent labels, and fairness for webcasters. In the coming weeks and months, SaveNetRadio will be directing our formidable grassroots to support legislation that ensures artists are fairly compensated while leveling the playing field for webcasters.”

Following a March 2, 2007, decision by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), a division of the Library of Congress charged with establishing performance royalty rates for “digital radio” broadcasters, to increase rates for webcasters by an unjustified and unprecedented 300 to 1200 percent, a national coalition of webcasters, independent artists and Net radio listeners began petitioning Congress to take action. The Internet Radio Equality Act (S. 1353/H.R. 2060), which would set the rate for all digital radio – cable, satellite and internet radio – at 7.5% of revenue, was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sam Brownback (R-KA) and in the House by Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Don Manzullo (R-IL).

In November of 2007, SoundExchange formally proposed that cable radio services pay royalties between 7.25% and 7.5% of their revenue to sound recording copyright owners and recording artists. The following month, the Copyright Royalty Board, citing market constraints and a desire not to disrupt the industry, further reduced the royalty rate for satellite radio to 6% of broadcaster revenue –increased incrementally to 8% over the next five years. Cable and satellite radio generated $2 billion in 2006 while Internet radio produced less than $150 million. Under the current CRB ruling webcasters would pay an average 30% of revenue in royalty fees – and as much as 150% in some cases.

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Radio And Internet Newsletter reports: SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TO LOOK AT WEBCASTING ROYALTIES

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TO LOOK AT WEBCASTING ROYALTIES:

"At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary committee this morning, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) revived the issue of Internet radio performance royalties by proposing to add the Internet Radio Equality Act as an amendment to an unrelated copyright bill. Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), while expressing his support for webcasters, countered by suggesting that the committee examine the issue in June in the context of broadcast radio performance royalties.

[RAIN will] have more details as they emerge. You can also check the SaveNetRadio website here: http://www.savenetradio.org."
I guess it may be time to go back to Washington DC again. Perhaps this time we can get some traction on that bill.

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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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SXSW Panel: using music online

Elise Nordling (IODA and Indie Pop Rocks! on SomaFM) hosted a panel on using music online, and all the steps you have to go through for podcasting; using music synchronized with video; videos and sound recordings of concert footage and of course internet radio royalties. A podcast of the panel will be available next week, but here are some pictures:

Elise Nordling, Brian Zisk, Rich Bengloff, Rusty Hodge, Chris MacDonald"
Elise Nordling, Brian Zisk, Rich Bengloff, Rusty Hodge, Chris MacDonald

Rich Bengloff of A2IM and Sound Exchange board member talks with Rusty Hodge from SomaFM"
Rich Bengloff of A2IM and Sound Exchange board member talks with Rusty Hodge from SomaFM

Rusty Hodge answering questions after the panel"
Rusty Hodge answering questions after the panel

Here's what we learned from this panel: there is so much confusion in the legal use of using music online. Most people don't even know where to begin. Everyone wants to use music (and license and even pay for it) but it's not being "sold" in a way they can deal with it.

We could have done a whole day on the different sub-topics. People want to know. There are lots of people who want to use music online, and legally can't or don't know how to. So they end up just doing it illegally.

Note to music industry: start selling your product in a way that people want to buy it. Or they won't bother to buy it!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

SXSW Panel: The Trials and Tribulations of Using Music Online

Be sure to come by the panel I'm on at SXSW: The Trials and Tribulations of Using Music Online.
This panel will discuss the usage of music for various online formats, including (but not limited to) podcasting, blog MP3 postings, internet radio, and vlogs (or other video). This session will address the different copyrights, licensing, and royalties associated with different types of use. Learn how and why you need to get copyright and/or licensing clearance for the music you use, and which clearances you need for which uses in order to operate legally. We will also discuss copyright royalties, royalty payments, and royalty collectors, including SoundExchange, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
Should be fun. If you've never met Richard Bengloff (who heads up A2IM and is on the SoundExchange board and will be on this panel), he's a great guy who is amazingly knowledgeable about the music business, and genuinely cares about artists and content creators. Rich and I don't always agree, but I learn something every time I talk to him.

I can't wait. The other folks on the panel are all great as well (Brian Zisk and Chris MacDonald) as well as our moderator Elise Nordling (who besides programming and hosting Indie Pop Rocks works for IODA, an online music licensing company).

Room 10
Tuesday, March 11th
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
South by Southwest, Austin, TX

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CRB Update

Just a quick update on the CRB / Royalty issue:

SoundExchange and small (and large) broadcasters continue to hold discussions on the royalty situation. SoundExchange has made an offer to small webcasters that has some problems, but the base rate is acceptable. (What's not acceptable is the proposed limitations on listeners and revenue caps).

We've verbally agreed to continue paying at the 2006 rates while the discussions continue. I don't think SoundExchange wants to shut down most webcasters; and I've been told by several SoundExchange board members that they think highly of what SomaFM is doing.

One other thing: it looks like the Copyright Act is getting a substantial re-write due around 2010 and will treat analog and digital systems the same. We learned this meeting with members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees this summer.

So that's it: not much of an update, but that's what we know now.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

CRB denies SoundExchange's request for rehearing for Satellite radio rates

The CRB ruled that Sat Radio would pay 6.0% (increasing to 8.0% by 2012) of their adjusted gross revenues. Apparently, SoundExchange doesn't like the exceptions to the gross revenue that the CRB allowed.
On December 3, 2007, the Copyright Royalty Judges (“Judges”) issued a Determination of Rates and Terms in this matter (“Initial Determination”). Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 803(c)(2) and 37 C.F.R. Part 353, SoundExchange, Inc. (“SoundExchange”) filed a motion for rehearing “to reconsider the definition of Gross Revenues set forth at pages 28-31 of the [Initial] Determination; and, in light of recent predictions that approval of the XM/Sirius merger is imminent, reconsider its unwillingness to assess the impact of a merger as part of its [Initial] Determination.” The Judges permitted a response and XM Satellite Radio, Inc. (“XM”) and Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc. (“Sirius”) (collectively, the “SDARS”) filed a timely response, opposing the motion. The Judges now deny this motion. Nevertheless, as discussed below, the Judges have determined that one limited area of the Initial Determination warrants clarification.
PDF of full decision here.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

CRB sets satellite radio royalty rates.

and guess what? They're lower than internet radio!

