Most of these stations have niche programming. Obscure jazz, oldies, standards – genres that terrestrial radio have abandoned because their appeal isn’t mass market enough and/or the audience for these genres are too old and thus worthless.
At a time when three or four horribly run, close-to-bankrupt conglomerates own 90% of terrestrial radio and has turned it into a cesspool of commercials, automated voice tracks, syndicated programs, and infomercials – the only real variety were these internet radio stations. So guess who lobbied Congress to force these tiny operators to pay a fortune to play Shirelles records for their audience of maybe sixty people.
And this is the result: A vast majority of small internet stations have gone off the air or are going off the air. Live 365, that hosted many such operations went out of business overnight. One of my favorites, Greatbigradio.com had to shut down (although they're working on a way to hopefully return).
Yes, you could make the argument that the artists deserve to be compensated for their music being played. And I’m a big union man. But two things to consider: If stations are throwing in the towel then these artists receive nothing. Do the math: 1000 stations paying $1000 or 75 stations paying $6000? Artist will lose money in this deal. iHeart radio will benefit. A modest increase would have been acceptable, but these people are gonifs.
Number two: For many of these artists, their songs are fading into the mist of time. These internet stations are the only place you can still hear a lot of this music. Silence them and artists’ contributions to popular culture disappear. Poof. They’re not remembered. They’re not celebrated. They’re not even a footnote. It's like they never existed.
Over the last few weeks radio stations everywhere have paid tribute to David Bowie. We marvel at the innovation and brilliance of his work. We’d like to think that in fifty or sixty years people will still be appreciating David Bowie. With commerce the way it is today David Bowie could well be sadly forgotten. Don't we owe our artists more than just an extra $.50 royalty?
So again, who benefits? Not the artists, certainly not the public, not free enterprise. The winners are the greedy music publishing firms, and the radio folks who have raped and destroyed their own industry.
I hope some small stations stick it out. Very soon now you’ll be able to access internet radio in your car as easily as you get FM and satellite. You’ll be able to set push buttons for your favorite internet stations. And when that day comes, there will be a much more level playing field. And terrestrial stations that corrupt companies like Cumulus paid millions for will be as valuable or less valuable than some station being run out of some kid’s bedroom. The next Howard Stern is going to be some geek in a basement. And when that happens, and it will, you are FUCKED terrestrial radio.
That day can’t come fast enough.
It happened to television; it will happen to radio.
Oh, and when a bedroom station has more listeners than KISS-FM (every city has a KISS-FM) then yes, they should pay the same royalties as KISS-FM. But not when KISS-FM has tens of thousands of listeners and the bedroom station has fifty.
Thank you to all the small internet radio stations that provided us variety, memories, and passion. I mourn your passing. Everyone talks about “The Day Music Died.” The phrase should be: “The Day Music Was Killed.”