Friday, 1 April 2016

Rebuffering: Misplaced Anger

Neon Trees At Tainted Blue Studios
The following comment recently appeared under The War on American Internet Radio Continues:
Simple solution for Radionomy: shut up and pay. From 2007 to 2013, I did a radio show for an Internet station. We paid the requested royalties because it was simply the right thing to do. As for the idea that these small webcasters provide independent labels with their only way of promoting their artists, that is flat-out false, especially in this day and age. I have never listened to Radionomy or any other service that rips off musicians, yet typically purchase 140-150 new releases each calendar year (very few of these are on major labels). The notion that artists should give away their recordings or play free gigs for "exposure" is moronic. The musicians I know aren't interested in becoming stars. They just want to be paid for their work. So pay 'em, for goodness sake.
Since the commenter (who posted anonymously) raises several points that I often encounter in online discussions, I think a systematic, fully-developed response serves the public interest.

Simple solution for Radionomy: shut up and pay.

This is the same "simple solution" that some float for health care, homelessness, university tuition, world hunger, and every other created crisis of our time. I don't know what Radionomy's books look like. (No-one seems to.) But the issue here – and across Net radio – is pricing start-up webcasting out of existence. Since no-one has argued that Radionomy, or anyone else, shouldn't pay a fair revenue share to content creators, the commenter's objection is off-topic.

From 2007 to 2013, I did a radio show for an Internet station. We paid the requested royalties because it was simply the right thing to do.

Again, no-one believes Net radio stations shouldn't be licensed. In fact, many small webcasters go into the field precisely to support artists they admire. Paying liability is part of their dream: helping musicians live off their art and produce more of it. The issue is the word requested. Copyright owners are not the only interests in play – this is also a cultural matter – and anyway, creators are far down the corporate food chain. You want an earful of abuse and exploitation? Bring up the very corporations bringing this suit to a roomful of artists. The implication that royalty rates have been inflated for their benefit is fatuous at best.

As for the idea that these small webcasters provide independent labels with their only way of promoting their artists, that is flat-out false, especially in this day and age.

In a recent Salon magazine article detailing the full-body header that Big Music has taken into monopolised senility, Eric Boehlert comes straight to the point:
Radio is an entity unique to the music industry. It’s an independent force that, much to the industry’s chagrin, represents the one tried-and-true way record companies know to sell their product. (Emphasis NRB.)
He goes on to explain how trust-friendly legislation stripped American broadcast radio of its ability to promote new artists. The most powerful alternative those artists have is the up-and-coming medium of small webcasting.

Webcasting hasn't yet had time to land its full punch, but it's far and away the most welcoming mass-media outlet for independent artists. Thousands of hobby and cottage-business stations already exist, and (outside the US) their numbers are growing. Niche formats, streamed to rabid, globally-distributed listenerships, are the medium's bread and butter.

If the law can be persuaded for once to promote individual enterprise over corporate laziness (see Capitalism gone awry: How legislation killed the music industry and radio), Net radio will revolutionise the market in favour of artists. Until now, they have always had to overcome tremendous odds to reach ears – and therefore wallets. This has caused many deserving talents, who should have enjoyed robust careers and enriched our lives, to languish in obscurity.

Finally, did Anonymous miss the part about Radionomy being a sister firm of the world's largest record company? Does he imagine that corporations habitually dump money on unpaying propositions? Obviously, the moguls at Vivendi think there's something to this "Internet" thing.

I have never listened to Radionomy or any other service that rips off musicians, yet typically purchase 140-150 new releases each calendar year (very few of these are on major labels).

It's hard to keep a straight face on this one. To begin with, there's no compelling evidence that Radionomy exploits artists more dramatically than Big Music itself. Most performers (some well-established; see Janis Ian's in-depth, well-informed essay on music marketing in the Internet Age) viscerally distrust the promoters and distributors they've worked with.

As for his own buying habits, I'll see Anonymous' bid and raise him this: 100% of my new music purchases come from Net radio. As in all. Some of those tracks are by artists established in their own countries but unknown in mine. The rest I bought from Bandcamp or the artist's website. If not for Net radio, I would never have heard them, and so I would never have bought them.

Anonymous doesn't reveal what drives his 150-odd annual music purchases; does he just buy willy-nilly, sound unheard? Is it the title that attracts him? The name of the group? Where does he even learn about these tracks, or groups, or whatever it is that gets his money, since radio apparently isn't in the equation?

