This open letter is from Bill Goldsmith, Founder and Owner of Radio Paradise, a RAIN Pureplay of the Day selection, and one of the most venerable and recognized Internet radio stations. This letter appeals to David Byrne, as a board member of SoundExchange, to renew royalty protections that have enabled small webcasting for the past six years. (See background coverage here.) The letter was originally posted at Radio Paradise, and on the station’s Facebook page, where readers are encouraged to FB-share the letter.
I’ve played your music on the radio since a vinyl 45 of “Psycho Killer” crossed my desk back in 1977, and have appreciated your work for decades. But I’m not writing to David Byrne, the composer and performer. I’m writing to David Byrne, board member of Sound Exchange.
For the past 16 years, my wife Rebecca and I have run Radio Paradise, an eclectic Internet radio station with a loyal worldwide following. We’ve been successful enough to make the station a full-time job, and our sole means of support.
We play what moves us, drawing from a wide variety of genres, eras & textures and weaving the songs together into a musical flow with occasional DJ commentary. We run no advertising and are supported entirely by voluntary payments from our listeners.
If that “business model” sounds familiar, it’s because it’s really no different from old-school community FM radio. Like a good public FM station, we play artists that no profit-centric lowest-common-denominator commercial station would ever touch. We see radio as an art form, not as an advertising delivery vehicle.
As a New Yorker, you’re probably familiar with WFUV and are aware of the role that they, and stations like them, play in the musical ecosystem. It’s very similar to the role played by Radio Paradise and our peers.
Imagine if WFUV were required to pay $0.0017 every time one listener heard one song. Let’s do the math. If they have 10,000 listeners (they probably have more a good deal of the time) that’s $17 per song. At 12 songs per hour, that’s $204 per hour, or $4896 per day. I don’t need to keep going, do I?
That’s exactly what Radio Paradise and other independent Internet radio stations are now expected to pay to Sound Exchange under the new CRB rates. Large operations like Pandora, Apple and Spotify can afford to negotiate private deals with the large music conglomerates. FM broadcasters can afford to lobby Congress to continue paying nothing at all to the artists that Sound Exchange represents. We have none of those options available to us.
We are certainly willing to continue to pay our fair share to the artists we play. Until the end of 2015, we were able to operate under a “small webcaster” provision and pay a percentage of our income to Sound Exchange. We were ready to continue doing that, but when the CRB decision was released in December 2015 we were stunned to learn that no provisions whatsoever were made for stations like ours, and at the new CRB rates our royalty payments would approximately equal — perhaps exceed — our gross income. The same is true for every other independent web radio operator.
We have reached out to Sound Exchange in the hope that some arrangement can be made that will allow stations like Radio Paradise to continue to flourish. As a Sound Exchange board member, we would very much appreciate your support.