Thursday, March 08, 2007

Will New Fees Kill the Internet Radio Star?

A article yesterday, Will Web Radio Get Turned Off by Louis Hau, outlines new fees to be imposed by U.S. Copyright Royalty Board.

Internet radio stations will have their rates more than doubled for each song they play (from 8 to 19 cents). While some of the stations are now profitable, few can afford this level of increase.

Another fee that could be the death of some Internet radio sites, is that there will be a new fee of $500 per year per station a company runs. For sites like Pandora, who allow users to create their own individual, customized stations, this is disastrous.

While ad revenues have been growing steadily in this sector, there is still a lot of development going on. It does seem like these rates could cripple development, prevent new entrants, and/or put some out of business.

This topic has been near and dear to me lately, as I recently discovered a couple music sites that are now favourites.


Pandora is a free music website that allows users to enter an artist or song that they like and Pandora plays songs similar to that style. The matching is based on the classification by a team of music experts, as part of the Music Genome Project, that have profiled ten thousand artists based on “melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics ... and more - close to 400 attributes”.

Independent and new artists are given the same weight as the stars. The result is that you get to hear some new artists and new songs. I’ve already discovered a few new artists that I now love and learned that Queen Latifah can sing.

Listeners can rate songs giving them a thumbs up, which then helps guide your future offerings, or a thumbs down, which not only stops the song, but bars it from playing again on that station.

The downside of Pandora is that you don’t get to hear much of a mix, and after awhile it can be monotonous. But you can add songs and artists to the stations to spice them up and eventually end up with a fully personalized and eclectic station.

My favourite stations I created are:

Yahoo Music Videos

A couple weeks ago I was trying to hear that insipidly catchy “Grace Kelly” song and stumbled upon Yahoo Music Videos. It has a lot of videos, mostly popular music, that you can watch on demand.

Now that MTV & MuchMusic don’t actually play many videos any more, this was a blast from the past for me. I felt like I was reliving my youth - rushing home from school to see the only video show available “Toronto Rocks” with John Majhor.

While it was fun to see videos by the likes of the Pussycat Dolls, getting to see Thriller, Hungry Like the Wolf or Girls Just Wanna Have Fun again (for their kitsch appeal only, seriously) would be a real treat!

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