And who are these "other services that rip artists off"? He seems to imply that all small webcasters fall into that category; possibly he believes broadcast radio pays a larger share of its revenue. If so, I'd like to give Marvin Glass, director of Streamlicensing.com, a moment with him.

The notion that artists should give away their recordings or play free gigs for "exposure" is moronic.

"Exposure" is another word no-one has read on Net Radio Blog. Not that the exposure con isn't real; as a freelance writer I bang my head against it daily. And we writers don't even make a dime beyond one-time purchase of our rights. By contrast, musicians get liability per listener per performance, amounting to a perpetual revenue stream worth much more than recording sales.

That said, exposure is a thing. Artists must be heard/seen/read to make money. If it's true that profiteers have spun that into a racket, it's also true that exposure is vital to us. That's why music promoters provide thousands of recordings to radio stations – including small independent Internet radio stations – free of charge.

But Anonymous is right that exposure alone isn't sufficient; you can't pay your rent with "exposure". And no-one in the Net radio community – least of all me – has suggested otherwise.

The musicians I know aren't interested in becoming stars. They just want to be paid for their work. So pay 'em, for goodness sake.

You know who else doesn't want to be a star? Small webcasters. They'd like to pay their expenses (or not; many are hobbyists, happy to operate at a loss, within reason). A few would like to make a living. The notion that Net radio producers are running off with bags of unearned money is frankly surrealistic. They are in fact the precise equivalent of independent musicians: doing what they do because they have to, because they've got the sickness, because they have vision and passion and something to contribute. Any attempt to cast them as exploiters – of anyone – is extremely specious.

Artists and small webcasters are two subsets of a common interest. To characterise their relationship as adversarial flies in the face of political reality and common sense.

Robin


(Photo of Neon Trees performing for a webcast courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

23 comments:

  1. as an internet radio producer who in my own small way helps promote independent artists and help them reach a slightly wider audience, i applaud this balanced well written piece!

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  2. Thanks, Martin! Just clearing a few things up...

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  3. "Anonymous" is clearly typing to hear the clicking from his keyboard. His comments are frankly uninformed, and arrogant. I'm a 20 year radio vet. Between the inside deals and playlist manipulation, the only thieves in this game are the RIAA. I've seen it first hand.

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  4. The music industry is battling YouTube as well. http://rainnews.com/the-industrys-battle-against-youtube-gathers-steam/

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  5. Latest update 4/29/16: Sony Music has has pulled all Radionomy stations from TuneIn and removed the Radionomy App from the US iTunes Store. www(dot)facebook(dot)com/milwaukeesmagic/posts/747064962096844

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  6. Thanks for that news. Tunein decided to pull RN stations almost two months ago; not sure why it's getting so much attention now. (Possibly because they're actually doing it now.) Removal of the RN app from the US iTunes store, however, is new. I haven't been able to find a news story about it to link to, unfortunately.

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  7. According to the filing, Radionomy has no licensing arrangements with US PROs either privately or under the blanket statutory license provision of U.S.C. Section 114.

    They are not listed as a payee on the SoundExchange site. Nor BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC for that matter.

    Just from reading their fairly well hidden TOS years ago, it was quite evident to me that their “escape clause” to any foreign (US) PRO that should come knocking was to seek relief under whatever international safe harbor provision available.

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  8. Here's the lawsuit complaint: http://cdn.mbw.44bytes.net/files/2016/03/radionomy.pdf

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  9. I agree with the Anonymous that just posted the information about the lawsuit on May 2 at 6:39 and 6:45. I don't see anything nefarious on Sony's part.

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  10. I agree that any rights holder has the right to pursue any venue for non-payment.

    However, this particular move is part of a full-court press to monopolise the American music industry, one that started decades ago and includes eliminating all small webcasting from the US. Since they managed to get the small webcasting licence revoked at the start of the year, Radionomy has become the last refuge of independent American Net radio. In light of that fact, this action is clearly another hostile act. The timing alone makes that point.

    The point has always been, and remains, that these corporations have jiggered prices to eliminate revenue streams for independent artists. "Non-payment" is only the stick they use to deliver the final blow.

    As I wrote in the article, the rates are abusive and prohibitive, and they hurt any artist who isn't already a star. Small webcasters are overwhelmingly given to stream new and/or little-known acts. Not only are they typically music anoraks themselves, there's less competition with established media. It's their commercial niche.

    A more accurate term for this medium would be "indie radio". These people are indies, just like the groups they support, and wise music lovers will support them.

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  11. This is a Facebook page of a station I used to listen to. The station made the decision to stop streaming in January. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Soft-N-Easy-Net-Radio/276449947249

    On the station's Facebook page, they were asked about Radionomy. The station had some experience with them and said it's not all "warm and fuzzy".

