Mark My Words: Does Rock and Roll Report Radio Have a Future Online? And IndieWeek Toronto!

For those of you who listen to the podcast, you will know that I am in the middle of looking back at the first 15 podcasts and revisiting a selection of tracks from those shows. The reason I am doing so is because it gives new listeners a chance to have a listen to some music they might have missed and it allows me to combine these songs in new ways just for the juxtaposition of it all as I never repeat songs on the podcast which is both a good thing and bad.

The good thing is that the music is always new, every podcast is different. You may hear some of the same bands on it but the songs are never the same. The bad thing is that unless you go back and re-listen to the podcast, you might never hear the songs played again (these are after all unsigned bands and bands on independent record labels).

Now, one fundamental of radio is repetition. The more you play a song, the better the chance that people will get to know it. Unfortunately for us, commercial rock radio basically relies on about 1500 songs (I know, it often sounds like 15!) and repeats those over and over. What I would love to do is create an online radio station that would, in the beginning, allow me to upload the latest podcast playlist to the station putting those songs into a rotation. If you figure I have played an average of 10 songs a podcast and have produced 31 podcasts so far, that is 310 songs in rotation on the station at all times.

The main issue preventing me from starting Rock and Roll Report Radio is the cost of running it. With the podcast I always ask permission from the artists to play their songs on the show. The reason I do this is so that I don’t have to pay them royalties in addition for the exposure because a podcast is a download and musicians are owed royalties on them. The artists and bands I have dealt with have been great in always granting me this permission. Once I start an Internet radio station though, things get a bit more complicated.

Internet radio stations (or webcasts) have to pay various royalties on the music they play and the current proposed standards in the U.S. (where my server is) amount to anywhere from 70% to 300% of all station revenues. This is in contrast to broadcast stations that pay none and satellite radio that pays royalties based on 7.5% of their total revenues. I am at the point where I will need to incorporate Rock and Roll Report anyways and obviously, unless I find some rich investor willing to pay for the whole show or I win the lottery, I need to generate enough income to pay for all the expenses I incur running the site (hosting fees, equipment costs, paying all contributors something for their effort, etc.). While I would love to add a streaming station to the site, if it is going to cost me money that I cannot recoup it makes no sense to start it. At the very least I want any income generated on The Rock and Roll Report to go towards paying artist royalties, paying expenses and then being reinvested into the site and show to make it even better than it is now. Having to pay 70% of all my revenues to royalties when I don’t even play major label releases is simply beyond my reach and is the reason why a lot of amazing and innovative internet radio stations have shut down recently.
Commercial rock radio for the most part sucks. Internet radio offers a real choice for music fans of all types. The problem is in the details and I don’t think you will find any serious broadcaster or potential broadcaster that doesn’t want to pay royalties to the musicians they play. What they do want is a fair rate and a somewhat level playing field with broadcast and satellite radio. Recent developments in the U.S. hold out some hope that the impasse will be broken but until that is achieved, an online Rock and Roll Report Radio is imply too expensive for me to start up at this time. But once it does get going, get ready for an amazing rock and roll ride, guaranteed!

For anybody in Toronto from October 7th – 11th make sure you check out the incredible Indie Week being hosted in that city. 80+ bands playing at over a half-dozen venues promise to make this a musical event you don’t want to miss. I will be involved as a judge for the whole week so if you see me make sure you stop by and say hi!

Later.

Mark