AP is reporting:

``Satellite Radio will pay a performance license rate of 6 percent of certain revenue this year for sound recordings played over its network, according to Copyright Royalty Board decision`` and ``also will pay a performance license rate of 6 percent of gross revenue subject to the fees for 2008, which will then increase by 0.5 percent annually before reaching 8 percent in 2012.``

Just to put that into context, Net Radio up until 2006 paid 10-12% of their revenue. And of course, unless we get a deal from SoundExchange that's codified by Congress, most net stations are going to pay what amounts to 300-600% of their revenues. That's right: 3-6 TIMES their revenues.

Perhaps it is time to start turning up the heat on Congress again to do something?

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Promotional Value argument

There is a valid argument that todays corporate radio operations (e.g. CBS, Clear Channel) is not providing adequate promotional benefit to record companies to justify their exemption from a performance right royalty (much like internet radio already pays).

But the argument that there is no promotional value for radio is a weak one, and an argument that I wish MusicFirst (the association backed by SoundExchange, RIAA and many independent record labels) would stop using.

In the testimony from Alice Peacock (a singer/songwriter) she said something that bothers me because of the context she uses it in:

Frankly, the promotion argument sounds a little silly. Last week I bought a pair of Nike shoes. I wear them everywhere—well, except to Senate hearings. With the Nike logo on my feet, I am probably promoting their brand wherever I go. Can you imagine if I decided not to pay for the shoes on the grounds that my promoting Nike should excuse me from payment? My refusal to pay would be called "shoplifting." But radio's refusal to pay artists is called "business as usual."
Wearing shoes with a logo around town may not be significant promotional value; but once she brings those logos on stage in front of a large audience, it's a different matter!

You don't think the popular performing artists wearing clothes with the big designer labels are buying all that stuff themselves? No, the designers give them to them to get the promotional publicity for seeing their brand worn by a star.

It's also common for performing musicians to get lots of gear and other goodies in exchange for promotional consideration. Guitars, drums, cymbals, keyboards are commonly given to popular musicians to use, so that aspiring musicians will see them and want to buy that brand as well. Why do you think so many drummers have their drum brand in huge letters on their drums? And it's been going on that way for decades.

Radio has a tremendous amount of promotional value. However, the way many stations do things in this new media-consolidated world detract a lot of value from that promotion. How often do you hear a radio DJ play a new song, and mention the album name or the label it's on?

The other argument against promotional value (the one that no one seems to like to talk about) is that while radio can promote songs, that promotion doesn't always turn into a purchase. This is something that radio needs to help fix: right now, many people hear something on the radio and then go out and download a free copy of it. Promotional value only has value if it brings in money.

What I've done at SomaFM is made sure that we have links to where people can buy CDs and legal downloads when they hear something on our station. It's not a perfect solution yet because we play a lot of stuff that's not available for legal download; or it's out of print or otherwise hard to obtain a copy of.

Another problem that is really a record industry problem and not a radio problem is the fact that there are so many "for promotion only" CDs ending up on Amazon, Half.com and brick and mortar stores like Amoeba Records. If you go to buy a CD and can get a used FPO copy for half the price, you'll buy it - who cares if there is a hole punched in the UPC. This is a case when the value of radio promotion goes to the wrong person - the used CD store and not the sound recording rights holder.

Labels: you need to do some work on this as well. Meet broadcasters halfway. Make sure that when people go to obtain your recordings that they can do it legally and quickly. And broadcasters should be telling people how to buy the music they're playing as well. Then everyone benefits.

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USA Today: Internet radio providers "close to settlement"

While I won't publicly comment on any negotiations that may be going on between SomaFM, SoundExchange and the RIAA, I'm happy to say that this article in USA Today sums it up well:
Net radio's future, which looked dismal earlier in the year after new copyright royalties were instituted, is apparently back on track. The proposed fees were so high many stations said they would be forced to go out of business. But Hansen says stations and record labels have been negotiating a settlement and are close to coming to terms.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

musicFIRST makes some proposals for over-the-air royalties

Radio Ink: According to the document obtained by Radio Ink, the coalition is proposing changes to the law that would do away with broadcasters' royalties exemption and have small commercial stations -- "small" is not defined -- pay a flat royalty rate of $5,000 per year, while noncoms and college stations pay $1,000 a year. FinderScreenSnapz001.jpg

Inside Radio has an op/ed piece by John Simson that has a lot of the usual rhetoric we hear from SoundExchange, but this part was very interesting:

Most over-the-air radio is owned by big conglomerates that centralize playlists. They build multi-billion dollar businesses around artists’ music. People who create that music should receive a fair portion of those revenues.

We want to be fair to smaller radio stations, too. For some this payment may be the difference between being profitable and having to struggle. This is why we are in favor of accommodations for smaller radio stations, college stations, talk radio and religious broadcasters. Small radio stations may not be able to pay like the big conglomerates, and we want to accommodate them. We hear them. We hope they hear us.

I'm happy to see SoundExchange is realizing that the diversity of independent radio is valuable. While Simson doesn't say that directly, by making a jab at large conglomerates with centralized playlists he's giving a nod to the independent programmers and station operators out there who are exposing listeners to new and interesting music, not just playing the same old proven hits that everyone knows already.

