To start this story on the end of something, we have to go back to around 2005, when it was just beginning – when American radio was widely seen as a tasteless cultural wasteland, and when people actually cared about it.
Electronic music had been kicked off the airwaves for years by then, its once irreplaceable place in the “city market” (think Friday and Saturday night mixtapes) replaced by centrally programmed playlists of pop. commercial and hip hop. If you grew up without it, you’ll never know what you missed when you lost the idea of ââa live DJ on the radio getting everyone ready for the loft, rave, or club.
Almost every interview I had with an old school DJ back then inevitably came back to that absence, that cultural void. For them, the issue of radio was central to explaining why and how house music had been driven underground.
It was also a starting point to bring him back.
Fast forward to 2010, when it seemed like every DJ in the world had their own internet radio show and half of them had their own stations as well. 5 mag Wasn’t a month old when we had our own show on Chicago House Radio from the late DJ Izrael.
This resurgence was not spontaneous. It was happening on multiple stages, helped in part by a legal loophole passed by Congress and several tech companies that had heavily invested in its operation.
In 2010, it seemed like every DJ in the world had their own radio show and almost half of them also had their own radio station.
Live365 was one such company and perhaps the biggest catalyst in the growing spread of live internet radio, allowing small and medium-sized broadcasters to exist at a somewhat similar technical level to their much larger competitors. important.
Platforms like Live365 were in turn enabled by a little-remembered law designed to hold internet broadcasters accountable and then challenge the emerging terrestrial and satellite radio industry. The Small Webcaster Settlement Act of 2002 allowed small Internet broadcasters to pay reduced rates for the licensing of the music they broadcast. Many emerging tech companies have taken this on behalf of their broadcasters in exchange for selling ads on their streams. For many small broadcasters, it was transparent and cost them little or nothing to operate their stations.
As a result, forms of music that had been ignored on terrestrial radio for a decade were heavily represented. House music has undoubtedly experienced a resurgence in part thanks to the hundreds, if not thousands of individual stations and tens of thousands of individual shows they have performed. She was almost too much a lot, but it was on purpose. I once asked my friends why so many of them were playing for an audience that could have peaked at 30 listeners when they could have teamed up and claimed a larger audience. It was then that I learned not only that âsmall is beautifulâ, but also less expensive. A larger audience could lead to higher license fees and threaten broadcasters’ exemption under the Small Webcaster Settlement Act.
The end of everything.
Live365 is no longer there – has been gone for years – and most similar pioneering platforms have followed suit. With them, the era of legal, small and amateur broadcasting goes down in history.
The last hurdle was a company called Radionomy. Like Live365, Radionomy has promised to take care of technical issues as well as licensing for small broadcasters (although this may have alone was a promise: the company was sued by record companies for unpaid royalties in 2016).
Radionomy had a rather interesting business model and a robust ecosystem for its products. Radionomy owned Targetspot, a digital advertising company, and Radionomy appeared to exist primarily to create inventory for Targetspot in order to sell advertisements. In 2014, Radionomy also purchased the venerable WinAmp application and Shoutcast, the pioneering software used to create Internet radio streams.
With that in place, one would think that Radionomy could have continued as long as they could aggregate a sufficiently large collective audience on the platform to broadcast advertisements. In fact, their business model has been doomed for years. Rival internet streaming platforms had not been replaced by larger competitors or the ubiquitous streaming of music through Spotify or Apple Music. They had not been replaced at all. That same Small Webcaster Settlement Act that allowed internet radio to be broadcast expired in 2016, ending reduced music license fees and killing platforms that depended on it. Live365 closed almost immediately after an investment exodus from the Internet radio space.
Radionomy held firm with its fingertips, only withdrawing from the US market this year. But just before Thanksgiving, the company announced that Radionomy would end as everyone knows.
Radionomy presented this as a âmergerâ with its âShoutcast for Businessâ product, and somewhat misleadingly as an exciting new prospect for users. While Shoutcast offers a monetization option for broadcasters, what is the really the end is that Radionomy pays the music license fees for each station. Buried six paragraphs into an eight paragraph press release (and in the middle of the paragraph at that), Radionomy cautions readers that unlike their old service, âShoutcast does not manage broadcast rights. It will therefore be up to the producer to go to the various licensing agencies in his country to pay the royalties directly. ”
This simple model that led to the explosion of Internet radio – the platform paying license fees in exchange for selling advertisements on the channel – is now functionally obsolete.
Demolish it and start over.
With the disappearance of Radionomy, this marks the end of this wild world of legal broadcasting on the Internet by small stations and amateurs serving small markets. Some who have used these platforms will probably try to manage licensing and reporting requirements on their own. (There is probably an opportunity for a small business to handle this sort of thing.) Some people will probably stop broadcasting altogether.
But it will be the minority, I think. Being unable to afford legal broadcasting, most, I think, will simply switch to illegal broadcasting, if they had broadcast legally. (Ironically, many will become “pirates” against their own interests as artists, given the number of DJs who are also producers today.)
As we’ve written in the past, the world of pirate radio is alive and well – and like everything else, it has migrated to the internet as well.
From the start, some small broadcasters circumvented the law, technically in breach of the law by avoiding paying license fees. Now that will be most of them. Maybe they’ll take advantage of YouTube’s free streaming option to “broadcast,” which has attracted tons of pirate streams with the promise of a gigantic potential audience for the site.
The YouTube version of pirate radio is much more laid back than Internet radio in its more laid back form – devoid of ads, bumpers, sometimes even identifiable names. Instead, users chat with each other as broadcasters fill the screen with simple images or animations. And some of them are incredibly popular. Forget about playing live with 30 of your friends. There are channels that attract thousands of concurrent users anytime of the day in any part of the world.
It is, in a way, the fulfillment of a vision that Internet radio had promised but never achieved. And it is completely illegal. Interestingly, I’m not sure it really bothers people anymore. Spotify & Co. have absolved fans of the moral hazard of “stealing” by dispelling the idea that the dollars they pay for music are in any way tied to “supporting” a specific artist. Who joins Spotify to âsupportâ an artist they love?
In the end, streaming the internet in its original form turned out to be a business that no one could make any money in. And now they – and we – are all pirates.