RIAA Puts the Bite on Webcasters

record.gifI usually tune out Ruth Seymour.

She runs a good station at KCRW (if only for the talents of Raul Campos, Jason Bentley, Harry Shearer and the NPR lineup) but her voice makes my teeth itch.

This morning, though, I snapped to and listened: Seymour announced KCRW will be hit hard by a new federal ruling that would force internet radio stations to start paying royalties for every single song streamed to every single listener.

Whoa. Wired News says it’s fragments of pennies per stream, but the RIAA-sponsored royalty hammer (natch!) carries a $500-a-year minimum fee that would crush tiny guerilla webcasters who get caught in whatever enforcement net the feds toss out – not to mention the more successful ones whose streams might add up to thousands of dollars a year …

Put aside for a second the enforcement questions (How’s it work? Anyone without an RIAA-stamped cookie on every stream gets nailed? Who’s gonna spend time and money enforcing it? How long before someone hacks a perfect cheat?)

But what are the chances that even one cent of the stream fee will make it to the artist’s bank account?

Can we assume the RIAA will spend even a dime of the royalty cash reaped on a tracking system good enough to force megalithic music companies to pass webstream proceeds through consistently to the lower-profile and fringe-y artists that web-radio listeners prefer? Or are the Island Records of the world just gonna slip U2 a little taste while enjoying the rest of the ill-gotten meal themselves.

No sign yet online that the scruffy evil geniuses over at KillRadio are panicking about this.

Are ya, guys?

8 Replies to “RIAA Puts the Bite on Webcasters”

  1. …or maybe this is the final nail in the RIAA coffin? If they want to reduce access to their members music, let them. They are only hurting themselves and their members.

    Then it is up to each of us to reach out to independent bands and artists and cultivate our relationships with them directly…thereby insuring that our money goes to directly to the artist who deserves it.

    At the risk of creating another RIAA-type of body, it seems that there is an opportunity here for independent artists to join together and facilitate these relationships with listeners under a new banner of cooperation instead of heavy-handed enforcement.

  2. Douglas… that is absolutely correct. As a musician I can tell you that I am more interested in connecting with my audience in a personal way than through some faceless record company or recording association. Sure, with that attitude I’ll be unlikely to ever get noticed by the big boys, but I don’t rely on music to support my lifestyle… to me it is all about the art and the expression. I am seeing a lot more musicians take this route, and I think the indie music is getting more honest as a result.

    Shenanigans like this simply expose that the music industry, such as it is, has become a huge dinosaur writhing in its death throes. The sooner it is out of it’s misery, the better. Support local, independent musicians by seeing them in coffee houses, bars, clubs, parks, the street – sure, go to a big mega concert now and then (they can be fun) but remember that the true art is at the personal level.

  3. they tried to do this 5 years ago or so but it didn’t get through how they wanted. i fought tirelessly against it only to have it come back. the rates can still be appealed though, this is seriously the sort of thing that needs to be stopped.

  4. damned free market system, greed steps in again to quash the little guy experimenting with free expression. who thought two free based terms could be so mutually exclusive.

  5. Webcasters should now expand opportunities for new talent by showcasing their work and give the kiss off to RIAA. Let major media, which has been incestuous, exclusionary and insipid, attempt to hold the fort on the interactive revolution. Real talent will overwhelm their anachronistic positions! Remember Vaudeville? And Remember the Alamo!

  6. The RIAA is a trade organization which lobbies Congress on behalf of its clients. They like to style themselves as a quasi-governmental regulator, even convincing Congress to grant them subpoena powers. But really, their business is to get more money for their clients. Simple as that.

    So yea, if the RIAA wants excessive royalties, then the radio stations should simply stop playing music by clients of the RIAA, and music companies who support the new royalty regime. It’s not like there’s a shortage of music out there. Many independent labels and musicians would be more than happy to make their music available to webcasters.

Comments are closed.