John goes on to say:

Sometimes Washington, D.C. rhetoric trumps the truth; the musicFIRST Coalition isn’t trying to put radio out of business like the NAB would have you believe. We want us all to march to the same drumbeat, one that won’t be easy to achieve, but that we hope is going to be fair.
One thing John doesn't mention is the international reciprocal rights that this would give US sound recording copyright holders. Currently, US rightsholders don't receive any money for airplay in non-US countries (that do charge broadcasters a royalty for sound recording performances). So while non-US stations are paying these royalties, even if they only play US recordings, all their royalty money goes to the pool of non-US rightsholders.

Once the US establishes a performance right, those collected overseas royalties will be distributed to the appropriate US-based rightsholders.

That's really the big issue here, and I'm convinced that it makes sense.

As long as those performance royalties are reasonable, of course!

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

SaveNetRadio Press Release on SoundExchange's proposed rates for Cable radio services

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The SaveNetRadio Campaign today expressed surprise and hope upon learning that SoundExchange has formally proposed that cable radio services pay royalties between 7.25% and 7.5% of their revenue to sound recording copyright owners and recording artists. This proposed rate, effective from 2008 to 2012, is virtually identical to rates endorsed by more than 140 cosponsors of the Internet Radio Equality Act, but rejected by SoundExchange and the Recording Industry Association of America. 54B44B3C-57B9-4DFD-B9F6-EC955947A077.jpg

"Perhaps this agreement means that SoundExchange agrees that 7.5% of revenue is a fair rate; they just prefer that the rate not be legislated," Jake Ward, a spokesperson for the SaveNetRadio campaign said. "The Internet radio industry has never asked for more than royalty parity and an opportunity to grow their businesses to the benefit of artists, consumers, and even record labels. Perhaps SoundExchange's agreement that cable radio should pay 7.5% of revenue is a precursor to an equivalent offer for Internet radio services. It is hard to imagine that recording industry interests would continue to reject Congressional legislation and webcasters' efforts to set fair royalty rates while simultaneously agreeing to the same standard for cable radio services."

The Internet Radio Equality Act -- H.R. 2060 and S. 1353 -- would vacate the March 2nd Copyright Royalty Board's decision and set a 2006-2010 royalty rate at a competitive level with royalties paid by cable and satellite radio services (7.5% of revenue.) The bill would also change the royalty rate-setting standard used in royalty arbitrations, so that the standard applied to webcasters would align with that applied to cable and satellite radio.

For more information on the SaveNetRadio coalition visit http://www.savenetradio.org/

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Washington Post: Web Radio Seeks Resolution

Good article in Washington Post:
SoundExchange has already proposed a fee schedule that is lower than the Copyright Royalty Board's rates for commercial webcasters whose annual revenue is less than $1.25 million, and Ades said about 30 companies have accepted it. SoundExchange and the Digital Media Association also agreed in August to cap the total amount of per-channel fees that a Web service would have to pay, an issue that was of particular concern for webcasters such as Pandora that have millions of channels set up by individual users.

Still, webcasters say that even if there are favorable results to the negotiations, they are hoping for long-term legislation that will force all radio platforms -- including traditional AM/FM radio, which does not currently pay any royalties to SoundExchange -- to pay the same rates.

Read entire article

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Radio Royalty Update

Official Internet Radio Royalty Update: both sides still "in discussions". Nothing has changed there. The Internet Radio Equality Act is feeling doomed as congress is more interested in a long term copyright change.

I think what Congress is hoping is that everyone can keep "negotiating" long enough for them to pass the next set of laws. That forces net radio into an uncomfortable position- we're potentially assuming some huge royalty obligations.

I think we still need to put pressure on congress. But I think we've lost their ear.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Can Internet Radio survive under current legislation?

No, it can't legally in the US.

We still have a long way to go to get legislation passed. Congress seems to have lost interest in us, and is satisfied now that a few very small webcasters have taken the so-called "offer" from SoundExchange (that only covers big label and SX-member artists, not useful for independent broadcasters!)

Meanwhile, attention has turned to the new bill which will put a royalty on over-the-air broadcasters as well. Alas, that royalty will be "penies on the dollar", well below the 10-12% paid in the past by webcasters, and way below the rates set by the CRB last March.

Paul Gathard at Daily Tech says it well:

Becoming a pirate internet radio station is no way to run a business or to live in peace and harmony with the law. The risk is far too great for rewards that are elusive at best for even well funded statutorily licensed internet radio stations.

If you have a passion for the medium and the music, the answer is new legislation. If you have an overwhelming desire to build an internet radio empire, the answer is new legislation. If you simply want to listen to your favorite internet radio station any time you want, the answer is new legislation. There will be few options or choices for any internet radio ambitions unless the current CRB ruling is overturned and a new law crafted.
Read the whole article...

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Press Release: Webcasters Stand Firm

(Released in conjunction with SaveNetRadio and the stations listed below)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Webcasters Stand Firm

Deal With Us In Good Faith or No Deal!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – Thousands of webcasters stand firm by rejecting the most recent Copyright Royalty Rate proposal made by SoundExchange. The latest take it or leave it “offer” made by SoundExchange on behalf of the recording industry has done nothing to further negotiations with webcasters, and a mere 24 small webcasters have felt they had no choice but to give in to the record labels demands.

“The latest proposal made by SoundExchange is extremely disappointing, at a time where we need real progress, not hollow tricks.” SaveNetRadio spokesperson Jake Ward said. “While the clock continues to tick for webcasters, SoundExchange continues to play games with their good faith The resounding rejection of this offer should serve as a reminder to SoundExchange, and to Congress, that the webcasting community is intent on a lasting and fair resolution to this issue, and willing to fight for it”

We, the undersigned have made it very clear to the Sound Exchange exactly why this latest offer is unrealistic and unacceptable. Its terms are not viable for webcasters seeking to run profitable businesses. One such term is the newly added ATH (Aggregate Tuning Hour) cap which immediately makes many mid-level webcasters ineligible for the recently presented agreement. For stations with revenues far below the $1.25 million cap, but with healthy listener bases, this ATH cap forces payments at the CRB rates.

