Is Radio on the Web Doomed?
April 13, 2001 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Is Radio on the Web Doomed? Does anyone have any thoughts on the legal developments described in this article? I had hoped the Web might be a defense against the downward, ownership concentration spiral of radio; now what?
posted by ParisParamus (26 comments total)
Ok. I'm 'talent'; I've been paid to be a performer in my life. I'm entitled to say this.

Aftra? Fuck you people.

You're forclosing useful services just to get your little fuckin' piece of the pie. If those streams had *any* real *commercial* advantage to the stations, it might be a different story, but let's face facts here: 90% of the people listening to them are DXers and ex-pats; they're *not* listening to the ads, anyway.

Fuckin whiners...
posted by baylink at 10:14 AM on April 13, 2001

my office hosts websites for a couple of different radio stations for clear channel communications. We had a demonstration stream going while they decided what to do about all of this stuff...they decided it just wasn't worth the trouble at this point...which is pretty sad.

The future of radio on the web will be independant or label-based unless they work this out somehow...reminds me, i need to take the station logo off of the demo site.


Not mentioned in this article...they want retro-active fees, going back to 1998. fucking insane.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:22 AM on April 13, 2001

I don't really see where the crisis is. This is just talking about over-the-net rebroadcasting of existing radio stations. It doesn't touch the vast array of brand new stations run on icecast and somebody's whim. If anything, preventing the established radio stations from running 'net broadcasts will be a GOOD thing for diversity. By delaying the arrival of mainstream radio as a powerful force on the 'net, perhaps its dominance can be blunted.

Is there anything particularly good about commercial radio?

posted by Mars Saxman at 10:24 AM on April 13, 2001

We need a new model. We're still applying the rules for old media to the Internet.

Until laws and royalty models catch up with the new reality, I expect lots of silly stories, lots of pissed off people, and lots of finger-in-the-dike scenarios.

The Internet started with the idea that everything should be free. Unfortunately we live in a world driven by profit motives. Finding a happy middle ground will be slow and aggravating. But we'll get there.

Hopefully we get there before they decided it's just too much trouble and turn the whole thing off.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:28 AM on April 13, 2001

PayolaBland FM 103.1 stops streaming? No big deal. The most compelling online radio stuff is college, public, independent, mainly because you really don't go online and seek out a stream to listen to Britney: there's going to be a station playing that stuff in your neighbourhood, unless your neighbourhood happens to be in, say, Tehran.

I'm more worried about clear channel's 1200 stations: all your radio are belong to us.
posted by holgate at 10:29 AM on April 13, 2001

Good point about the Web loosing commercial radio. The counter argument is that (1) Web-based isn't doing particularly well right now (or is it?); (2)only commercial radio can make the Web legit for radio and (3)with this precedent, what's next? I'm unaware what Web-only radio stations need to pay in terms of royalties. Do college stations pay?
posted by ParisParamus at 10:36 AM on April 13, 2001

i'm not that concerned when people suddenly have to pay royalties for music (or commercials) they've been broadcasting without permission. that's what businesses do - make a profit (it might be considered greedy, but greed should be pre-assumed by the fact that they are a business). i'm more concerned about what's going to happen when net radio and net radio devices become the standard. will the fcc step in and start regulating the hell out of it? what's going to happen to the dj/singer/political activist/poet operating out of their apartment? are they going to have to register or purchase an exorbitant license? or will the fcc just shut them down like they've done to pirate radio stations?
posted by bliss322 at 10:49 AM on April 13, 2001

HERE is a good link about Webcasting legalities, plus some other good links. Most commercial radio stations aren't about the love of good music, but about personalities and pushing a play list - there's nothing WRONG with that, but we tend to think it's about the music first, and that's just not true. When they can't make money off webcasts, commercial stations stop doing it. But people who love music will continue whether or not they are making money, like Blogger, and Metafilter. :-) How? Idunno yet.

