It's no secret that internet radio offers a lot more variety than you can find on AM, FM, or even satellite radio, so it should come as no surprise that members of the jazz community eager to see the webcasters who play their stuff thrive have sent a letter asking Congress to support H.R. 2060, the Internet Radio Equality Act, which would vacate the Copyright Royalty Board's new royalty rates that could bankrupt many webcasters on July 15.
"Clarinet wizard Dr. Michael White, legendary trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, jazz phenom 'Trombone Shorty,' Kidd Jordan" and over a dozen other jazz luminaries sent this letter to John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) -- chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees who are therefore in the best positions to intervene:
"Dear Chairman Conyers and Chairman Leahy:
"We are writing to request your leadership and urge your support to help save diversity and music on the Internet. As serious jazz, blues, and gospel musicians, we are extremely concerned that the recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) will take us one step closer to silencing the next generation of artists. If Internet radio dies, the next Coltrane, Monk, or James may never be broadcast and their music never heard. Internet radio is a beacon for “non-mainstream” music; in fact, 37% of music broadcast on the Internet is from independent artists and labels, as opposed to 5% on traditional broadcast radio. We need Internet radio.
"And yet, the CRB just increased sound recording royalty rates for Internet radio by 300 to 1200 percent, and this causes us great distress. For most of these webcasters, the new royalty rates will exceed their revenues and they will have no choice but to let the music die. Literally. Chairman Conyers and Chairman Leahy, please do not let that happen.
"As you know, broadcast radio pays no royalties to recording artists; only Internet radio and satellite radio pay recording artists. Perhaps more importantly, broadcast radio plays so little jazz, blues and gospel music that Internet radio is, in many places the ONLY way we can introduce our music to new audiences.
"As artists we value our own music and others' music, and royalties are important. But if those royalties are so high that it bankrupts the very services that play the most jazz, blues and Gospel then those radio services will disappear and we all suffer. As a culture, our nation stands to be deprived of our brightest outlet for the next generation of new music – of all kinds.
"Please think how our uniquely American music would be different today if those rural and poor radio stations that lost money playing Armstrong and Ledbelly were taxed so exorbitantly that they were forced NOT to play their music. That is exactly what we are facing today. We respectfully request that Congress take action to prevent the demise of Internet radio. The new royalties go into effect July 15 so there is very little time; we hope you will help.
Kermit Ruffins Dr. Michael White
Trumpeter Hot 8 Brass Band