Net radio's treasure mulls CARP crunch

The Justified Ancients of (WF)MU

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

New Yorkers will need no introduction to WFMU, the most lauded of public stations, and one of the Internet's greatest treasures. Rolling Stone magazine has voted WFMU, which broadcasts from New Jersey, the best radio station for four years running. It isn't just the thirty strong roster of music loving DJs that makes the station so compelling (the interview show Speakeasy eclipses many a BBC segment), but the archives. Most of the station's listeners tune in via the web, via wfmu.org.

Up to three years' worth of 24x7 broadcasting is here which, when combined with the searchable database, makes WFMU a formidable jukebox. This is the web's musical Library of Alexandria, and concerned that RIAA vandals have been seen loitering nearby, we checked in last week with station boss Ken Freedman to see how the CARP rates would affect the station.

WFMU is a non-profit which despite appearing in the "public" section of iTunes, receives no public money, unlike NPR. Nor does it have advertisements:

"We're adamantly non commercial. It costs $800,000 to run the station each year, of which $80,000 goes to the coast of streaming, and this is met entirely by listeners."

WFMU streams to around 800 listeners at peak times, making it one of the larger non-commercial broadcasters.

With such a huge catalog of music, we were anxious that the CARP publishing royalties represented a unique burden for the station. Freedman doesn't think the sky is falling in just yet:-

" Non-commercial broadcasters are not who the RIAA is after anyway," he told us. "We could probably negotiate something affordable: that's what we're hoping for."

Part of the reasons for this is the station's arrangement with independent labels. Freedman says WFMU has negotiated waivers with hundreds of indies. That accounts for half of the ouput now, but it could be as high as 75 per cent in the future.

"The labels are overjoyed, and the artists are overjoyed that people get to hear these records. The RIAA is allowed to collect on all records but it doesn't care about music stations like us: they only care about stuff selling in the millions. If it's less than a million, it doesn't want to know.

But the waivers aren't optimal: Freedman describes them as "a fallback position if things go very badly."

The most ominous part of the webcasting royalty arrangement is what Freedman calls the "insane reporting requirements." Although smaller NPR affiliates have been released from this burden, the bureaucracy would pose an immense problem. Freedman reckons this was a political decision:-

"It's no coincidence that the rates are what they are and that record keeping is insanely difficult. That was just part of an effort to drive everybody out of webcasting. They wanted to know how many hours and minutes individual listeners were spending. It should be possible to sample this information and to extrapolate reporting and fees based on these samples, instead," said Freedman.

The RIAA was determined to close down net radio, he says. Now he thinks, it merely wants to control it.

"My fear is that that the non-commercial goal is to prevent people being anything other than a very, very small operator. The [RIAA] wants to dominate the webcast space itself and use it as a promotional space to sell product."

Anyone looking to turn a hobby into a for-profit faces a huge leap in rates. "Commercial rates are not very good at all. If I was in a college dorm and I wnated to stop being a non-commercial operator, it makes webcasting not a very appealing business proposition."

For now, the Boucher bill is dead, and non-profits think that another CARP round - which the RIAA doesn't want - offers the best hope. Regardless, vows Freedman, WMFU will keep broadcasting:-

"There's no way we're going to stop streaming," he says. ®

Related Link

The wonderful world of wfmu.org

Related Net Radio Stories

Bush signs webcasting act
Helms explains webcasting deal
RIAA engineered webcast split - former exec
Webcast relief defers Day of Judgement
New Alliance for webcasters
Civil disobedience promised after net radio royalty bill falls
'RIAA-written' Net radio bill served to Senate
RIAA-backed webcast bill 'a disaster for the US'
'96 pc of Net Radio' to close after backroom deal screws grassroots 'casters
Microsoft man seeks US Net Radio reprieve
Congressman vows pigopolist legislation
Big name microcasters pull the plug
Net radio going off the air
Net Radio Postbag

Related Pigopolism

A Stuckist Net - you want in
Hollywood's private war for social control
RIAA suspends DMCA lawsuit as listen4ever ducks
Valenti backs away from P2P hack bill
'I demand the story be taken down immediately' - RIAA [offending story - mail - more facts less interesting than the truth]

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
HBO shocks US pay TV world: We're down with OTT. Netflix says, 'Gee'
This affects every broadcaster, every cable guy
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story


Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.