The Battle of Survival for Internet Music Stations
Most listeners to online stations are never aware of the continuing battle for online only music stations like Edgewater Gold Radio to survive. Today I will attempt to take you behind the scenes of my own struggles to keep providing the music that my listeners love.
Streaming radio stations such as Edgewater Gold Radio pose a threat to large corporations who own terrestrial radio stations throughout the United States. As streaming music and internet radio stations become more popular, traditional radio struggles to keep an audience . Their numbers aren't going in the right direction.
The Royalty Board consisting of about three main individuals has been determining the rates that stations have to pay for playing music . Under the current law, the per performance royalty increased from $0018 to $0021 through 2025. This may not mean too much to you so I will summarize.
Since Edgewater Gold Radio isn't a non profit entity and not a commercial am or FM station we are subject to paying royalties for every single hour that a person listens to us. The more hours that someone listens, the more we have to pay. The costs can be astronomical! So for internet only radio stations, growing an audience means huge costs for the owner.
Now here is where the battle starts. Because large corporations are threatened by this competition, they have somehow convinced the Royalty Board to allow them a free ride so to speak. Non Profit AM and FM stations who stream are allowed to accumulate 159,000 listening hours per month and not pay a dime in royalties! Commercial stations who do not stream, only pay ASCAP, Seasac, BMI and not Sound Exchange. Again a very large savings.
If Edgewater Gold Radio accumulated that many hours, we would have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars per month for Royalties. Keep in mind internet radio is rated by the total number of hours people listen each month rather than the actual number of listeners.
It is clear these corporations, including terrestrial AM and FM stations want Internet only stations to "go away" but the truth be told, we are not going anywhere. I estimate about 70% of all streaming only stations go rogue and don't pay any Royalties because the law is so twisted and unfair. They are at some risk but it will always be very difficult to track these stations and prosecute them. If the law was unbiased and fair where everyone can broadcast legally and if rates were reasonable and fair for everyone, this 70% would be reduced significantly. I also suspect that the companies collecting these huge royalty payments keep paying themselves rather than the artists but again this is only my opinion and has not yet been proven.
Now low power FM stations that are allowed to broadcast at low power fall into the same category that large corporations are in. They basically don't have to pay a cent in royalties. In order to run a low power station you have to form a board, serve the community, air information that serves the community and really target the very small audience that you're serving. Many low power stations do none of these things. I know of two that got the license and do nothing but don't pay any royalties. One station is in Maryland that airs wall to wall music. There is no information, no news ...nothing yet they get away with paying zero for royalties. Another station in North Jersey is basically a blank slate. The owner airs nothing community oriented, absolutely nothing. He as a group of people who love music do their own shows, play their own music and that's it. Nothing else and he pays NO royalties.
This infuriates me so much!
I've had a passion for radio all my life. After working in terrestrial radio for years I started my own station, Edgewater Gold Radio 21 years ago. I put everything I learned and every ounce of my passion into this project. Over the years, Edgewater Gold Radio has accumulated a very dedicated audience. I work tirelessly to make sure that I am giving my audience the content that they deserve. I make sure that I even give them local information and a real nostalgic radio experience. While lots of my colleagues and friends spend their retirement traveling and enjoying the freedom they've now earned, I'm busy day after day preparing, recording, organizing, reviewing every single second of programming for that day. Don't feel sorry for me, I do love what I'm doing but sometimes I wonder why I persevere.
Since I'm retired, I'm on a limited income and because of this unfair, unbalanced and discriminatory Royalty system, I have to make sure that my station falls within the very narrow limits of allotted listening hours given to me by my service provider Live 365. Instead of working to grow my audience, I have to work to reduce it. This is very discouraging and sucks the passion that I have right out of me. I had to place restrictions on listening hours, increase commercials to try to offset the high operating costs and analyze my audience every single day. Upticks are a bad thing for me.
So the battle for me continues but with each passing day that passion is dimming. We could thank greedy corporations, an unbalanced and very unfair Royalty system that only favors the rich and famous (typical for the US where the greedy survive and the rest could go to hell!) I don't know what the future holds but I'm trying my best to keep Edgewater Gold Radio on the air----but the struggle is getting more difficult as the days go by.