The RIAA and its goonsquad, SoundExchange, is working very hard to destroy internet radio, by forcing webcasters to pay royalties that will run from 60%-300% of their annual revenue. For context, satellite radio pays 5%-7%, and over-the-air broadcasters pay nothing.
Why is the RIAA trying so hard to destroy Internet Radio? I wrote in a Geek in Review a while ago:
RIAA (which is essentially the major labels) has spent a lot of time
and a lot of money building a monopoly with a few media conglomerates,
and it's been very profitable for them all for decades.
This effort to wipe out independent online radio has nothing to do with
protecting artists, and everything to do with protecting a status quo
that supports a very few top 40 acts at the expense of everyone else.
In their effort to protect their outdated business model and insanely
corrupt relationship with a few broadcasters, the RIAA is happy to
prevent their artists from having a magnificent way to reach potential
customers who will buy albums, merchandise, and concert tickets.
I am rather worked up about this because I believe it's about choice.
The airwaves in the United States are supposedly
owned by the American people, and licensed out to broadcasters for use, but in practice, that's not the way it works at all. In practice, the airwaves are owned by Clear Channel, and they work hand-in-hand with the big four record labels to limit our choice of music. It's a great scam they've got going, and it's been a very profitable system for all of them for a very long time.
For the rest of us, though, this system sucks. For guys like me who can't stand top 40 music, who can't stand the utter crap they play on KROQ these days, and who want some fucking variety in their music, we're screwed . . .
Indie webcasters like SomaFM have been working tirelessly with the Save Net Radio Coalition
to educate our representatives in congress so that legislation can be
passed which would make it possible for these indie broadcasters to
stay in business. The RIAA doesn't like this, so they're trying to fight it, but in a surprisingly competent move, Congress is forcing RIAA and its goonsquad SoundExchange to negotiate realistic and fair royalty rates with webcasters.
That brings us more or less up to today, where we discover that the RIAA is getting desperate, and doesn't like that it can't get its way simply by threatening a lot of people and paying off a lot of congressmen.
Rusty Hodge, the GM of SomaFM, has been in DC for a couple of months, working like crazy to save his business and an entire industry. He's been blogging about his experiences, sharing the little victories and big frustrations during the fight.
The RIAA must be afraid of Rusty and everyone who is working to save internet radio, because they've now resorted to outright lying to webcasters, in their latest efforts to threaten and scare them:
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.
The press release Rusty is referring to is reprinted in his blog, but here's the short version: 24 webcasters signed an agreement with SoundExchange that gives them slightly-better royalty rates now, but expires in three years, putting them right back where they are today. If SoundExchange can scare enough indie webcasters into signing this horrible agreement, the RIAA will be able to go to congress and tell them that they really don't need to pass the Internet Radio Equality Act, which would permanently save internet radio by preventing the RIAA and SoundExchange from jacking up royalty rates so high, it would force indie webcasters out of business.
However, the agreement only covers artists and labels who are
SoundExchange members. Webcasters who sign the agreement but still
want to play music from other bands would have to pay SoundExchange the
higher per-song rates originally specified
by the CRB for those songs, because that music is not part of the
deal. In essence, small webcasters who sign have an economic incentive
to avoid lesser-known music.
So that's what this is all about: stopping lesser-known music from even having a chance at finding an audience. The RIAA's major members -- Universal, Warner, Sony BMG, and EMI -- are trying to put indie webcasters out of business. They're not working to protect artists. They're working to protect their monopoly, and now they're lying to do it.
I can't say much more than that until after we record on Thursday, and I find out exactly what I can and can't disclose, but I've read the script, and I think it has the potential to be an episode that goes down as a classic. Okay, one thing: I have a lot of scenes with Stewie.
The timing is perfect, too, because I've spent so much time on Legion of Superheroes and other animated shows that I don't feel intimidated or uncertain about whether I'm up to the task or not. I can't even describe how excited I am to do this, but it's been one of
my dreams for years. In fact, I think I put it on a wishlist at one
I'm going to go float around for a little while, now.
We have a new refrigerator. It's energy efficient, can hold an entire horse and a stick of butter, and is generally one of the more awesome "grown up" purchases Anne and I have made since we got married seven years ago.
In addition to the awesome Futurama magnets that adorn its doors, it comes with a nifty little basket thingy which slides in and out underneath one of the shelves, perfect for holding bottles and cans.
