Radio Play

The KUSF (San Francisco) radio program Breakthrough in Grey Room recently featured my piece Neptune Prelude to Xi as part of the May 16 program. It's a great show for experimental music that you can hear both on broadcast at KUSF 90.3 FM in the Bay Area, and online.

There are now a handful of internet and/or airwave broadcasts that have played my music. In addition to Breakthrough in Grey Room, there is sfSoundRadio, andWTUL in New Orleans, and others.

It's too bad that just as I'm starting to get some airplay/netplay the economics of broadcasting threatens to curtail or even shutdown the small independent internet broadcasting venues on which musicians like us depends. This interview from truthdig helps spell out the issues better than most:

Wellings: Exactly. The broadcasters, regular terrestrial broadcasters, do not pay the actual artists and performers of the songs that you hear on the radio. It?s sort of the problem with music where the RIAA, the recording industry and the record companies, tend to be the ones that reap the profits from songs and the actual musicians, performers, are not actually getting those profits. With Web radio they actually are getting profits, and that?s part of the good part about Web radio. We want to make sure that that stays, that that is the case, that that remains. And satellite as well. But the problem is that satellite has a reasonable fee. The webcasters? fee has been set so high that it?s just going to kill the medium, and that?s not going to do anything for artists in the end. That?s actually going to hurt artists in the end. So we want to set a fee that?s fair and balanced for everybody across the board so that artists are paid and webcasters can survive.

I wish Wellings hadn't used the phrase “fair and balanced”, but she does make the point that it's not fees per se as much as exhorbitant fees. I get fees from MusicNet for personal radio station plays, for example, but they are pretty low. The issue is both the recent huge increase in broadcasting per-play fees for web broadcasters, and the fact that SoundExchange tends to represent mainstream musicians who record for RIAA remembers. Many independent musicians will not receive such fees from SoundExchange, and their online venues may be priced out of existence. It even affects such established broadcasters as NPR, or KUSF mentioned above, who have an online broadcasting presence.

And on top of this, there is now a move by the RIAA to bring a similar pricing structure to airwave broadcasters, as described in a recent Los Angeles Times article:

Now, the Recording Industry Assn. of America and several artists' groups are getting ready to push Congress to repeal the exemption, a move that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually in new royalties…
…with satellite and Internet radio forced to pay “public performance royalties” and Web broadcasters up in arms about a recent federal decision to boost their performance royalty rate, the record companies and musicians have a strong hand.

It looks like the RIAA has also lined up several artist groups to support them, mostly crusty mainstream acts that are complaining about having to tour for so many years. Apparently they are also having to embarrass themselves on American Idol, which I agree is unfortunate. But still, they have been paid pretty well to make music.

One potential silver lining from this that more radio stations and internet broadcasters will turn away from RIAA products and try new music and new show formats around small indepedent musicians…