Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Changes to the station effective 1/1/2016

Note: At the time this article was originally written, Live365 had not put out an official statement regarding the changes, thus some details are based on limited information. The article will be updated as final details become available.

Updated 12/30/2015 4:30 PM CST: Added details from the Live365 release regarding the matter. As before, I am planning on continuing the station in an alternative form-see below the embedded video.

Every four-to-five years, a board of judges at the federal level sets the US base rate of performance royalties for internet radio (1). The most recent rates came out on December 16th, and as a result of the changes, Live365 (the hosting provider for the station since its inception in August 2000) is discontinuing its personal broadcasting packages when the rates go into effect on January 1st (2), and at that time, the PIRN stream on the service will cease broadcasting. Live365 itself may only continue providing streaming audio at all through the end of January 2016.

At one point (before all plans were removed from the Live365 website), I had the option of switching to one of their comparable professional plans, which would have cost approximately $40 a month more than what I'm currently paying (for reference, I've been paying just under $70 a month to broadcast). While I could have afforded the difference (the changes I'm making are more about what audience I can reach than personal cost), it became difficult to justify given the typical amount of listening the station got per month. Historically, listenership peaked in the summer of 2005, and despite attempts to advertise the station, I've never been able to surpass that mark. Also, while there are a few other services that allow individuals to run their own internet radio station, I doubt that I could get significantly more listening time by being on them (also, I'd want to have things in the industry settle before moving to another streaming provider).

Why is it so difficult to court listeners? Well, the truth is that the station's target audience is generally under 30, and thus gets its music not from a more traditional radio paradigm, but on demand, and mainly through YouTube (which, you may notice, launched in 2005). About a week ago, I attempted to take an hour or so of a playlist and see how much I could find on there, and this was the result:

Given the circumstances, I've decided it's a better use of my time and resources to curate video playlists on a daily basis and link to them from here. This should serve a wider audience, and give me more time to focus on original content. In this new format, I'll attempt to adhere to the following principles:

Maintain a structured playlist: Like with the current station, my goal is to balance music between generations, styles, and origin countries using musical categories and a clock wheel system (3) . I feel this keeps the playlists more interesting and less repetitive.

Use official/officially monetized videos when feasible: One of my goals is to support the industry where possible, so I will try to find official videos or ones that have been claimed and monetized by the song owner.

This will be an evolving process, so keep an eye on this blog for updates.

1. This rate covers non-interactive broadcasts where music is streamed continuously in a manner similar to a terrestrial radio station, not services that provide specific songs from a library on demand to a user like on Spotify or Apple Music. 
2. The specific reason for the removal of the personal plans appears to be the discontinuation provisions aimed at reducing costs for smaller stations. More information about the overall situation can be found in this article.
3. See the video for how the station is programmed for more information about how clock wheels are used in radio.

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