This deal is not feasible for anyone who wants to grow their business. It contains the aforementioned $1.25 million revenue cap, which limits growth and puts in place a dangerously low hard ceiling for revenue generation. The Small Business Administration revenue cap for over-the-air broadcasters to be considered a small business is $6.5 million – this would seem a fair cap, with precedent.

Also, the offer only covers copyright holders that are SoundExchange members, of which there are approximately 20,000. Between us, the undersigned webcasters played far more artists than that in the last year. Under the SoundExchange offer for artists not on that limited roster, webcasters would have to pay at the bankruptcy-level rates, which were set in the fatally flawed Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) ruling in March. Those CRB rates were condemned by webcasters, the press, and members of Congress and deemed as wildly out of line and detrimental to all parties concerned – including the RIAA.

We have asked for a reasonable, long term solution, not one that is subject to increase at the whim of the record industry every five years. 2010 is little more than 2 years away, and it would be difficult for any business owner to accurately forecast profits and build a successful business model with a huge expense variable looming in the future.

Although several of the webcasters listed below are currently involved in direct negotiations with Sound Exchange, the process remains exceedingly slow and increasingly unpromising. In the continuing absence of a genuine offer that would allow internet radio to continue to be the vital medium for new music discovery we implore our listeners and fans of internet radio to continue to urge your legislative representatives to pass the Internet Radio Equality Act (HR2060, S.1353).

For information on how you can contact your representative, please visit http://www.savenetradio.org.

Signed:

Jeff Bachmeier, .977
Val Starr, GotRadio.com, 100hitz.com
Rusty Hodge, SomaFM.com
Rick White, BigR Radio. 1faith.fm
Donnie Mowbray, 181.fm
Kurt Hanson, AccuRadio
Dave Landis, Ultimate 80’s
Bill Goldsmith, Radio Paradise
Ted Leibowitz, BagelRadio
Sal Amato, Dot1media
Brandon Casci, Loud City
Jim & Wanda Atkinson, 3WK
Ari Shopat, Digitally Imported
Mike Roe, Radio IO

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Bullshit from RIAA via SoundExchange

RIAA has SoundExchange issue press release to try and trick congress into thinking the royalty situation has been solved. Nice work guys.

The reason many people are signing is because they fear lawsuits from the RIAA. RIAA representatives have been calling webcasters and telling them if they didn't sign by Sep 15th, they would be operating in violation of the law. That's the only reason they signed. It's like a Sporano's episode.

The only way that webcasters can escape the high royalty rates is by signing this current agreement and only playing SX affiliated label music. This means less independent music, and more big label music. Which is exactly what the RIAA wanted.

This agreement is useless to SomaFM because it doesn't even cover half of the music we play.

Here's the release:

Small Webcasters Embrace SoundExchange Offer on Discounted Rate - September 18th, 2007

Individual Agreements Allow Small Internet Operators Subsidized Rates Through 2010

Contact Richard Ades or Gregg Perry 202.640.5894 news@soundexchange.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. - SoundExchange announced today that significant numbers of small commercial webcasters have signed agreements that allows them to continue operating through 2010 with essentially the same terms they have enjoyed under the Small Webcaster Settlement Act (SWSA). These agreements - sent in late August and signed individually with each webcaster - guarantee the same rates through 2010 that qualified small webcasters have received since 1998 for the use of sound recordings owned by SoundExchange members. The agreements are retroactive to January 1, 2006, which is the beginning of the current rate period, and continue through December 31, 2010, at which time new rates will be set either through negotiation or by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB).

"Giving small webcasters more time to build their businesses with below-market rates is something Members of Congress wanted us to get done, and we have," said John Simson, Executive Director of SoundExchange. "We hope that these small webcasters will continue to provide innovative kinds of programming and a rich diversity of music."

Twenty-four small webcasters have already signed the agreements with others indicating they are in the process of signing. Some opted not to sign the agreements because their business models benefit more from the regular commercial rates (due to their size and the difference in minimum payments). Others did not sign because they operate via webcast aggregators who handle payments on their behalf.

Qualified small commercial webcasters who accepted the offer are now able to stream sound recordings of any and all SoundExchange members at subsidized rates. SoundExchange represents more than 28,000 recording artists and 3,500 record labels, including all the major recording companies. As part of the agreement, small webcasters (defined as those earning $1.25 million or less in total revenues) would pay royalty fees of 10 or 12 percent of revenue. The agreement also includes a usage cap to ensure that this subsidy is used only by webcasters of a certain size who are forming or strengthening their businesses.

"It's a sacrifice our members are willing to make at the request of Members of Congress and in order to give the smallest webcasters below-market rates for an additional limited time," added Simson. "This is a great deal for someone who wants to start or build a webcasting business."

# # #

Gee. 24 webcasters signed this. If you're a webcaster and signed it, I'd like to hear your reasons for signing it.

The usage cap is also a joke: if you average more than about 6900 concurrent listeners- about the audience of a single commercial station in a mid-sied market.

There are thousands of small webcasters. And only 24 have signed on? That tells you just what a huge problem this really is.

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Divide and Conquer

The RIAA is working hard to divide and conquer webcasters via SoundExchange. How? They're stalling on the DiMA and Small Commercial Webcasters deal. They're implying to webcaters that the lame deal they're offering webcaters is only good until September 15th, and if they don't take it by then they'll be in big trouble.

But that's not the case.

