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OT - the death of small internet radio broadcasters is imminent

edited January 2016 in Other

I have been a Live365 radio broadcaster now for over 10 years, supporting and giving airplay to many indie and niche artists (close to 4,000 unique artists on my station alone last time i counted), most of whom would never be heard on radio stations otherwise. I just received this email from Live365:

Dear Live365 Broadcaster, For 17 years, Live365 has offered small webcasters the opportunity to stream music and talk programming, providing an alternative distribution channel for diverse, quality content on the Internet in a legally responsible way. Recently, the Copyright Royalty Board, the governing entity for establishing the sound recording royalty rates that are paid to copyright holders, has published the new rates for 2016-20. The previous provisions for small webcasters to opt for a percentage of revenue model were not renewed. The current provisions end at the end of 2015. The absence of this license will make legally streaming copyrighted musical content prohibitively expensive for many small to mid-sized Internet broadcasters. Live365 relies on this license for many of their broadcast partners and, as such, has hard decisions to make regarding their future in the streaming industry.


"The true value of Live365 lies in it's diversity of content - it's a sanctuary where you can hear music and other content that it so unlike the template broadcasting that is heard on most terrestrial radio. These stations are the hard work of real human beings who use Live365 to share their vision with the world. It's a home for musical discovery because many of these stations play emerging artists that terrestrial stations are reluctant to take a chance on. It would be a great loss for this to all go away."

The implications of the ruling by the CRB is far reaching (Farther than just the Live365 contract) and I doubt any other viable options that afford blanket royalty coverage at a reasonable cost will be available for small broadcasters here in the U.S. This means that many small bands and artists are going to lose the venue for their work. Corporate radio is going to take over the internet, and your choices will be far more limited than what is currently available.


  • Well that sucks, minor victory for corporate radio though, they aren't going to win the war.

    Any word on a good alternative? Outside of the US would be good.

    Podcasts instead of streams could be another option as well.

  • Sad stuff but the artists need to get paid too

  • edited January 2016

    For me as a radio listener this sucks completely. I used to stream (for free) via iTunes and frequently experienced FULL JOY while eating my breakfast (esp. KCRW) and getting inspired (for free) by the music from professional musicians out there putting their heats into it.

    Not sure if I got the idea right, I just woke up and my brain ain't cruising smoothly but this actually sounds like great news for working musicians (?).

    This possibly creates an avenue for radio stations that stream less known (semi pro?) artists that don't care too much about the revenue as much as publicity. I'm not an expert and I haven't looked but I don't know of any Internet streaming services as such. I mean sorting out by genres, monitoring submissions and providing reviews etc. community style. Even if that only provides some money for the people running it (through ads) it could be an interesting project. Maybe also get gear manufacturers involved with prizes for the best track of the month, season, year.

    I don't know just writing without the content filter on so correct me if I'm dreaming. I'm actually talking about a service that is actually user friendly unlike the soundclouds or last fms with which I didn't at all get on with.

    Sounds like a good news to me. Bye bye sampling (friendly stealing) from iTunes Radio! Damn!

    Edit: sorry to hear it blows for you @Coloobar (no sarcasm intended)

  • edited January 2016

    @supadom I am one of those radio stations that stream lesser-known, amateur to semi- pro artists. Most of the bands I talk to just want to get their music out there to be heard. How is it a good thing thousands of radio stations just like mine shut down overnight? It's a labor of love to run one of these radio stations and requires countless hours and lots of money to curate them, buy new music, pay the broadcasting fees, royalties, bandwidth, web hosting, etc. Now they've priced us right out of the market. But I guess you could say that traditional radio streaming is a dead, outdated idea. Personalized streaming it where it's at these days. But lets say you put together your own album of music and want to get it some airplay. Now where are you going to go when smaller nich-genre venues aren't around anymore? Will you send it to Spotify, Pandora, or iHeartradio? Good luck with that. Which brings me to my next point, the CRB has been nothing but a puppet for corporate greed, and this is just another example of them tightening the vise and squeezing out the little guys. Imagine if they implimented a multi-tier tax system in the beer industry and the microbreweries had to pay much more on a per-beer basis than the Anheuser-Busch's. Then every 5-years they make it worse and worse for the microbreweries until they can no longer afford to stay in business - while the billion dollar corporate breweries continue to get an even bigger tax discount.