    From what I've seen on Radionomy's forums and Facebook page, there's a lack of communication with the "producers" regarding legal matters like this.

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    Replies
    1. I've noticed the frustration about that as well. If I were running a small stream like that, communication would be one of the factors into what service I would use.

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  12. Radionomy is indeed a giant cypher. You're correct: even those actively producing RN stations often have little or no idea what's going on in the company itself. Transparency is not an RN corporate value.

    There are other issues for RN producers. Just having to deal with a remote server -- one you don't control and can't fix when it goes wonky -- is a constant source of stress. I have about a dozen RN stations in my scanlist, and the quirks and foibles of the system are evident on-stream. (Though I admit that I kind of like that angle; it reminds me that normal people are producing those stations.)

    If I had to choose one word to describe the whole Radionomy phenomenon, I'd say "enigma". Just surviving as long as they have, in the shark pool that is copyright law today, is an utter mystery to me.

    However, we must never lose sight of the street-level result. Thousands of ordinary "little people" are producing RN stations worldwide. They're doing it for the love of the music they play and their belief in Net radio. Very, very few are making a cent at it; few are even trying.

    Whatever's going on in that boardroom in Paris, the service itself is vital. And given recent developments, irreplaceable.

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  13. Newsweek article on how indie artists feel about streaming. http://www.newsweek.com/ten-indie-musicians-weigh-music-streaming-debate-355298

    They seem to be split on the issue.

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  14. RAIN News site says the Radionomy stations were pulled from TuneIn because of the CRB decision.

    http://rainnews.com/radionomy-blocks-u-s-listening-on-tunein-because-of-crb-rates/#comment-107619

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  15. According to the boards at Radionomy, the Nobex app is being geoblocked as well. https://board.radionomy.com/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=21423

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  16. Speaking of anger, I've heard some people in discussions like this disliking IHeart Radio. Why is this?

    I'm into mainstream easy oldies. In addition to listening to a small handful of streams on Stream Licensing and Radionomy (I play Radionomy's m3u file using my iTunes player and my Windows Media Player), I listen to IHeart's Sunny Radio channel (www.iheart.com/live/sunny-radio-5014/), which plays the easy oldies that I was raised on, which is why I don't have any reason to hate IHeart.

    In addition to those, I also listen to a station from Ireland called Heartbeat FM (www.heartbeatfm.net), that plays mainstream easy oldies. The Irish station uses an app and multiple portals. They also have audio files to listen in various media players.

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  17. The latest is that Radionomy stations are being geoblocked in multiple countries around the world. https://www.facebook.com/milwaukeesmagic/posts/751594761643864

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  18. Here are the latest updates concerning Radionomy:

    These countries ARE GEO-BLOCKED:
    Canada
    Japan
    South Korea (partially)
    Taiwan
    Philippines
    Brazil
    Chile
    Colombia
    Venezuela
    Bolivia
    South Africa and some other parts of Africa
    Countries formerly in Yugoslavia (e.g. Serbia, Croatia)
    Luxembourg
    Switzerland
    Turkey
    Romania
    India
    Russia (except a few areas)
    Ukraine
    -Radionomy removed producers’ access to its built-in song library without any explanation.
    -Radionomy changed several sections of its Producers’ Pact and modified its royalty terms to make them more general and ambiguous- producers are now wondering whether or not Radionomy truly covers performance royalties.
    -Producers have been waiting months and in some cases years, for their revenue share payouts and with recent policy changes now in effect (Radionomy no longer compensating for 25K TLH from USA), producers are in doubt as to whether they will ever receive payments.

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  19. I hear that the Windows Media Radio Guide will be shutting down June 30.

    I think that maybe the landscape of internet radio is changing too quickly for the guide to stay current. Or maybe this is a concession that internet radio's future is in the hands of the major corporations, not the quirky hobbyists, and that players/guides operated by the big-time players will be the way the online masses will access whatever programming survives the great money grab of 2016.

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  20. Apple is using monopolistic-like actions snuff out their competition.

    http://rainnews.com/apple-pitches-flat-rate-for-on-demand-songwriter-royalties-to-crb/

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  21. Apple is using monopolistic-like actions snuff out their competition that offers free streaming.

    http://rainnews.com/apple-pitches-flat-rate-for-on-demand-songwriter-royalties-to-crb/

    ReplyDelete
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    https://www.lucidsamples.com/rock-samples-packs/164-electric-guitar-ballads-vol-1-download.html

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