Stay the course. The deal that SCW gets will apply to all copyright holders, not just SX members. And it will be extended to anyone who wants to participate under the deal.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SoundExchange extends (not very good) offer to small webcasters

Yesterday, SoundExchange emailed a not very good offer to small webcasters. This offer is separate from an offer being negotiated with a group of 6 small webcasters who were parties to the CRB hearings known as the Small Commercial Webcasters group and represented by David Oxenford.

There has been some news coverage about webcasters' reactions to this.

As for my reaction to parts of parts of the offer:

These attached rates only apply toward each webcaster’s first 5,000,000 aggregate tuning hours (“ATH”) of usage each month. For any usage in a single month above 5,000,000 ATH, the webcaster must pay the applicable commercial webcaster rates (currently $0.0011 per performance during 2007.) By way of example, a service would need to have an approximate average of 6,945 simultaneous listeners, each listening for thirty consecutive days, 24 hours a day, in order to exceed 5,000,000 ATH of usage.
It should be pointed out that this number is very low; to put that into context, we're capped at an AQH of under 7000; but for example WBUR, a public radio station in Boston has an AQH of over 40,000. Currently, SomaFM averages a little over this, typically around 7800 average listeners.

Now according to a discussion I had with John Simson, this only applies to listeners in the US. So that reduces our amount of listeners by 40%. But at the rate we're growing, in 2 years we'll be over that limit with our US listeners. So this agreement won't work for us.

If a webcaster’s total annual revenue exceeds $1.25 million, it is no longer eligible for these offered rates and terms. After the conclusion of a six-month “grace period,” during which time it may continue to pay under the offered rates and terms, the webcaster must calculate any subsequent liability using the applicable commercial or noncommercial webcasting rates, as defined in the Federal Register at 72 Fed. Reg. 24084 (May 1, 2007).
So if we exceed that revenue cap, our royalties would go from $150,000 a year to over $2 million or more a year. In fact, if we extrapolate our current revenue to royalty ratio, our rates would go from $150,000 to $5 million at the point we hit the $1.25 million revenue cap.

So if we can increase the size of our business to over 1.25 million dollars, we'll be forced out of business.

This isn't an offer. This is a restraint of trade.

Please note that SoundExchange is making this offer only on behalf of its copyright owner members and has no authority to make this offer on behalf of non-members of SoundExchange. For transmissions of sound recordings owned by non-members of SoundExchange, webcasters must comply with the rates and terms in the Final Determination of the CRJs, published in the Federal Register at 72 Fed. Reg. 24084 (May 1, 2007).
This is the real problem here, and why we need congress to act. SoundExchange only represents 20,000 artists, and many artists SomaFM plays are not SoundExchange members (we are playing about 8000 different artists currently). To put the 20,000 number in context: Live365 plays over 250,000 different artists.

Bottom line: this is an unworkable offer, and it is not in any webcaster's interest to accept this offer.

Here's the full text of the letter, or get a PDF of this letter and the actual SWSA Term Sheet 2006:

Dear Small Commercial Webcaster,
 
  I am writing on behalf of SoundExchange, Inc. (“SoundExchange”) and its member copyright owners to offer certain small commercial webcasters an alternative rate structure to that enacted by the Copyright Royalty Judges (CRJs) in the recent webcasting proceedings.  Through this offer, qualified webcasters have the option of utilizing the attached rates and terms for nonsubscription transmissions of SoundExchange member sound recordings under 17 U.S.C. § 112 and § 114. 
 
  At the request of members of Congress and congressional committees, SoundExchange is making the attached offer available to small commercial webcasters which do not exceed an annual revenue threshold or a monthly threshold on aggregate tuning hours.  The attached rates and terms generally track those previously available under the prior agreement negotiated pursuant to the Small Webcaster Settlement Act (SWSA), which allow qualified entities to pay royalties based on a percentage of revenue (10% or 12%) or a percentage of expenses (7%) as long as their total annual revenue (both direct and affiliated revenue) does not exceed $1.25 million.  However, there are certain additional terms:  
               
  • These rates and terms are available for eligible nonsubscription transmissions for 2006-10, thus effectively extending the rates and terms negotiated pursuant to SWSA for an additional 5 years.  
  •            
  •           These attached rates only apply toward each webcaster’s first 5,000,000 aggregate tuning hours (“ATH”) of usage each month.  For any usage in a single month above 5,000,000 ATH, the webcaster must pay the applicable commercial webcaster rates (currently $0.0011 per performance during 2007.)  By way of example, a service would need to have an approximate average of 6,945 simultaneous listeners, each listening for thirty consecutive days, 24 hours a day, in order to exceed 5,000,000 ATH of usage.  
  •            
  •           If a webcaster’s total annual revenue exceeds $1.25 million, it is no longer eligible for these offered rates and terms.  After the conclusion of a six-month “grace period,” during which time it may continue to pay under the offered rates and terms, the webcaster must calculate any subsequent liability using the applicable commercial or noncommercial webcasting rates, as defined in the Federal Register at 72 Fed. Reg. 24084 (May 1, 2007).  
  •            
  •           Webcasters must provide census reporting to SoundExchange and be willing to work with SoundExchange on implementing technology, developed at SoundExchange’s expense, to track transmissions and provide the census reporting required under the agreement.            
            As with SWSA, a condition of this offer is that all parties affirm that this agreement is non-precedential and does not reflect an agreement between willing buyers and willing sellers in the marketplace.  Rather, this agreement reflects the desires of certain members of Congress that certain small commercial webcasters receive a below-market rate and as a compromise motivated by the unique business, economic and political circumstances of small webcasters, copyright owners, and performers.  All parties agree that this agreement (including any rate structure, fees, terms, conditions, or notice and recordkeeping requirements) may not be introduced in any proceeding, including those related to the setting of rates and terms for the licensing of sound recordings.  