  • I have my tracks played on internet radio stations quite regularly but since I am not registered with the CRM (or PRS as I guess is the UK equivalent) I don't expect to get paid but neither do I expect the radio station (or myself) to pay to broadcast my music. Radio stations such as MassMediaRadio, Modul303 and RadioUniversal which focus on independent artists like me provide a great way to get your music shared to a wider, international audience (although admittedly not a huge audience). They also provide a great sense of community between the artists and the station, with chatrooms accompanying the shows for fans and artists to create new friendships and musical relationships.

    It would be a real shame if these types of radio stations are forced to close down.

    Some, but not all, stations I have submitted tracks to have a non-exclusivity release form to sign. Maybe I am just in the fortunate position of not expecting or needing to make any money from my music? I just enjoy having the channels available through which I can share it with others.

  • As I said my response was based on the vague knowledge of the topic. Also since you've mentioned PRS and copyright dues I responded as I did as I know exactly how painful this can be to musicians.

    I will definitely check out some of the mentioned options. Good luck.

  • edited January 2016

    I would have to be on the other side of this one, which Supadom mentioned.

    I don't think aggregators should be able to thrive on free to them content, while at the same time severely damaging the value of music as a livelihood for musicians.

    It bothers me that people who aren't making a living from making music have decided that it is their life mission to deteriorate the value of it.

    The message always has been "but exposure, exposure, exposure" but millions upon millions of bedroom players who aren't trying to do this for a living getting their "exposure" shred working musicians to dust by dividing their market potential.

    There are more than enough social platforms out there to build any type of following imaginable, and youtube which currently seems to be the best platform at the moment, especially for discoverability.

    This issue reminds me a bit of the ad-blocking arguments that came about around iOS 9, and how many news organizations were losing it about how they were all going to lose everything.

  • edited January 2016

    @AQ808 your opinion seems to take a very one-sided view that radio stations only play new content, and music they obtain for free? If a radio station is dedicated to playing anything else, say early jazz fusion, or golden era prog rock, or whatever... the argument doesn't make sense. It's like calling a library a newsstand. Music today is devalued more now than ever, but it's a result of a breakdown in the whole system from non-DRM music formats, to the electronic devices we use, to the fragmentation of the big record labels. Don't just blame the drug dealer for the addiction.

    With all of the other platforms out there, you may be right about getting along just fine without us, albeit with far less choices for consumers than before.

  • What or who pays for your station to stay on Air? Sponsors, donations are you paid?

    It says copyright material...Do you need that license if you don't play copyright music?
    Can't your station play the unknown artists, like before?

    When I lived in states, the only radio stations I listened to was college ones, DJs that played new and unknown groups commercial potential.... I discovered a lot of new music on those stations those days...

    @TGiG said:
    Sad stuff but the artists need to get paid too

    That's really not true, that's what the industry wants you to believe, artists need to perform...concerts.

  • edited January 2016

    Royalties and such have always been somewhat of a mystery to me (how they work or are supposed to). So on reading this post, I started investigating (for my own knowledge).

    This was quite informative;

    The Internet has changed the world quite a bit, some for the better, some for the worse.

  • edited January 2016

    As a hobbyist I payed about $750 a year to Live365 and they provided the streaming and covered the royalties. I did accept donations from listeners, but most of money came out of my own pocket. I did it gladly because I am promoting a rareish style of music that I love (stuff never heard on mainstream radio). That covered I think up to 40 listeners at once but I never came close to that. 15 - 20 listeners was more typical.

    Not too many musicians get rich on royalties. For the mainstream bands it probably adds up over time, but I spoke to the guitarist (or read an interview) of a reasonably popular band who said they made maybe $75 a year from ASCAP. There are many musicians out there who don't even realize they need to sign up to receive royalties, so the collected money just sits there. It would be interesting to know what, if anything, eventually happens to all of that.

