President Bush is expected to sign the bill, which grants a stay of execution to the burgeoning Internet radio business.
Readers of this column know that, a little over a year ago, the government-run Copyright Royalty Board made a decision that threatened to put most webcasters out of business. The influential Broadcast Law Blog called it “disconnected from the realities of Internet radio.”
The ruling left no wiggle room, and after months of battling for a fairer deal, companies like Pandora were ready to pull the plug.
With the patient so close to flatlining, Congress finally acted.
“There may now be a light at the end of the tunnel in the fight over Internet radio royalties,”
Representative Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat, said last Sunday.
The new law didn’t set reasonable rates; it simply makes it easier for the two sides – copyright holders and webcasters – to hammer out legally binding agreements of their own.
Whether things get better is, no pun intended, still up in the air.
Writing for Broadcast Law Blog, attorney David Oxenford said the WSA “makes it easy for settlements to go into effect – now we need to see if the hard part – actually entering into those settlements – will occur.”
Companies like Pandora and Last.fm have until next February 15 to sit down with Sound Exchange. Only a cockeyed optimist would count on smooth sailing when that happens. The history isn’t good.
Sound Exchange is the RIAA-created performance rights organization in charge of collecting royalties. Over the course of this debate, they’ve dismissed the promotional value of webcasting and unblinkingly demanded payments 7 times those of terrestrial radio. They seem hell bent on eating their seed corn.
According to Pandora CEO Tim Westergren, 70 percent of people who listen to his service on the hugely popular iPhones are doing so for the first time.
“It’s changed the perception that people can listen to music on the phone,” Westergren said in a conference call Monday.
Greed and ignorance could derail this progress.
These missed opportunities hurt everyone. The new law only buys time until February. Two much more substantial (and very different) Congressional bills are currently stalled, as everyone waits for the election on November 4.
But at least it’s a step in the right direction.
What’s ahead in entertainment?
Thursday: Chimu Inka, Gusanoz – These Peruvian cultural ambassadors have performed all over the region recently. They have just a few more shows before heading home, including a stop at the Warner Fall Festival this weekend, and Woodstock High School on Monday. Their name comes from performer (and Chimu Inka Musical Director) Guillermo Seminario’s pre-Incan ancestors, who were conquered by the Incas. Seems appropriate for Columbus Day weekend.
Friday: Moondance, Downtown Windsor – “A whimsical celebration of the moon and its magic” featuring fire-eaters, jugglers, balloon artists and more, celebrates its ninth year. Of course, there’s music, with Juke Joynt and Vermont bluesman Chris Kleeman. The forecast at press time was for a perfect autumn night. Since much of this event happens outdoors, that’s a very good thing. Circus Smirkus and a dance troupe will also add to the fun.
Saturday: Springfield Apple Festival, Riverside Middle School – This two-day even marks fall’s arrival in my mind. I tend to welcome out of town guests a lot this time of year (who doesn’t?), and they’re always asking about apple picking and apple cider. If I take them to this annual Springfield festival, now in its’ 26th year, they’re sure to get their fill. Great music too, including singer-songwriter Josh “Cherries Jubilee” Maiocco and Alli Lubin.
Sunday: Lindsey Buckingham, Lebanon Opera House – The brains behind Fleetwod Mac has a fantastic new solo album, “Gift of Screws,” and his live shows are stellar. Never content to stay in one artistic place for long, Buckingham can be challenging. But this time around, there’s plenty of Mac elements at play on the new disc, which should translate well to the stage. It’s quite a “get” for Lebanon, really.
Monday: Bryan Greenberg, Iron Horse – The star of the recently cancelled “October Road” television show hits the road with his guitar and a smile. I have to say, his music sounds pretty good in a John Mayer kind of way. I wasn’t crazy about the show. Greenberg just finished making a movie in Boston, “Bride Wars,” with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway.
Wednesday: Fred Haas & Sabrina Brown, Elixir – A dinner show and jam session with the piano playing, sax blowing Haas and his wife, with an early (6:30) start. Each week a different artist’s oeuvre is explored – could be Ellington, Porter, Holliday, who knows? I can tell you that the New York City vibe is spot-on, and their French Fries (secret ingredient: sugar) are my all-time favorite.