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Internet Radio Stations

March 2008

If you don’t use your computer to listen to the radio, you should think about it.

There are thousands of Internet only radio stations around the world; you can’t hear them on a normal radio, just through the internet. This opens vast possibilities for listeners and broadcasters, because there are no limits to their broadcasting range; if it’s on the internet, you can hear it anywhere in the world with no loss of quality. It certainly knocks shortwave into a cocked hat, anyway.

There are, however, some limiting factors. Firstly, if you don’t have broadband it is likely to be a frustrating experience.

Secondly, if you live in one of the more paranoid countries you may find that the authorities have blocked the station you want to hear from polluting their networks.

Then, there is the whole question of royalties. If you run any sort of music based service, you ought to pay royalties to the musicians, and if you don’t they might cut up rough and try and close you down.

Or at any rate, they should. That’s how musicians try to survive, after all. Some broadcasters pay up like lambs – the BBC, of course, does, but then they have unlimited funds Others pay royalties in their own country, but nowhere else, even if they have listeners abroad.

However, most internet broadcasters pay no fees at all, and there is not much the musicians can do about it. But what’s worse, when they do have a chance to sort something out, they tend to mess it up.

For example, in the UK the two main organisations that collect royalties have developed a scale of charges that they think meets the bill. Because it is possible to know, from second to second, just how many people are listening to a website, they have declared that they want paying on that basis: a fee per song, per person listening to it.

That’s all very well, and on the face of it reasonable, but it amounts to a blank cheque as far as the broadcasters are concerned; if they get a surge in listeners they get a surge in costs at the same time, and it’s out of their control.

So, both sides are firmly locking antlers and a lot of “take it or leave it” talk is going on.

In particular, one of my favourite broadcasters,, announced in January that it had failed to come to an agreement, and was therefore closing its UK service. What sets Pandora apart from most is that they have tried to play it straight, and pay the royalties, but have not found it financially realistic to do so.

As a general rule, I have little sympathy with people who say that they could run their business very well if only their suppliers didn’t keep sending them bills, and so the sort of anguished royalty-related moaning that the internet radio stations tend to produce doesn’t cut a lot of ice here at Webster Towers.

However, the reality is that internet radio is a service that people want in huge and growing numbers, and what the people want, they tend, in the end, to get, either legally, or through the pirates. That being the case, it would seem that the musicians are missing a trick, and risk losing on all fronts.

The value of their recorded work has dropped like a stone, ever since it became possible to make a perfect copy on your computer and distribute it on the internet. So, they need to focus on income from other sources, such as internet radio. But if they frighten off the genuine players, like Pandora, they will be left with only the pirates, who will never pay them anything anyway.

I have posted some links to a number of Internet Radio Stations - just click here.