    @AlterEgo_UK mentioned a non-exclusivity release form, and that would be a possibility. It's an agreement that allows the broadcaster to air the music royalty-free. You would need to get every artist that you air to fill out one of those forms. Frankly it would be a pain and not worth the effort, cause you'll never get all the bands you want to fill one out, and you have to track down all of the contacts. If the members of the band are dead you have to find out who the current copyright holder is, etc. New bands who are eager to be heard for the first time would be more likely to actually fill them out.

  • edited January 2016

    If a registry was built, it could be used.

    In the era of big data, I no longer buy the "its too difficult" argument.

    When people say that, its an immediate red flag to me that they want to use the content without contacting the authors because "its too hard", and thus want a ruling by which they can do whatever they want without regard to authors.

    Google did the same thing with books.

  • edited January 2016

    I have to say this though, this is entirely out of our hands, and has been decided.

    The discussion is merely whistling past the graveyard. The result will not be changed no matter how much smoke is blown over it.

    Also, in terms of a one-sided view, you left a lot out of your original topic.

    The board actually reduced rates for rights holders from 24 to 17, which could definitely be read as anti-artist, but on the other hand have made them apply across the board, and recently removed a loophole Pandora was using to dodge paying properly for use.

    Also, just because musicians today are largely forced to live off of performance doesn't necessitate that we have to hand all of the value of our copyright over to anybody else to use for their own purposes, especially for the purposes of any wall street douchebag with a new "system" for music distribution.

    There is a difference between "Public Domain" and "Copyright" for a reason.

    People want to use copyrighted work as though its public domain.

    The new "Discover" platform from Propellerhead is ahead of the curve here, as they, with entirely cloudy verbiage, force you to put your work into the Public Domain if you use their sharing "service", and Figure has been updated to force you to use Discover in order to have any access to your Figure files, which not only were previously available by connecting to iTunes but also could be emailed to yourself if you wanted.

    I would much rather focus on running those bastards out of the music industry than rail at the CRB.

    For what you are doing, I think a Youtube playlist would be better at this point than what you are paying for, and consequently give much better "exposure" to those artists, if the rights holders control their channel.

  • edited January 2016

    Streaming services are growing in popularity for consumers, but last chart I saw, they weren't even breaking even. That was 2014, maybe they've achieved some sort of profitability threshold.

    A quick visit to HFA to buy a license for x number of downloads and x number of streams to release a cover tune reveals how detrimental the streaming model is to artists, compared to a physical download or a CD/LP. Streaming royalties are about 1/100th physical download royalties.

    To put it another way, the songwriter of "All About That Bass" - his profit over the course of 178 million streams? Less than $6,000. So to anyone responding that the artists and songwriters deserve to get paid for their work, I wholeheartedly agree. But this article from this past September reaffirms my belief that streaming = very bad news for artists trying to make a living:

    The most promising business model I've seen lately for independent artists is YouTube + loads of content + promotion on social media + securing patrons on Patreon. I like to call this the Beethoven model. Never truly wealthy, much of the Maestro's adult life was spent scrambling about for royal patrons to subsidize his lifestyle as a composer.

    But what about this, from a tearful Orson Welles in the 70s (paraphrasing) "Spending all your time hustling for money? That's no way to live ..."

    What does all this bode for the radio and album formats we all grew up with? Gone for good?

    Apologies, @Coloobar, if this is too far off topic. It does sound like independent radio stations are getting squeezed big time.

  • @AQ808 said:
    Google did the same thing with books.

    That's a funny example to use for how easy it would be to create a registry. Coloobar ain't Google. Live365 ain't Google either.

    Personally, I don't think Coloorbar should have to pay a dime to stream a radio station, so long as he's not collecting revenue. Live365 on the other hand is in the business of turning a profit by streaming music. Why shouldn't they pay what it's worth?

    They've been through this 'sky is falling' PR cycle about 10 times before. Somehow, they keep keeping on.

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