              Please note that SoundExchange is making this offer only on behalf of its copyright owner members and has no authority to make this offer on behalf of non-members of SoundExchange.  For transmissions of sound recordings owned by non-members of SoundExchange, webcasters must comply with the rates and terms in the Final Determination of the CRJs, published in the Federal Register at 72 Fed. Reg. 24084 (May 1, 2007).  SoundExchange is working, however, to implement an industry-wide resolution that would apply rates and terms similar to the attached for all eligible small commercial webcasters and all sound recording copyright owners.  In the event that industry-wide regulations are adopted by the CRJs (or other appropriate authority) with rates and terms substantially similar to those contained in this agreement, this agreement will cease to operate and all parties will be governed by the industry-wide regulations.  Ultimately, an industry-wide resolution will be easier for all parties to administer, so it is our hope that such a resolution can be obtained.  

              If you are interested in accepting these rates and terms offered on behalf of SoundExchange’s members, please sign the attached election form and return the signed form to SoundExchange by September 14, 2007.  

              Should you have any questions about any of the information within, please contact Kyle Funn, Licensing & Enforcement Specialist, at 202.640.5881.  
  
  Respectfully,
  
    John L. Simson
   Executive Director
  SoundExchange, Inc.

 

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ray of Light For Internet Radio?

Jason Thomas at Crawdaddy Magazine has a great article on the state of net radio, here's a snippet:

The original laws were crafted in a time when technology was seen as having a limitless possibility to change everything about our lives, and much of the very things that the DMCA creates rules for were in states of infancy. Given the way the saga has unfolded over the last 12 years, the only way that harmony is going to be reached is either tossing out or amending the DMCA and, in doing so, re-evaluate exactly how the changes in technology have played out in the forms of digital media. There is little chance of fixing the tangle of existing legislation and Copy Right Board rulings, especially given the fact that webcasters have evolved into quite divergent forms with distinct business models, organizations and revenue/profit streams. Treating them the same would make little sense, and would open the door to fighting amongst themselves over a single rule that applies to them all as they have different interests. That is exactly what SoundExchange is hoping for.

I encourage you to ">read the whole article.

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"Small Commercial Webcasters" (upper case) as opposed to "small webcasters" (lower case)

I want to take a second to clear up something: There are a group of webcasters who participated in the CRB hearings over the last 2 years. This group is known as the "Small Commercial Webcasters" group, and it is represented by Attorney David Oxenford. The small commercial webcasters include DI.FM, RadioIO, AccuRadio, Radio Paradise, Ultimate 80s and 3WK. Often times, this group is abbreviated in the press as the "Small Webcasters". Note the capital letters. Now I often talk about "small webcasters" in a more generic sense, referring to those who in the past operated under the 2002 Small Webcasters Amendment, of which there are a few hundred if these. I sometimes also refer to them as "small, independent webcasters" or just "independent webcasters". I'll be using the latter term more in the future to reduce the confusion between the SCW group and the generic class of smaller webcasters. The reason for this is that while I support the Small Commercial Webcasters group (and SomaFM has provided some financial contributions to their legal fund in the past), we are not a party to their direct negotiations with SoundExchange. However, any deal that they get will be extended to the whole class of small webcasters. We are fighting the same war, we're just fighting slightly different battles. I'm often outspoken and I say things that some members of the Small Commercial Webcasters don't completely agree with, and I want to make it clear that I don't speak for them. So when you hear me try to rally smaller, independent webcasters, keep in mind that I'm not speaking on behalf of of David Oxenford's Small Commercial Webcasters group. I have a ton of respect for David Oxenford and the parties to the SCW negotiations, but I don't want to see my outspoken views negatively affect something they're doing. I also want to make sure that people understand that I'm not rallying the Small Commercial Webcasters; they have a board who makes their decisions. While I often talk to members of the SCW and am more than free with my suggestions on how they act, I have no direct influence over how the group acts.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Defending Issa (and other politicians)

Will Wheaton comments on the Issa/HD radio issues I wrote about recently:
I would like to know why complete idiots like Issa, who clearly have such problems understanding technology, are given the responsibility of crafting legislation that affects technology, and those of us who use it.
I met with Jason Scism, Issa's Counsel on issues of copyright and new media, and I must say that Scism is extremely bright and totally up to speed with these technologies and the state of these copyright issues. I'm drafting a letter to Scism now about the HD radio "issue", as he asked me to stay in touch with him on the things we discussed.

What I've learned from the time I've spent in DC is that you have to be smart to get there. But being smart does not mean being "clueful" about all the issues. Congressmen have to deal with so many different issues that frankly it's amazing they don't come off far worse than they do.

I've also learned that in these hearings, you need to listen to not the exact words that are said, but try to figure out what's behind those words. While Issa used HD radio as his example, he would have been better served by talking about digital audio delivery mechanisms in general. Because he does have a point; as more devices come onto the market, the technology may improve to the point that recording from the radio will be as good as buying the CD/digital download.

But the counter-point is that there are already barriers to making copies from radio that would be as good as a CD. And if you want a bad copy, you've been able to do that since the days of tape recorders. Stream-ripping in most cases is a trojan horse.

But why do they keep bringing this up?

Because XM and Sirius sell devices like the Stiletto, SKYFi and Inno which all feature the ability to record and access individual songs.

When XM uses the tagline, "Hear it. Click it. Save it.", then they are obviously touting their devices as a music-purchasing replacement.

Now people think that these type of devices will come out for HD Radio. And they might (although with the current lack of adoption of HD radio, it's hard to imagine that).

So there are legitimate fears, but in the case of terrestrial radio are these fears warranted?

Most terrestrial broadcasters "production values" are such that they put ads or promo announcements over the beginnings and ends of songs. They also tightly segue songs, unlike Satellite radio. And in the specific of HD radio, the "metadata" or PAD as broadcasters call it is not sent frequently enough to reliably separate songs. Having a copy of the song with the first 5 seconds cut off, or talking over the last 10 seconds of it is not the same as having the real song.