I don't think the FCC has any CLUE what to do about internet radio. I thought LPFM (low power FM) stations were a GREAT idea, and then all the big commercial stations jumped up and protested (INCLUDING NPR) that these signals could interfere with THEIR broadcasts (NOT). It wasn't about technical difficulties, it was about being afraid of losing their audience. The large, established stations have forgotten what its like to give birth to themselves - they are just sitting there, and the world's demanding new stuff and they're trying to hold it all back. Finger in the dike - excellent metaphor! *grin* I think radio on the web is just getting started and it will keep busting through any roadblocks that get tossed in front of it. (This isn't based on anything, but me saying so - LOL) Okay - I'm done with my pointless ranting for the moment.
posted by thunder at 11:11 AM on April 13, 2001

The LPFM thing is an outrage. I can't see any radio succeeding without some over-the-air transmission for the car. An LPFM station also streamed on the Web would work well.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:16 AM on April 13, 2001

Well, how many 100mw transmitters all rebroadcasting the same stream does it take to blanket a metro...?

Anyone for Internet based Micro-networking?
posted by baylink at 11:25 AM on April 13, 2001

I was kind of annoyed by this until I came to the same realization as Mars -- who the hell cares if you can listen to commercial radio over the Internet, at least for now. And by the time all radio switches from over-the-air broadcasting to net broadcasting, it will be a moot point.

Most commercial radio is numbingly the same from city to city -- the number of formats used is quite limited, the playlists are computer generated, half of the commercials come from national advertisers, etc. The novelty of being able to listen to Z-ROCK from City A instead of Q-ROCK from City B is just that, a novelty.

It *is* a good thing, in my opinion, to keep the corporate forces out of stuff like this as long as humanly possible, so that when they do inevitably get a foot in the door they do not have an automatic monopoly.

The LPR thing stunk to high heaven, btw.
posted by briank at 11:35 AM on April 13, 2001

The only thing that makes me madder than the FCC is the DMCA.

posted by sonofsamiam at 11:36 AM on April 13, 2001

I've tried listening to streaming radio stations. It doesn't work. Better to go to This American Life and pick and choose which episodes I want to hear and when, then to happen to catch the broadcast at the right time through a public radio station, or even catching it offline in the car or on a stereo system. I don't want web radio. I want audio on demand. If I'm in the mood for The Beatles or Oingo Boingo, or whatever, I want to be able to hear it whenever and wherever I want, and I don't want to have to pay for it every time I hit the play button. And yes, I'm sure that makes me an evil man. So be it.

I don't need a deejay to tell me what I want to hear.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:45 AM on April 13, 2001

I believe that this takes care of the problem going forward. Of course, it does nothing for retroactive fees...
posted by fooljay at 11:55 AM on April 13, 2001

The answer is simple: Make your own radio.

One thing people fail to realize is that creating a radio show on the Internet is damned easy. Just about anybody can talk and say something remotely interesting if they have a few brain cells floating around in their head. And, hell, even the ones who don't get their own syndicated show. (Right-wing nutsos such as Ted Nugent have managed to nab their own radio shows.)

You can use any free audio editor, get a reasonably competent broadcast mix and use the free Real Media encoder to put it online so that people can hear it. I've been doing it myself since around 1998.

In fact, in 1998, I was almost positive that there would be a large floodgate opened in which various creative audio providers would announce themselves across the Net. The big surprise is that, despite CSS and manifold plug-ins, personal publishing has evolved primarily with boatloads of written content. (Weblogs anyone?)

Despite this free and easy technology available at just about anyone's disposal, people have been loath to actually get off their asses and actually do something about it.

I say, to hell with corporate radio. Let's hear the voice of the common human being. That means you, you, you and you. If you don't like what you hear on the airwaves, if you're annoyed by the lack of radio choices on the Internet, then, goddammit, stop talking about it and do something about it.
posted by ed at 7:53 PM on April 13, 2001

Just about anybody can talk and say something remotely interesting if they have a few brain cells floating around in their head

I dunno, have you watched CNBC lately?
posted by briank at 5:56 AM on April 14, 2001

Just about anybody can talk and say something remotely interesting if they have a few brain cells floating around in their head

I dunno, have you watched CNBC lately?
posted by briank at 5:57 AM on April 14, 2001

posted by briank at 5:57 AM on April 14, 2001

Look. Ham radio is one thing, but there's a value to big time radio which, at the same time, isn't conservative or bland. The Web promises that (in conjunction with little or distant over-the-air stations). Or at least, I thought it did.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:32 AM on April 14, 2001

I'm with Ed on this one. Let corporate radio go away - let public radio, and radio run by individuals and small groups, dominate the web!

