Internet Radio & Royalty Licensing: Where Do We Draw The Line?

**NOTE: This is an EDITORIAL piece and solely reflects the opinion of the author.

Since launching #VWRadio this summer, we’ve had many ups and downs. We just ran stat reports for August and September, and already have over 3,000 total listeners. That’s definitely an up. (Info graphic below,) On the flip side, the licensing and royalty reporting has been a real nightmare.

#VWRadio listener stats for August & September 2019

Over the last few months, while working with Sound Exchange, and other Performance Rights Organizations to learn the ropes of licensing, I have come to realize why so many internet radio stations aren’t licensed. 

First off, it’s expensive. The total licensing fees we pay out of pocket, come to more than $2,000 a year. And, on top of that, we do the royalty reporting ourselves.

I made the decision to go this route because the radio broadcasting platforms that include licensing and royalty reporting in their services, cannot accommodate podcasts. When a podcast is added into the radio stream, the software only sees the podcast as a whole, and not the songs being played during that podcast. The only way I can legally broadcast podcasts, is if I do the royalty reporting myself, so that I can go in and manually add the songs played during the podcasts we air.

There are thousands of internet radio stations out there, that claim they are supporting independent artists, but aren’t licensed. Or they are licensed, but don’t adhere to regulations. Many stations use the excuse that they feature independent artists, and have their permission to play their songs, and that the artists are just happy to have the exposure.

How is that any different than a venue refusing to pay a band, and telling them they should just be thankful for the exposure? 

Those of us that are working diligently to support and promote unsigned artists, need to take a stand on this issue, and demand that artists be paid when they’re played. And taking that stand starts at home, by making sure the royalties that are owed to the artists you’re playing, are being paid.

There is a real break down in today’s music business, where independent artists are concerned. There are many people on the bandwagon – trying to spread the word about the music and demanding respect for the independent artist. But, is expecting them to give us their music for free, and not paying the royalties they deserve, respectful?

I have gone to great lengths, and emptied my pockets, to ensure that #VWRadio is licensed and that royalties for every single song we play, is being paid. We also pay for the music in our library. We offer unsigned artists a choice of us either paying for their tunes monetarily, or they can be compensated with a feature article in our magazine. Most artists choose publicity. Either way, they are being paid for their craft, and that feels good to me.

The other side of this, is the lack of knowledge and education on the artist’s part. Many artists are releasing music, but aren’t registered with the necessary Performing Rights Organizations, so they’re not receiving any royalties.

This will be one of the first topics we address, when we launch Make Your Band Your Business next year. In the meantime, below are some links to resources, to assist unsigned artists in the United States with procuring royalties.

I am putting a call out, to my fellow internet radio stations – are royalties being paid to the artists you play? If you’re not sure, I challenge you to dig deeper, and change your broadcasting habits if they’re not.

I am also putting a call out, to all unsigned artists – have you registered with the four major performing rights organizations? Are the stations spinning your music, paying licensing fees to these organizations? They should be.

The state of the music industry will not improve, until we join together, and stand up for the rights of independent musicians. I challenge everyone reading this, to join with Virtuosity Worldwide, and stand up for the rights of independent musicians everywhere.

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