Internet Radio/Copyright Royalty Board Update

edison at phonographVia RAIN, still the best source for information on the Copyright Royalty Board’s ongoing effort to kill Internet radio, comes word that the brains behind the CRB operation is, well, dumb. The Washington Post quotes CRB’s chairman, “Scarecrow” John Simson:

‘The attitude that really has to change is the idea that the people playing this music on the Web are somehow doing artists a favor,’ Simson says. Artists want their music to be heard, of course,… but Simson rejects the popular notion that the only thing small webcasters owe artists is the exposure they get from having their work streamed over the Internet…

It’s called promotion, John. Passionate music listeners, making little or no money, spread the word to others. It sells, music, exposes unknown bands, and its exponential growth should be cheered. Here’s how webcaster Adrian Koren described it to the New York Times:

“I run this as a hobby,” Koren says. “I get virtually no income from this — just some small fees from my share of CDs sold through links on the site, and that just helps pay for a few CDs. Copyright law should encourage innovation. If it’s having the opposite effect, something’s wrong.”

What’s really puzzling to me is that hardly anyone is pointing out that for indie bands, the Net represents a way around the old paradigm, a world that’s forced good bands to break their records through iPod commercials and episodes of “Heroes.” That, apparently, is the way Scarecrow thinks the world should work:

Is 10,000 stations the right number?’ asks Simson of SoundExchange, which sought the higher royalties. ‘Does having so many Web stations disperse the market so much that it hurts the artist? What’s the right number of stations?… Are artists better off having hundreds of listeners on lots of little stations, or thousands of listeners on larger stations?’

Yeah, the “thousands of listeners on larger stations” is working SO WELL to sell CDs, isn’t it? A New York Times article points out that the CRB decision will sit fine with dinosaurs, but independent bands will inevitably suffer:

“Internet radio operators also say it would not be in the interest of labels to stifle a business that is paying them fees to use their music, especially at a time of declining CD sales. ‘That’s counterproductive to the copyright holders,’ said Terry McBride, chief executive of the Nettwerk Music Group, a label and artist-management company, adding that the ruling could be bad for performers whose music would not be played on conventional radio.”

Nice to hear McBride, a real maverick in the business. But the industry isn’t interested in up and coming bands. RIAA has always been a dinosaur protection racket, for both musicians and executives (mostly for the latter).

The CRB is just one more political face of the enemy – of music fans, indie bands and pretty much anyone who isn’t clinging to the old order.

October Road – What Decade Is This?

prepon2.jpgAs “That 70’s Show” rode off in a pot smoke haze last year, I wondered about the fate of the actors who weren’t named Ashton or Topher. Laura Prepon has made her move, to the ABC series “October Road,” which premiered last Thursday. Judging from the pilot, Laura seems to have brought the entire decade over with her.

The show’s premise – small town favorite son rises to fame via roman a clef novel that disses most of his friends – is interesting on its face. However, the idea of the novelist as rock star died in the 80’s. In an era of reality television, where writers aren’t even needed let alone revered, the many scenes of Nick’s literary groupies fawning over the arcane symbolism of his only novel are silly. Combine that with the fact that fictional writer Nick Garrett’s prose is startlingly, land-fill stenchingly awful, and you have all the makings of a sure-to-be-cancelled disaster.

But I’m a music writer, after all. As bad as he show is, my real objections to “October Road” center on the producers’ soundtrack selection. Obviously, the writers of the show think there’s no life after “Free Bird.” I don’t believe I heard a single tune in the pilot episode that was less than 30 years old.

Ostensibly, “October Road” opens in 1997, with Nick (Bryan Greenburg) in a post-coital embrace with girlfriend Hannah (Prepon). Hanging above them on the bed is a poster of Kurt Cobain, but playing on the car radio as Nick leaves town is Boston’s “Don’t Look Back.”

Boston wasn’t even a cool band in 1976 when they were selling millions of albums. We’re supposed to believe there’s a bunch of teenage Nirvana fans blissing out to them 21 years later? How about some Green Day – or Gin Blossoms if mainstream’s a must – something, anything from the decade in question?

Fast forward to 2007, when Nick is back in town to teach a one-day seminar at the local college. His friends still engage in their daily ritual, a wacky air guitar session featuring Thin Lizzy’s “Boys Are Back In Town.” I know classic rock never got old, but c’mon, this song came out five years before any of these characters were supposedly born.

Did I mention that Nick had his Kurt Cobain picture on the wall of his New York City apartment? Maybe it was there as a reminder for him to someday check out this “grunge thing” – once he got through the Clash, Duran Duran and Night Ranger.

It’s times like these that make me believe baby boomers should be banned from picking the music for all television shows. At a minimum, these guys should be forced to watch “10 Things I Hate About You” fifty times to absorb the late 90’s teen zeitgeist, because they’ve completely missed the boat here.