This is a message mostly for expats. Like many of those peculiar creatures, I sometimes get a hankering for things that I had no time for in my home country.
Things like country music. There were some country acts I liked, such as Waylon, Willie, and especially Waylon & Willie. But most of the time, I preferred angular jazz or tongue-in-cheek Britpop. When I crossed the Atlantic, however, a previously-hidden need for American roots music burgeoned within me. Whenever I wanted a fix, I went to Soma FM‘s awesome Boot Liquor internet radio channel, which dished up a solid mix of non-glossy, non-corporate roots music.
Now, a decision by the American Copyright Royalty Board will mean that the licensing fees for independent online radio stations like SomaFM are going to skyrocket. Briefly put, independent Internet broadcasters used to have to pay a percentage of their revenue for the license to broadcast music. The Board’s decision changes the method of calculation to a flat per-song rate, which will result in much higher fees, driving many stations out of business. Satellite radio, oddly enough, was not affected by the decision and will go on paying the previous, affordable rates. As one legal commentator writes:
The webcasters have an excellent point: Instead of increasing rates enough to properly compensate rights holders and encourage creation, the new rates are so unreasonably high that they are threatening the survival of an entire industry. Unless the new regulations are successfully repealed, the new rates will result in true perpetual "radio silence" for thousands of online radio stations – a loss for rights holders, distributors and consumers alike.
If you vote in the U.S., follow the link and consider writing a message to your local Senator or Congressman, asking them to support the Internet Radio Equality Act. It would repeal the Board’s decision and save net radio!