It's obvious that entities like the FCC and Congress are against LPFM when big corporations are involved. So what's the solution?

The web.

The only commercial-ish radio station I listen to on the web is City Internet Radio out of Cleveland, but am always on the lookout for individuals' stations.

I'm curious, briank, as to what you think of satellite radio. While it's appealing on the surface to me, it really reinforces that idea of novelty you mention - being able to listen to the same station nationwide. Just like the growth of fast food chains, highways, and hotel chains, when you homogenize things you lose something.
posted by hijinx at 8:39 AM on April 14, 2001

I think there are two ways of not being part of that global, homegeneous mass-media blob: the personal or the local. I used to listen to AM radio, or shortwave, late at night, excited about hearing from different places. Networks, satellites, and now the web, have taken some of that excitement away. Every place is more or less equally distant.

What the web has given me instead is the personal, as in weblogs, and it seems like the little one-person net radio broadcasts should excite me the same way, but it (mostly) doesn't. I'm not that interested in the personal aspect of it, the way I might be with a weblog, and there is no sense of it being part of a local community I'm interested in. It's just never been able to hold my interest, no matter how good the music is. Like GoGaGa* has it, it's music for cubicles, deracinated, like piped in dentist-office music, only hip. High-quality muzak is still muzak.

*Is GoGaGa dead?
posted by rodii at 7:53 PM on April 14, 2001

Interesting point about Web music, Rodii. I've never had a broadband connection which would allow long-term music listening on the Web, but I agree with you. What you say reminds me of my reaction to cable-piped music (for which I did market research back in the 1990's). Want a cool music links? Try Very high fidelity. "Listen" in French is "ecouter" Fip is my favorite....
posted by ParisParamus at 10:00 PM on April 14, 2001

BrianK: Let me clarify that statement:

Just about anyone can talk and say something remotely interesting if they have a few brain cells floating around in their head, provided the corporate wolves aren't restricting their point of view or demanding a commercial break. :)

What I'm calling for here is pure talk radio to find its proper place on the web. Not music mixes. Not stupid pranks or fake phone calls. Not the brainless ogling of Howard Stern.

If you've got a theory that the remainders of George W. Bush is actually in a storage jar and that there are actually five alien clones in actual rotation for press conferences and public appearances (which would explain the shift to one-on-one interviews), then by all means talk about it and put it up as a radio show. If you want to blow up all of Starbuck's franchises, then by all means talk about it and put it up as a radio show. If you want to confront an affluent yuppie who has just completely ignored a man starving in the streets when he has a billfold of several hundreds in his coat pocket, chase him down with a portable minidisc recorder and interview him on the fly about his actions.

The possibilities are endless. And they don't necessarily have to be political. Talk about your shampoo choice. Talk about your favorite films. Talk abut your loves, your passions. Talk about simple existence.

The Internet, despite all of its possibilities, has strayed away from celebrating the wonders of silly conversation. Talk about the stuff you won't hear on the radio and get it online. I'd stake a crate of books that the results would be a hell of a lot more interesting than anything radio has to offer.

And, as for community, hell, carry out a live broadcast and have people call in or ICQ in their remarks or questions.
posted by ed at 11:17 PM on April 14, 2001

Web radio isn't radio. I can't get it in my car. It doesn't use radio waves and get broadcast in the atmosphere. And why would anyone listen to someone else's mix when they can just as easily create their own and turn everything else off? Streaming audio over the Internet on a home computer as a replacement for conventional radio isn't working. It's a novelty. That's about it.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:09 AM on April 19, 2001

And why would anyone listen to someone else's mix when they can just as easily create their own and turn everything else off?

Well, sheesh, why do radio stations exist at all? Yes, they are now primarily commercial, but if you find a good public radio station - or (bing!) a great web radio station - you might find something new. It might be a song, an artist, a point of view, a voice, a story, or anything.

It's a novelty. That's about it.

I do disagree. Ed's statement drives the point home. But why replace conventional radio? Why not just try something that's more personal and original, instead? In that case, I think radio on the web is winning.
posted by hijinx at 8:28 AM on April 19, 2001

picks for radio on the Web, anyone?
posted by ParisParamus at 10:38 AM on April 19, 2001

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