Two years later, there's more radio on the Internet than porn on 82nd Avenue. As a visit to the radio portal site www.Live365.com shows, aficionados of hundreds of microgenres--from classic Indian film music to underground Lebanese disco--are now served by ultra-focused audio streams. The evil powers of corporate rock have dipped their toes in the shoutstream (just search for "TODAY'S HOTTEST HITS!!!") but the revolution, for now, remains firmly in the hands of the MP3 proletariat.
But there's trouble in radio paradise. Record companies are pushing the courts and congress to extend the Big Business music monopoly into the Internet. A new, expensive license structure is already forcing many non-commercial web-casters to sell out or shut down. As judges continue to weigh the constitutionality of oppressive new laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the future of Internet radio hangs in the balance.
Although webcasts may originate from almost anyplace on earth, one of the best stations is Portland's own Indie Pop Radio (www.indiepopradio.com). Launched in early 1999 and dedicated to the best in independent pop music, indiepopradio.com helped me fall in love with Neutral Milk Hotel, Dressy Bessy, Of Montreal, and The Silver Jews, to name a few of the many great bands in rotation. I recently e-spoke with founder Rich Burroughs in his virtual office.
Rich, I hear you almost shut down the station. What's up with that?
I decided recently that I want to become a filmmaker. I felt that the time and money I'd been devoting to indiepopradio.com should go towards my film education instead, so I announced the site would be closing. I expected to hear from some disappointed people, but I just wasn't prepared for the amount of really heartfelt e-mails I got from people who obviously get a lot out of the site. Some of them offered to help in various ways, and I think we're going to be able to keep things running.
Have you been hassled by bands, labels, or The Man about copyrights, ASCAP fees, or other infringements?
There are a growing number of licenses a webcaster must maintain to be legal. The requirements are actually stricter than for broadcast radio--webcasters must pay for the use of the sound recording, in addition to publishing fees. I was contacted by one major publishing company, and it was partly the thought of paying all of the licenses--with little confidence the money would actually get to the artists I play--that made me consider shutting down. Instead, I've decided to use another company's streaming server. They already pay off The Man and I should be covered. It gives me less flexibility than running my own server, but the only alternative would be to spend a lot of time trying to turn the site into a business, which just doesn't appeal to me right now.
What software do you use? Was it hard to master the technology?
I've used mainly Linux software: cdparanoia for ripping MP3s, mp3enc, LAME for encoding them, and Icecast for streaming. It was pretty easy for me to pick up, but I've been working as a Unix admin for a few years now. I think people using Windows would do well to start with Shoutcast, or with a service like live365.com so they don't have to have their own server.
What should a band do to get played on indiepopradio.com?
Move to Portland and get signed to Magic Marker Records. If that fails, get some MP3s online and e-mail the info to email@example.com.
Is the Internet a force for good or a force for evil?
I think the Internet has a lot of great qualities and some negative ones, too. I had a long-term relationship blow up a few years back largely due to my computer addiction, and it gave me some perspective. Running this site has been great, because it has actually increased my social circle a lot instead of turning me into a loner. I've met a lot of swell people, and as they say in the credit card commercials, that's priceless.