Webcast Music Fees Set, But Not So Friendly to NonComms

  • Webcast Music Fees Set, But Not So Friendly to NonComms
    The Copyright Office finally released the rates for webcasting music as the result of arbitration between the recording industry and the radio industry. These are the fees that on-line broadcasters will be required to pay the record industry (not the songwriters — those fees are covered by ASCAP and BMI) for playing music on the air. Traditional over-the-air broadcaster do not have to pay these fees if they don’t have webcasts.

    The rates are set at .14 cents per song for commercial webcasters and .05 cents per song for noncommercial webcasters , with a $500 annual minimum. The rate goes down to .02 cents per song for noncomms whose webcast is a simulcast of a traditional broadcast station.

    As it stands the fees are not so outlandish for noncommercial stations, however the problem lies in the fact that these stations have to begin accounting for every song they play. This isn’t so hard for 99% of commercial stations because they typically have tight playlists of less than 100 songs in rotation that only change on a weekly basis. But most noncommercial stations, especially community stations, often have no set playlist and are utterly freeform, relying on their on-air staff to log down each song as it’s played. In this case, there can often be very little repitition, resulting in thousands of unique songs being played in any given week.

    If it were just a matter of logging the artist and name of every song played, things wouldn’t be so bad — although that’s still a lot of work for volunteer-dependent stations. What makes it truly burdensome is the sheer quantity of data about every song that’s required. Just some of the data includes: date and time of song broadcast, duration of song, UPC code of retail album, copyright owner info — and that’s just about 1/3 of it. On top of that station’s are required to keep a log of listeners and what they listen to, which sounds like free marketing data to me.

    With these type of stiff paperwork requirements, it make one wonder if the recording industry actually wants noncommercial webcasters to play their music. Maybe burying them in bureaucracy is just a backhanded way of forcing them out.

    Another way to look at this is that maybe this is an opportunity for all those small music labels that aren’t part of the RIAA to promote their music to noncommercial webcasters because they are willing to waive the fees in exchange for the sheer exposure. Independent music starts to look even more attractive when its producers don’t demand suffocating rights control like the corporate producers do. Though I do advocate that these independent producers get paid for the work — especially since artists probably see more of that money than with corporate labels.

    Some articles and references:

  • Newsbytes: Copyright Panel Splits Differences On Fees For Internet Radio
  • Wired News: Webcasters Learn Cost of Music
  • NY Times: Panel’s Ruling on Royalties Is Setback for Web Radio Services

  • Previously on mediageek:

  • Digital Media Distribution: Is the Honeymoon Over? 10/10/01
  • Is Streaming Worth It for Public Radio? 10/4/01
  • How hard can you beat digital music until it’s all underground? 8/31/01
  • Webradio — a Slight Return 7/6/01
  • Independent Music? 2/13/01

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