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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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    Tuesday, July 31, 2007

    UMG Prez: Indie labels enemies aren't big labels, they're webcasters

    Larry Kenswil, President, Universal Music Group/eLabs on why indie labels are missing the future:
    Any indie (and I mean a sound recording company, not an artist who chooses to give away music to make money other ways) who thinks webcasting should be used as promotion rather than a revenue source is missing what the future is about. All music use is substitutional for other uses. Everything you do in life substitutes for doing something else. Every bit of evidence we've seen shows that new media reduces sales in old media. Obviously, sales in new media haven't made up for it. On average, heavy satellite radio users spend less money on music (other than their subscription fees) than they did prior to subscribing. Likewise with internet radio. There's just less of a need to own. Promotion is fine, but if you need to get money in from the sound recording, I'll take payment any time. Indie labels are realizing that majors aren't their enemies. Their enemies are corporations who want to make money by performing music and not pay the performers for the privilege.
    I understand the big labels' position: they've got all this legacy content they need to monetize. But most indie labels don't have a bunch of legacy content; all their content is newer and they want to get exposure for it.

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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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    Hearing on Ensuring Artists Fair Compensation: Updating thePerformance Right and Platform Parity for the 21st Century

    The Copyright Office is having a hearing tomorrow to discuss expanding the sound recording performance royalty to analog broadcasters. The good news is that this will entail a rewrite of Section 114 and there is a good chance that this rewrite would put internet radio, satellite radio and over the air radio on the same basis for royalties. Currently, Internet Radio pays the highest royalty rates of any medium.

    Tuesday 07/31/2007 - 10:00 AM; 2141 Rayburn House Office Building
    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

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    Friday, July 27, 2007

    Tell your congressman there is no settlement in process.

    I've learned that people calling Majority Leader Hoyer's (D-MD) office are being told when they mentioned HR.2060 that there is a settlement going on, and implying HR.2060 is no longer necessary.

    This is completely incorrect! As expected, the RIAA and SoundExchange are using the guise of a settlement to derail the passage of the Internet Radio Equality Act.

    We need to let Hoyer's office know there is no settlement going on. The RIAA and SoundExchange have not proposed a settlement, and they haven't even acknowledged SomaFM settlement offer, and they haven't acknowledged the NAB's settlement offer, and DiMA (who represents larger webcasters and Pandora and Live365) isn't even close to settling with them; as the heads of DiMA and SoundExchange (which has a board of directors majority controlled by the RIAA or RIAA member labels) are publicly calling each other liars in the press right now. Not much of a settlement in the works.

    One other point: even if there is a settlement, it's only good through 2009 and then the CRB process starts over again. HR2060 fixes this broken process.

    SoundExchange: if there is a settlement being offered, make it public. And don't make it a settlement offer you know webcasters can't accept.

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    Friday, July 13, 2007

    Are the CRB rates going to be enforced on July 15th?

    John Simson on (APM's) Marketplace just now said that he expects webcasters to be in compliance with the rates that take effect on Monday. This seems counter to what has been reported by others.

    It's available as a podcast at Marketplace.org, it's about 10 minutes (or 1/3 of the way) into the July 13th episode.

    The critical piece:

    Tim Westergren at Pandora asks John Simson, "Are these rates going to be enforced on Sunday?"

    To which Mr. Simspon replies, "There is a ongoing business discussion going on between us and the representatives of these companies, but while that discussion going on, we expect them to comply with the law as it is on July 15th and July 16th."

    Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired has this to say in his latest post:

    Here's the deal, according to SoundExchange. Payments under the new rates are legally due on Monday, but no lawsuits are going to be meted out on that day for webcasters who do not pay, as negotiations continue. Fees that are not negotiated away will still be due retroactively -- plus interest.
    We have a truce right now with the RIAA and SoundExchange, but the "Peace Accord" is still to be worked out. We still might get a bomb dropped on us.

    Please keep calling your reps. And if you haven't supported SomaFM lately, we could user your financial support right now.

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    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    Online Radio: It was nice while it lasted

    Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired writes:
    Congress's attempt today to broker a deal between webcasters and record labels will amount to nothing, according to a SoundExchange representative, because Wednesday's decision by a federal court of appeals made the new online radio royalty rates "etched in stone."
    Overall, the person I talked to seemed certain that the rates are going into effect -- regardless of what's going on in Washington today.
    The RIAA has a very powerful lobby. They almost always get their way when it comes to Washington DC.

    As it stands now, the only fiscally prudent path now for webcasters is direct licensing, which reduces sound recording performance royalty payments legally by cutting out the artist's 50% share of the royalties. Labels can offer broadcasters discounted, direct-license deals at up to a 50% discount over crb rates and still make the same amount of money. Or by offering just a 40% discount, webcasters would pay the same as they've paid in the past, and RIAA labels would earn a 10% premium by bypassing the revenue share with artists. It's just a simple money-grab from the artists by the big labels.

    But the other problem with direct licensing is that it is almost impossible to do with all the different artists and labels we play on SomaFM. 10% of the music we play is rare, out-of-print tracks. There isn't even a label to contact to get permission to play it from anymore.

    Note to the RIAA: smooth move, forcing a legal music service out of business due to your greed, and it will server you right when those people all turn to the illegal file sharing networks to get the music they want.

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    AN URGENT MESSAGE FROM THE SAVE NET RADIO COALITION

    Time and options are running out for Internet Radio. Late Wednesday afternoon, the court DENIED the emergency stay sought on behalf of webcasters, millions of listeners and the artists and music they support.

