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.

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