Since this letter was first written, a lot has changed. A quiet but significant victory for internet broadcasters and independent artists has been won by accident. 2 days after my newsletter went to print, the lame duck US Congress in Den 2002 passed a law at 3AM, (brought to us single-handedly by Sen Jesse Helms, not usually such a friend to folk musicians) which will allow small internet broadcasters to continue to function without the threat of exorbitant fees. Sen Helms single-handedly derailed the bill that was about to pass and rewrote it and got it passed and Pres. Bush signed it, so protect some small Christian broadcasters in North Carolina. Below is my original letter and some other comments, so interested parties can get the background information.Everybody in small-scale internet radio can relax a little and save their energies for the next threat. This was a close call, and a lucky break
Harvey Reid (Spring 2003)
From Harvey Reid's Newsletter October 2002:
I sent an e-mail message out in May 2002 to my e-mail list, urging everyone
to pay attention to the issue of internet radio, and I owe you an update. I'm
not an activist, but I know enough about the world to recognize that there was
a problem brewing. In the wake of their success against Napster and world of
internet file-trading, the large record companies (represented by an organization
called RIAA) decided to go after internet radio, claiming that since it involved
sending digitized music over the internet, it was stealing too. I disapprove
of the file-trading thing, whereby people download compressed but very good-sounding
digital files of songs (usually what are known as MP3's) instead of buying music
on a CD. But many real radio stations and "webcasters who exist only
on the internet do what is called "streaming audio which is a much-lower
quality signal (worse than a cassette) that allows anyone anywhere in the world
to listen to their radio station through their computer. This means that if
a DJ in Iceland is playing some good blues, you can listen in Japan, and is
a huge hope for getting all the music on the fringes of the business to the
listeners everywhere who want it. You need more than a dial-up modem to enjoy
it, but by the time we all get that it may be too late to find the music you
would want, if you only knew it existed.
The RIAA wants internet broadcasters to pay a special fee to record companies, in addition to the fees they pay to copyright owners through the ASCAP and BMI system. They wanted this new fee to be retroactive to 1998, and to be a per-listener per song thing, that would have effectively bankrupted all but the biggest internet broadcasters. They did something like this in the 1980's and put a tax on blank tape, and collected millions that I have never seen any accounting for. The big boys have taken over radio, TV, print media, store shelves (you think I am exaggerating-- if you only knew how centralized the control is, and not just of music, but news too), and the internet remains just about the only place where the people can hear all kinds of music not owned by the big companies.
They had hearings, and decided in June 2002 to levy a fee of half the original proposed one, which is still too big for small netcaster's budgets, since many of them have no revenue stream. There is a lot of negotiating going on, and internet radio is not dead yet, but it needs help. I proposed building a list of artists and record labels (and even built a small list) so those of us who control our own music could give permission to the internet radio people to play our music without the fee, since we see it as desirable airplay and advertising for our music. www.saveinternetradio.org is a place to go to learn more. It is a crucial time in the fate of internet radio, and I urge all of you to learn about the problem, and write letters and do your part to keep it alive so we can spread around the music the big guys don't want us to hear.
This is a general letter from me (independent musician Harvey Reid) to everyone in my e-mail list. The future of internet radio is at stake, so any of you who either produce or enjoy music hopefully can take a couple minutes to read this.. I don't see the viewpoint of artists like me being presented anywhere in discussions of this issue. This is more than just a general "wake up" letter about the problem; I am suggesting here that there are many of us who own our own music who want it played on the internet radio stations, and who don't feel that the RIAA is acting on our behalf when they claim to represent "The Record Labels." HARVEY REID
If you are an independent artist or oherwise control some music and might want
to have it played on internet radio, you can sign
up on a list of like-minded people
Open Letter From Harvey Reid About Internet Radio (April 2002)
Those of us in the independent music community (musicians and listeners both) may need to wake up and take some action very soon to protect the existence of internet radio, no later than May 20, 2002. This is a real situation, and not an internet hoax. I have been following this story for months and the time is now. Almost a year ago, in the wake of the Napster mess, the major record labels started making moves to try to get the courts to classify internet radio as the same as digital file trading, and have now made a serious move that, if successful, will essentially stamp it out by applying hefty fees to broadcasters, PAYABLE TO RECORD COMPANIES, (in addition to ASCAP and BMI fees) and retroactive to 1998. The small internet broadcasters feel certain that they will be put out of business by these fees if it happens, since none of their operations are particularly profitable in the first place. The deadline is May 20, when The Copyright Office votes on whether to apply this fee, known as CARP. There are a lot of articles on the web right now about this, that detail it carefullly, and if you doubt me or want to learn some details, please go read them. (At the bottom of this e-mail are many more links.)
http://www.saveinternetradio.org/ (They have specific instructions of how you can send a letter, fax or e-mail to Congress)
Unlike a lot of complicated music business stuff, this is simple: a lot of us, specifically independent musicians and small record labels, view internet radio as desirable, and do not want it squashed. Unlike major labels, who have stated that they do not want their music played on internet radio, many of us want it. We need to do 2 vital things and do them quickly: 1) prevent the retroactive part of the fee from being levied, and 2) band together and form a coalition, and offer alternative music to internet radio in a way that they can afford. (I have some specific ideas not described here.) We independents have been squeezed out of most media and airplay, and the ability of anyone on earth with an internet connection to listen to music "broadcast" anywhere else on earth is a far better way to discover, propagate and enjoy new music than hoping you are in the signal range of a radio station that might have a DJ playing interesting music. If one DJ anywhere is playing good Bluegrass or Polkas on the internet, we can all listen to it.
