Congratulations to the RIAA. They have successfully destroyed a vibrant underground internet music scene. My favourite station, Monkey Radio is no more. SomaFM is gone too. Places that you could listen to good, intelligent music chosen by quality, filling a niche audience, without obtrusive advertising. Radio that didn’t have to worry about geographical boundaries. Stations that, instead of being paid for by advertising or big corporations, often cost the people who were running them money. Unknown musicians could get exposure. Ironically, many musicians signed contracts with major labels after getting a name through relatively popular stations like SomaFM. What a change from the payola-infested, homogeneity of commercial radio. I can’t remember the last time I listened to a commercial music station.

If you want to know the details, there are more comprehensive explanations at the station websites linked above. But if you want a summary, here it is:

  • Record company executives make a tidy sum from ripping off artists and customers to sell them plastic discs with music on.
  • Smaller, shiny discs are invented. Despite sounding better, these cost less to produce. So what do the record companies do? Why, charge more for them, of course!
  • Individuals set up internet radio stations according to their preferences, complying with legal requirements.
  • In spite of all this, record companies decide to do their best to destroy the independent web-streaming community.
  • Regulations imposing onerous licensing payments are enacted with retrospective effect stretching back four years.
  • The music industry succeed.

Admittedly, this regulation only takes effect in America. I don’t even live in America, so what am I complaining about? Well, the great strength of the internet is in facilitating communities of like-minded people to exist outside of geographical limitations. With internet radio, I could listen to music that I liked, chosen by people with similar tastes. The great stations I used to like are gone. But more importantly and significantly, it’s another trend in the suppression of independents by the big corporations. The same mentality that brings you multiple Starbucks, Subway and McDonalds in every town centre, that destroys small local companies and terrorizes suppliers, that prizes massive scale over quality, is doing the same to our culture. In their world, there is no place for independence or variety, niche markets or honesty. This nascent cottage industry was apparently a threat to them. Ever wondered why it’s called the music industry? If you don’t believe me, listen to the charts.

Finally, I swear, if I get another Klez-infected email, I’m going to scream!