Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pandora Under Fire

Today Tim Westergren, founder of the Pandora net radio service, sent out an email to urge listeners to sign a petition against new legislation from the Copyright Royalty Board. Apparently the royalty rates are going to triple for internet radio, which could cause serious reprecussions, and according to Westergren, drive most, if not all, web radio services out of business.

As Westergren points out in an interview with Gizmodo, the two main reasons supporting this decision are illusions. First of all, artists will NOT get more money; rather, the record companies will the royalties, and the artists only their usual percentage. Basically, this means that it will filter through the record companies, and very little will get to the artists themselves.

The second reason, that they can charge more royalties because the radio companies have a large profit, couldn't further from the truth. As Westergren says, "For most (including Pandora), it's still a money-loser at the old rates that we are working as hard as we can (15 full time sales people are on the job) to turn profitable in a year or two." Even with rates that are a third of the new value, the companies are losing money. Also, based on the new rates, royalty expenses would exceed revenue. It's also retroactive to 2006.

These rates are typical of an ignorance to the value of the industry. Internet radio is a fantastic way to get new artists' names out into the world. Pandora takes your taste in music and recommends other artists and songs. This means that, for people like me, I will hear a song or artist I like, and if I really do like 'em, I'll buy the song off iTunes, or head out to get the CD, or go to a concert the next time they're in town. This means more money for the artists (AND the record companies).

This isn't the first time internet radio has been screwed. In 2002, the CRB gave an initial royalty fee, was a 0.07¢ cost per song per listen. Since there could be hundreds of listeners for even the smallest webcaster, this was a huge cost. This money went straight to the record companies. This was also in addition to royalties stations were already paying. And the kicker: it was retroactive 4 years.

The question is, what makes people so paranoid about copyright, and especially so when the internet is involved? Steps against piracy end up hurting those already hurt by it, and it never seems to achieve its goal. Not to mention that traditional radio barely yields enough money to make producing singles worthwhile for all but the most successful artists. There is hardly much of a difference between that and internet radio, except that internet radio is more convenient, tailors to your taste better, and doesn't have annoying audio ads. Oh, and that it isn't charged per listener.

Non-linked sources:

Friday, April 6, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Movie: An Inconvenient Truth


I know, I know, my blog is "turning into a movie review place" - it's just because I use reviews as practice/fodder to keep me writing. I have a couple o' things on the way, this just happened to come along first.

Anyway, An Inconvenient Truth is a documentary starring Al Gore. In one way, it is a documentary about global warming, but more accurate perhaps is that it is a documentary following Al Gore's presentations on the subject. It is a filming of a presentation given, sometimes showing him talking, and sometimes showing the slides or videos he uses. Spliced in throughout this presentation are videos with voice overs, showing Gore on the road, in hotels, creating the presentation, and discussing personal reasons and reflections. These aren't necessary, but do add a nice touch - it makes the movie seem more like a movie and less like a videotaped lecture. Unfortunately, it's very easy to tell when it switches from his presentation to voice overs, which could peeve those who expect seamless editing.

Gore does present a very strong case, from demonstrating clearly that global warming exists and is linked to CO2 emissions to showing that doubt of its effects are manufactured by the media and state. He does not give any alternative theories or viewpoints (if they exist...), but is convincing enough without mentioning any - he is speaking to persuade as well as inform. He was also shortwinded when mentioning how we can act to prevent global warming, but then again, his point is that we can act.

In general, Gore had 3 goals, which he definitely achieved. He spoke to inform us of the problem, and even a skeptic would be doubting their doubt after seeing this. He spoke to tell that the consequences of inaction are dire, and this was a very well covered section. His main point, though, was that there are many things we can do, reasons against them are weak if not nonexistant, and that they stem from apathy and ignorance. The title is his case in point, that politicians do nothing because people either doubt any problems or don't care. When people start to realize the issue, he argues, politicians can no longer ignore this inconvenient truth, and will have to act. With that in mind he made the film, and it was effective - it's well known, having won an Oscar, and is well done and convincing. Though this is by no means an answer, it has turned into an effective means of spreading word.

Flaws: Gore's manner of speaking, with his blatantly American speech and annoying pronunciation of a few words was a little annoying for a good part of the film, though it let up at the conclusion. Also, the interludes, although nice, could irritate some people - they aren't completely relevent.

Bottom line: It achieves its purpose to spread word and convince, and was well done to boot.

Rating: 8.6/10