WHY THIS IS SO IMPORTANT
As an independent musician who is being shoved ever further out of airplay for my recorded music, I look to internet radio as one of the best (and one of the few) remaining ways for my work to be heard. Most internet radio uses a streaming audio format similar to Real Audio, which is lower quaility than a cassette, and certainly not the "perfect digital copy" that the record labels claim to fear. The primary thing that people use internet radio for is to listen, and learn about artists they haven't heard. It's my belief that if they hear me on internet radio, they will be more likely to buy my CD's and come to my concerts.If we contact the internet webcasters individually there will be little impact, but I am suggesting that if a large number of us who control our own work felt similarly and act as a group, it would be a newsworthy and possibly effective way to confront the situation. It could mean that internet radio, which has huge potential to spread music around the world, can have a reason to ONLY play truly independent music. The story of what we are doing might also help us get exposure and press, and call attention to the tens or even hundreds of thousands of us who make and sell our own music and don't want to live by rules dictated by major labels. This story can also help listeners and webcasters learn about and access the vast source of musical content that exists outside the control of the major labels.If I just announce that my catalog of 15 albums I own is available, that is a small story, but if hundreds or thousands of us do it at once, it could be a big story, and maybe a media break we have all been waiting for. The battle between ASCAP and BMI in the 1940's had a huge effect on music of the day, and suddenly changed what people could hear. This is very likely one of those rare times in history when an entrenched system suddenly changes. If the major labels don't want their content played on internet radio, fine, let them take their ball and go home,and let The People play and listen what they want on the internet, especially artists who want to be played there. As I see it, this is quite different from the Napster situation.I recommend that individuals, small labels, and organizations that represent them (such as IBMA and Folk Alliance) look into this seriously, perhaps take a leadership role in this matter, and even communicate with other established groups to build an even more united front. We can join as a common voice to offer our recorded works to webcasters be played on the internet without them fearing they will be sued or charged outrageous fees. I am sure that the music industry has no idea how many independent artists and labels are out there, and how much interesting music might be available to broadcasters and to the listeners if the major labels refuse access to their catalogs. It would be an exciting and healthy thing actually if all of a sudden you HAD to play real independent music on the web.
BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION (QUICKLY!) WHAT WE NEED TO DO --
* Learn all we can about what is going on, and discuss this with each other, and figure out who is going to do what. People with leadership ability and resources need to step forward, and it won't be that much work, and it does not look like a long, drawn out battle. It even looks like it could be quick and simple and decisive. (Let's hope.) This is finally an issue that hits close to home and that you can easily explain to your mom.* Put together e-mail lists of our friends, colleagues and fans, and circulate the news about what is going on. The same media conglomerates that control the record labels control the radio and news, and it's not a coincidence that there has been so little press about this.
* Prepare and circulate a petition (probably by e-mail, due to anthrax fears) to encourage our lawmakers either not to levy the fee, or at least to not apply the retroactive part. (See below)* Establish a dialog immediately with internet broadcasters, and let them know that there are a lot of us who are willing to be reasonable with them, and let them know there may be something for them to play on May 21. We can't wait until then to start discussions.
* Prepare a web page sign-up form where those of us who own a body of music can stand up and be counted and indicate our willingness to join in a negotiation with internet radio groups, so they can know that they might have a significant body of music to choose from in their broadcasts.
* If you own some recorded music, think hard about whether you want to join the coalition, and even harder about whether you want the major labels to even be able to impose their CARP fees, as long as they are not retroactive. If the majors get out of the game, we independents can have the internet radio to ourselves, and we can make an end run around them, and I smile when I contemplate this scenario. There is a huge amount of independent stuff out there, and contrary to some people's belief, it is not of inferior quality to major label stuff. (We might have to make some kind of a list of examples of what artists are out there making good music as an example to those who doubt.)
* Prepare some kind of an agreement (perhaps someone could put a lawyer on this) between independent artists/labels and internet radio. This will be tricky, and both sides will have to meet certain criteria that are acceptable to the other. The small labels want to make sure the broadcasters are really acting like a radio station, and the webcasters will need to make sure the artists and small labels do indeed control the content they claim they do, and are willing to grant certain uses of it.
* Look into what happened to the money the record labels scammed the last time they pulled this same thing with Home Taping. There has been a small tax on blank media for 10 years now, ever since the record labels complained so loud in the 1980's that home taping was ruining their business. It would not surprise me to learn that that money was not properly accounted for or distributed. I am a small label, and I have never received a dime or heard of anyone who did. * Alert the media and writers/journalists, since this is a good story, and they need to start following it right away and helping it along before the May 20 deadline.
Independent Recording Artist Since 1982
This was sent to me, and contains many helpful links:
How you can help campaigns
http://www.wizardfkap.com/Wizard Radio (new!)
Ultimate 80s, et al.
http://www.beethoven.com/copyrightnotice.aspBeethoven.com (new!)http://www.streamingmagazine.com/viewentry.asp?ID=198816&PT=Daily%2BDigest&TI=dailydigestStreaming Magazine
http://www.musicianslobby.com/Musicians Lobby (new!)
RadioCrow http://www.ruf.rice.edu/%7Ewillr/cb/sos/Save-Our-Streams (new!)
http://www.petitiononline.com/carp/petition.html Dublab (PetitionOnline)
http://www.digmedia.orgDiMA (coming soon?)
http://www.conxis.orgConXis (coming soon?)
http://www.nab.org (coming soon?)Message boards
How to influence the U.S. Copyright Office
How to amend the DMCA
If rates pass, what will Webcasters do?
Would musicians voice their support?
Relevant articles you'd recommend (e.g., press)
Your favorite webcasts
Free-form discussion area Resources
U.S. Copyright Office
http://www.congress.org/Congress.org (private co.)
The Petition Site
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