We here in Chez Wheaton don't drink much of anything that comes out of a can (the notable exception being Guinness) but I drink plenty of things that come out of a bottle, like Stone Pale Ale and Izze soda, for example.
A few months ago, I uncovered a design flaw in the otherwise perfect basket: the wires spread out a little (okay, a lot) more easily than you'd expect from something intended to hold bottles in their least entropic state. If you have a heavy bottle (like a wine bottle, for example) on the same rack as a lighter bottle (like a Newcastle, for instance) and you look at them funny, the heavy bottle will create enough pressure to spread the wires and launch the lighter bottle onto the floor, where it will explode.
This afternoon, while I was trying to pull out a bottle of Tejava (99 cents at Trader Joe's) to enjoy a cool glass of tea, a bottle of clementine Izzie soda looked up at me, shouted, "Hooray! I'm free!" And launched itself onto the floor and landed in a sticky explosion of horrible, entropic freedom.
I was, of course, standing barefoot in the kitchen at the time, so I got to tip toe through a spreading slick of soda and shards of broken glass that were as pointy and deadly as they were invisible on the floor while I made my way to the paper towels.
By some miracle, I didn't cut the everlivingshit out of my feet, and only got stuck a couple of times, and by the time Anne and Nolan got home, I was nearly done cleaning it up.
"What happened?" Anne said.
"There were . . . errors," I said.
She gave me a blank look. Before I could explain the inside joke to her, Nolan said, "What did you do?"
"I was trying to get some iced tea, and the Izze decided to make a break for it."
I held up a handful of dripping paper towels.
Nolan dropped to his knees and looked skyward. "Noooooooo!" He said, while shaking his fists at an imaginary Statue of Liberty.
"Yeah," I said. "Sorry. But there's more, so you can put them in there when I'm done."
Anne walked over to the pantry to get some replacement bottles.
"Would you like me to leave some of this here, as a warning to the new bottles?" I asked.
This week's Geek in Review is about a communications revolution I see happening right now. It crosses
generations, and it scares the absolute shit out of a lot of people who
benefit from ignorance and the control of information.
Communication empowers people, and an empowered people are very, very
scary to the powerful upper class who hope that we’ll just go away,
right after we buy a lot of crap from them that we don’t need. And holy
shit are they scared right now. The revolution may not be televised,
but it’s being blogged, YouTubed, MySpaced, Facebooked, Dugg and
Netscaped. Instead of embracing this new technology and the generation
that’s growing up with it and taking it for granted, the big media
conglomerates and their *AA organizations are spending time, money and
energy they could be spending on creating awesome content on trying to
destroy the technology that scares them. Is it any wonder the big media
cabal want to destroy network neutrality? Is it any surprise that
they’re clinging to stupid DRM schemes that punish honest customers and
infect computers with rootkits?
The audience isn’t going to stop consuming content online, and creators
aren’t going to go back to the old way of groveling at the feet of some
network boss or studio head or label president, because they don’t have to anymore.
Instead, they’ll just use inexpensive technology to put it all
together, and use the Internet to distribute it directly to the
audience. The studios have a choice now: continue their full-on war
against consumers and technology, or join and benefit from the
This column has the potential to generate some discussion, you know . . . some communication. Am I nuts? Or does anyone else see or experience the revolution, too?
My Ocean beeped at me, announcing the arrival of a text message from my younger son, Nolan.
I opened it up and read, “mom will b gon ur goin 2 din thing rite but 5 is fine then k.”
I turned the phone around in my hands, and wondered if maybe I some packets had been dropped during transmission. This cryptic message had been sent in response to my message, “I need to pick you up at five so I can make it to my dinner on time, okay?”
I looked at the phone’s display again, and headed to the cryptography section of my bookshelf. Maybe he’d been captured by ninjas or something, and was sending me a coded message!
While I looked, another message arrived. “wen u get me can u tak me and danny 2 john house 2 do hw plz 4 skool” "Jesus Christ," I thought, this is serious. "I’d better crack this code before he gets hurt!"
Several frustrating minutes later, I gave up, and just called him.
“Nolan,” I said, “is everything alright? You’re texting in tongues.”
He laughed. “Yes, I’m fine. Did you really not understand me?”
“I never understand you damn kids today, but . . . yeah. You have to remember that --”
“That you’re old. Okay, I get it. Can you take us to Danny’s after you pick me up, so I can do my homework?”