Blues fans -- and fans of music typically not heard on commercial radio stations -- should be alarmed by a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB).
On March 2, 2007, the CRB, which oversees sound recording royalties paid by Internet radio services, increased royalties for Internet radio stations. According to Jason Fry of the Wall Street Journal, an online radio station would pay .08 cent per song per listener for 2006 (the rates are retroactive), .11 cent in 2007, .14 in 2008, .18 cents in 2009 and .19 cents in 2010.
Currently, under a deal brokered in 2002, small Webcasters are paying artists and record labels 12% of their revenue, but the new rules would do away with that exemption. The new system could increase royalties for Internet radio stations by between 300 and 1200 percent.
So, why does this matter to the blues? Quite simply, these higher fees would bankrupt many Internet radio providers, as the proposed royalties would exceed revenues for most independent net radio providers. Some of these providers feature music typically not heard on regular, over-the-air radio stations, includes blues. The surviving Internet radio stations would be run by larger, commercial interests that are less likely to play diverse styles of music.
This all seems grim, but there is a glimmer of hope. The Internet Radio Equality Act has recently been introduced in both the House (H.R. 2060) and Senate (S. 1353) to save the Internet radio industry.
This bipartisan effort is being led by Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) and Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). Their legislation would set Internet radio royalty rates at 7.5 percent of revenue, the same as those of satellite radio.
If you'd like to support the effort, please consider calling your representatives in Congress and tell them that you support the legislation. You can get more information, including contact information, from SaveNetRadio.org, a coalition of artists, labels, listeners and webcasters in support of Internet Radio.