Wednesday, July 8, 2009

radio free Andi

So, now and again, when my vast music collection starts to bore me (as it occasionally does), I hop online and listen to Pandora, which, for those of you who don't know, is a particularly wonderful internet radio website. You tell them a song or artist you like, and it finds other songs and artists like it, and plays them to you. You can also create multiple stations, for when you want to listen to different kinds of music — for example, I've got some stations with names like "Sunny Day," "Sleepy Time," and "Rainy Afternoon," plus a whole station dedicated to Spanish pop-rock. It's a good deal, and it's all free. Or at least, it was.

Being that I like Pandora and have some interest in the things it does, I became a fan of it on Facebook, and yesterday, the Pandora Facebook page published a note saying, among other things, that they are going to start limiting free listening to 40 hours per month, and then charging $.99 for unlimited listening after that. (This of course doesn't affect paid subscribers, who already paid, so they get unlimited listening as well as no ads.) The reasoning behind this is that apparently, the music industry people (I don't know who, as I haven't been following this issue much) want to get royalties for when their songs get played on the radio. It then goes on to make this comment:
The system as it stands today remains fundamentally unfair both to Internet radio services like Pandora, which pay higher royalties than other forms of radio, and to musical artists, who receive no compensation at all when their music is played on AM/FM radio.
Now wait. I thought the point of radio was that you want them to play your songs, so that people hear them and think, "Oh, hey, that's a cool song, I should learn more about that artist/buy that song/buy that album." I should think that would be true with Pandora especially, because you seed it with stuff you like, and then it plays other stuff like that, and sometimes it's really off-the-wall, obscure stuff, that you otherwise would probably have never heard of (I get a lot of that, anyway). And since it shares important qualities with music that you've told it you like, there's a very good chance you'll like this other stuff too, even though you've never heard of it. And, with radio (in principal) being free for the end user, it seems bizarre that people should feel entitled to money for things being played on it.

I mean, with most things, it's the other way around — advertisers, for example, pay the radio station to play their stuff. And it used to be that way even for music (though not necessarily legally so).

At any rate, it's no huge deal for me, personally — I doubt I listen to Pandora for 40 hours in a month anyway, and even if I somehow manage to hit the limit, I still have my own vast collection of music to sustain me. And really, a dollar is hardly a terrible expense for those that want more Pandora. My problem really isn't the outcome of the issue; it's more the fact that the issue exists in the first place. It's a bizarre change in attitude from the way radio used to work.

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