On June 26, 2007 a huge coalition of Internet radio stations from Yahoo and Live365 down to small mom and pop organizations will be going silent to protest the recent CRB ruling in the U.S. which hikes fees dramatically for Internet radio stations potentially putting a lot of them out of business. But Podcasting News is wondering out loud if maybe mainstream Net radio deserves to die.
The argument they put forward is best summarized in the quote:
But while SaveNetRadio calls itself a grass-roots coalition, it counts as its members a long string of big media companies – companies like Yahoo!, Live365, Rhapsody and MTV. They’re really not trying to save Net radio, they’re trying to get the government to legislate favorable business conditions so that they can profitably run mainstream Internet radio services.
In other words, they’re trying to make Internet radio safe for Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and Celine Dion.
Essentially they are saying that Net radio is just perpetuating the out-dated business model of the major labels unlike podcasting, where the whole raison d’etre is to discover and promote new music not aligned for the most part with the infamous RIAA.
Since the whole idea of The Rock and Roll Report is to promote great indie and unsigned rock and roll, I certainly have some sympathy with this argument but I still think that Net radio deserves to be saved despite the fact that it will benefit some “big media” companies. There are a number of great Net radio stations like Radio Paradise that do not deserve to be bankrupted off the air. Or look at a show like The Time Machine that is hosted on commercial radio or the innumerable non-commercial and public radio stations like KEXP FM whose great success has been linked to their webcasting over the Net and yet this important avenue is now threatened with extinction. And Live365 has so many cool shows that I cannot possibly list them all and all of them are an incredibly diverse and fantastically eclectic bunch that will be silenced for the most part because of this ruling.
The Rock and Roll Report has never discriminated based on modes of distribution which simply means that if I like what I hear I will play it or write about it regardless of how the music is distributed. That being said, there is too much great music being produced on indie and DIY labels to cause me to spend too much time with the majors but it happens. The nice thing about Rock and Roll Report Radio on CKUT FM, which is a non-commercial community radio station here in Montreal is that I have the freedom to play something from a major mixed in with all my indie stuff if I want to and sometimes it is nice to throw in some obscure track from the Kinks or It’s a Beautiful Day to highlight the influence that they might have on a certain band today or to just point out to my listeners that the sum total of the Kinks for example is not You Really Got Me and Lola. This is something that I will not be able to do on the upcoming podcast.
At the end of the day, the biggest complaint of music fans is the lack of diversity on the radio dial and for this reason they are turning to Net radio and podcasting in droves. While overturning the CRB ruling might make Net radio safe for the likes of Celine Dion and Bon Jovi, it is a necessary sacrifice that must be made to ensure that the small, truly independent webcasters survive. Podcasting and Net radio can thrive and survive side by side. Trying to kill one while promoting the other is a mistake. While it is true that mainstream Net radio perpetuates all that is wrong with the mainstream music industry, I do not think that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is the solution. As more musicians take control of their own destiny and embrace things like podcasting and using YouTube and MySpace to promote their music, the mainstream music industry will slowly fade away as we know it to be replaced by an industry that merely distributes music and doesn’t control it. I support the Day of Silence despite the fact that I abhor the RIAA and their mafia-like tactics. I have listened to too much good Net radio in the last few years to see this vibrant media go silent for good.