Local Rhythms – Killing Internet Radio

head-in-sand.jpgLast fall, I wrote about web sites like Last.fm, Pandora and Mercora, that were shaking up the music world by offering thousands of niche channels and creating social networks for fans. Suddenly, it’s possible to discover artists who are laboring outside of the mainstream.

That could end soon. In early March, the Copyright Review Board, a government entity that’s almost completely controlled by the recording industry, made a decision that is, says Congressman Ed Markey, “a body blow to many nascent Internet broadcasters.”

The CRB ruling, retroactive to last year, triples the amount of money most web stations will be required to pay to record companies to use their products. This fee will not, it should be noted, go to the artists who made the music – that’s a separate payment. Worse, it exclusively targets Internet radio stations.

Regular radio outlets aren’t even required to pay the royalty, created 12 years ago. In 1995, a compliant Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law that’s spawned nothing but greed and stupidity in its wake.

Since then, the best way into the business is Berkeley Law School, not the Berklee School of Music. Litigators have replaced lead guitarists, and record executives have started to think they’re rock stars.

All the while, the industry has tried to crush any and all technologies that might improve the fate of music in a world of declining CD sales.

It’s not hyperbole to say that if the ruling stands, most legitimate web stations will go out of business. The money CRB is demanding represents two to three times their annual gross revenue. Pirates don’t pay royalties, so they won’t miss a step. But an excellent chance to create a legal oasis for digital music will be delayed, if not destroyed.

When will these guys learn to get out their own way? In rural New England there’s a handful of music stations on terrestrial radio, but many are also online. Two of my favorites, the Point and WEQX-FM, are fuzzy in the car but come in loud and clear on the Net. That would end with the CRB decision.

These are the babies about to be thrown out with this ruling’s bathwater. Several web sites are following this developing story – the best is the Radio and Internet Newsletter.

Write your representative if you believe, like I do, that it’s time to stop this insanity. In the meantime, here are my live music picks for the coming weekend:

Thursday: Spring Savories, Claremont Opera House – A little music and lot of good food, as the State Liquor Commission and several area restaurants get together to show off their wares. Bistro Nouveau, Hullabaloo, Sophie & Zeke’s, Teal Lantern, North Country Smokehouse and the Java Cup, plus six wine vendors will participate in the event. John Lovejoy’s always a pleasure to listen to, especially when he’s tickling the ivories of the Opera House’s vintage piano.

Friday: Kid Pinky & His Restless Knights, La Dolce Vita – New London’s newest dining spot welcomes this fun-loving blues band. Bow-based Kid Pinky plays a smooth harmonica and is an ace piano player. This early evening (6:30 start) set should be long on sultry songs like Jimmy Reed’s “Hush Hush” the smoking original “Watchin’ You” – both of which can also be heard on “Blues That’ll Knock You Out,” the band’s latest CD.

Saturday: All Ages Metal Show, Hot Spot – This is a new nightclub located at the Everyday Inn in Rockingham, located just a little south of Exit 6 on Route 5. Saturday’s afternoon show features Jennings, Otumshank, Chapter 50, …And Then There Were Three and the Jonah Veil. The power trio Stonewall plays their own separately ticketed show at 9. It’s a welcome addition to the southern Vermont scene.

Sunday: Shawnn Monteiro, Center at Eastman – Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon continues with this fine vocalist, backed the JOSA Ensemble and bandleader Bill Wightman. Monteiro draws comparisons to Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughn. Her set includes “Great American Songbook” standards from Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.

Monday: Live Free Or Die, Claremont Cinema – Not a musical event, but after a seemingly endless wait, the indie film about bumbling criminals shot two years ago in Claremont has finally found a distributor. It gets its local premiere Monday, and opens to general release at several theatres on Friday. There’s an after-party, appropriately enough, at Hullabaloo.

Tuesday: Carbon Leaf, Iron Horse – After gaining exposure opening for Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Counting Crows, this rootsy band went into the studio last year and made “Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat.” It’s a record with the rootsy feel of 2003’s “Indian Summer,” but with more sheen, polish and punch. It has lots of layered harmonies, percussive spice and muscular grooves.

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