Bill Virgin's Radio Beat July 19, 2007

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat July 19, 2007

Postby radiofan » Thu Jul 19, 2007 9:33 am

Radio Beat: The royalty-rate deadline passes but the controversy plays on

Internet radio hasn't gone silent yet. Neither has the debate over how much Internet stations should pay for the music they play.

Last weekend's deadline for higher royalty rates for songs played on the Internet came and went with a flurry of negotiations and legislative proposals before Congress, but no imposition of the higher rates.

Those higher rates would apply to both over-the-air (terrestrial) broadcasters who operate Internet versions of their stations, as well as those stations that operate solely on the Web; both say dramatically higher royalty rates will force some off the air.

So far, most Internet stations say they haven't altered their operations, while they wait for the negotiations to play out.

"It's really a day-by-day, week-by-week situation," says Tom Mara, executive director of KEXP-FM (90.3), which has a considerable online audience.

Complicating the debate is that there are splits and differing agendas on both sides of the fight.

On the music side, SoundExchange, the recording-industry organization that collects and distributes royalties, argues that musicians are entitled to greater compensation for their music; at least some in the music community agree, arguing that webcasting, far from financially struggling, is a profitable business.

Others in the music community say the higher royalty schedules will cut off access to listeners for many artists.

"Independent artists will truly suffer," says Dawud Raamah of Seattle-based Sum Moh Records, which operates an Internet radio station for its artists. "Artists are being tricked into believing that these higher royalty rates are for their benefit. However, higher rates will thin out the Internet radio scene, giving them less possible places to have their record played leading to less or no royalties."

On the broadcasting side, radio stations aren't happy about the size of the increase and new more complex reporting requirements. "We're not against paying royalties; we've been paying them for years," Mara says. "We were hoping there'd be a simple renewal."

Public and non-commercial stations argue they should get a break because of their role in giving exposure to artists not heard on commercial stations. Meanwhile, terrestrial broadcasters are facing another royalty battle, with artists and performers saying they too ought to get royalty payments (stations currently pay composers and publishers).

Some Internet broadcasters, meanwhile, suspect terrestrial and satellite broadcasters of trying to quash the growing competitive threat they pose.

"Many young people consider terrestrial radio boring and just a lot of commercials,' says John Lyman, operator of Jet City Radio. "Satellite radio is good, but you have to pay for it, and now they have commercials too. Internet radio offers literally thousands of different channels and a wide range of genres not available from the other two sources."

For the moment, the new royalty rate schedule has been placed on hold pending further talks among the various parties. Lyman credits the outcry raised by net broadcasters, listeners and some musicians for the postponement. Congress would probably prefer the principals to work out a settlement, he adds, but if they don't it may well step in and impose its own plan, such as the Internet Radio Equality Act co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.

In other radio notes:

One more departure from KMTT-FM (103.7): Midday host, assistant program director and music director Haley Jones, who will be seeking radio opportunities in the Bay Area, where she worked before coming to The Mountain. She'll be with KMTT through the end of July; a successor hasn't been named.

KNDD-FM (107.7) will be broadcasting from its Beach House studio at 2530 Alki Ave. S.W. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. through Sept. 21. The Beach House is open to the public, and The End plans artist performance and interviews during the summer.

King County Executive Ron Sims is the guest on "Weekday" at 10 a.m. Thursday on KUOW-FM (94.9).

Seattle Phonographers Union performs on "Sonarchy" at midnight Saturday on KEXP-FM.

Don Riggs' guests on "Introspect Northwest" at 7 a.m. Sunday on KMPS-FM (94.1) and 9 a.m. Sunday on KPTK-AM (1090) include comedian Mel Brooks previewing "Young Frankenstein: The Musical."

KISW-FM (99.9) has added "The Grindhouse," a show hosted by Steve Rock and featuring up-tempo music from such artists as Ozzy Osbourne, Rage Against the Machine and Iron Maiden, at 10 p.m. Fridays.

The local group Dewgrass performs on "Bluegrass Ramble" at 1 p.m. Sunday on KBCS-FM (91.3).

The Sunday edition of Jim French's "Imagination Theatre," heard at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on KIXI-AM (880), includes a new mystery, sent in Alexandria, Egypt, in 276 B.C.

Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries performs in the "Mountain Music Lounge" at 3:15 p.m. Monday on KMTT-FM (103.7).

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat Thursdays in The Seattle P-I
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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