    UNLESS CONGRESS ACTS BY JULY 15th, the new ruinous royalty rates will be going into effect on Sunday, threatening the future of all internet radio.

    We are appealing to the millions of Internet radio listeners out there, the webcasters they support and the artists and labels we treasure to rise up and make your voices heard again before this vibrant medium is silenced. Even if you have already called, we need you to call again.

    The situation is grave, but that makes the message all the simpler and more serious.

    PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES RIGHT AWAY and urge them to support the Internet Equality Act. Click here to find the phone numbers of your Senators and Representative.

    If they've already co-sponsored, thank them and tell them to fight to bring the bill to the floor for an immediate vote. If the line is busy, please call back. Call until you know your voice has been heard.

    Your voices are what have gotten us this far - Congress has listened. Now, they are our only hope.

    We are outmatched by lobbying power and money of the RIAA but we are NOT outmatched by facts and passion and the power of our voices.

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    U.S. Court of Appeals denies webcasters' "Motion to Stay"

    RAIN is reporting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has denied webcasters' "Motion to Stay" the new webcast royalty rates. This means that the new rates go into effect on July 15th, 2007 (which is a Sunday, so it will actually be that following Monday).

    Our only hope now is that we can get a vote on HR.2060 before Friday. That basically means today, Thursday, July 12th, 2007.

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    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    Sales of digital tracks up 49% in first half of 2007

    According to Nielsen SoundScan, sales of digital tracks are up 49 percent for the first half of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006.

    I guess all the promotional benefit of internet radio is really paying off - people can listen to a track on SomaFM and then click to buy the track instantly online at iTunes.

    Oh, wait. The RIAA says "Internet Radio confers little promotional benefit to most performers" and that's why net radio has to pay really high royalties.

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    Sunday, July 8, 2007

    Why do Nashville Songwriters oppose the IREA?

    From nashvillesongwriters.com: Songwriters oppose the “Internet Radio Equality Act,” H.R. 2060, S 1353:
    This legislation contains provisions that would disallow performance royalties to be negotiated in the free market. Past history shows that other emerging technologies, including cable television and video rentals, made the same argument—that rates should be lower so they could compete. The industries became huge and the result was business models that are very unfair to the creators of music. Also, large corporations such as Clear Channel and Microsoft could end up being the biggest windfall financial beneficiaries.
    A few things:

    1. The IREA does not affect songwriter royalties.

    2. The IREA does not "disallow performance royalties to be negotiated in the free market". Sound-recording performance royalties can still be negotiated independently. Ironically, this is NOT the case with the composition performance royalties (paid through ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) which covers the songwriters.

    3. The rate cut that "large corporations" get isn't the most important part of this legislation. In fact, I'm sure those numbers were put there as a point of negotiation. Bills always get changed before they're passed. Why throw out the baby with the bath water? The important part of the IREA is the changes to the Copyright Act to treat satellite radio and internet radio on the same basis (that of a fair market value vs. a "willing buyer, willing seller" value which only internet radio is subject to now.)

    I think someone doesn't get it over there. Internet radio is paying royalties to the composers now. The IREA doesn't affect that. Higher royalties on the sound recording performance will reduce the number of internet radio stations, which will in turn mean less diversity in music programming.

    But then they also say:

    America has LOST TWO-THIRDS of its PROFESSIONAL SONGWRITERS over the past decade due to illegal downloading, piracy, radio deregulation and corporate mergers. Radio Deregulation has resulted in dramatically fewer spots on radio playlists. A few companies program the majority of country music reporting stations.

    So they're complaining about the lack of diversity in music radio, yet they're supporting a bill that will kill off much of that diversity. Hopefully they'll realize this soon.

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    Friday, June 29, 2007

    Internet Radio lacks a viable businss model?

    David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle :
    Well, there it is. Internet radio sites may be cool and convenient, but, like so many dot-coms before them, they lack a business model capable of withstanding real-world cost pressures.
    The difference is that the dot-coms you refer to didn't have their costs legislated by the government, and more importantly, didn't have costs drastically different for them just because they operate on the internet. It's not like Pets.com had to spend more money on the products they sold because they were an internet company, and the law said that internet pet supply dealers had to pay more for the products they sold than brick and mortar pet stores.

    All other commercial users of music pay based on a percentage of their revenues. Unfortunately, the DMCA legislated that internet broadcasters would be treated differently, largely because when the DMCA was written there weren't really any internet broadcasters to lobby for fairness. The other guys, namely the satellite radio people, made sure that they got treated fairly in the law.

    We're trying to fix this now. The Internet Radio Equality Act is all about royalty equality. There is nothing real-world about government-mandated prices for one industry that do not exist in other (practically the same) industries.

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    SoundExchange represents less than 10% of artists

    John Simson quoted in the Hartford Courant: We [SoundExchanve] represent over 20,000 performers and over 3,000 independent labels and the four major labels.

    Johnny Floater over at Live365 tells me that there are 250,000+ artists that get airplay on Live365. On SomaFM, we've played 8000 different artists this year, and we have only 11 different channels. Because SoundExchange doesn't publish a list of their member artists and labels, we can't compare our playlists to see how much of the music we play is by SoundExchange member rightsholders. But I bet we play a lot of stuff by artists and labels that aren't affiliated with SX.

    There are also over 8200 artists on SoundExchange's "unpaid artists list"; artists that SoundExchange has collected statutory royalties for but hasn't distributed because you have to join SoundExchange before you can get paid. And if these people don't join within a certain point of time, they lose their royalties and SoundExchange gets to keep that money.

    Bottom line: this is why we can't make a deal with SoundExchange. A deal with SoundExchange would only cover their members, and that's less than 10% of the artists out there. It would be fine if we were playing Top 40 or Big 4 label releases, those guys are all covered. But we play "long tail" stuff, and much of it is likely not going to be by SoundExchange members.

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