With just over four weeks until online royalty rates are set to increase, internet broadcasters and the people who love them are starting to get nervous. I wrote about this back in March, and amusingly, it looks like “Save the Streams,” the organization set up to help stop the rate hike, got my message about their icky name and folded themselves into a new group: SaveNetRadio. Whew! Anyway, these new rules would reportedly increase fees by up to 1200%, putting many broadcasters out of business, and on Monday, the SaveNetRadio people held a concert outside of the Capitol to raise awareness of the issue. Unfortunately, nobody had ever heard of the bands who performed: Yugo, Nadir, and, um, The Mother Jones Band. Talk about royalties — shouldn’t we get a dollar every time they sell a T-shirt? The new rules are set to go into effect July 15th, and actually sound pretty unfair, the most troubling aspect being that the same rates are applied to both commercial and public broadcasters. And thus, next Tuesday, June 26th, a coalition of webcasters are participating in a “Day of Silence” to protest the new rules, and yes, that means no KCRW for 24 hours, unless you actually live within range of its 39 (or so) actual FM transmitters! Gulp!
I’m not sure how seriously to take all this, considering it has all happened before, five years ago to be specific. Additionally, SoundExchange (the company that actually collects the money) says that the ten largest webcasters account for over 80% of internet royalties, and that SaveNetRadio is just a “front” for profitable webcasters like Yahoo! and AOL, who can easily afford the higher rates. Hmm. Oddly enough, the proposed replacement bill (now sponsored by 118 representatives) applies a flat fee not only to internet radio, but also to that musical distribution system at the forefront of modern technology: the jukebox. Well, if jukeboxes unite in a day of silence, you’ll know we’re really in trouble.