Last night, Tim Westergren of Pandora held a town hall meeting. For those of you who don’t know about Pandora—or of my obsession with music


Save Internet Radio!

Last Night: Pandora Town Hall Meeting

Last night, Tim Westergren of Pandora held a town hall meeting. For those of you who don’t know about Pandora—or of my obsession with music discovery websites—it’s probably one of the greatest things since sliced bread. Okay, maybe not--but compared to iLike.com and last.fm, it’s an unparalleled service for discovering new music.

Westergren discussed their recent partnership with Sprint as a part of the "Pandora Everywhere" program, which will allow users to stream their personalized radio stations on their phone for a mere $3 a month, which won’t eat into your phone’s minutes. While it’s currently only available for Sprint PCS subscribers—of which I was one of the five in the crowd, and can attest to its crap-tacular reception in the Seattle area—Westergren says that adding mobility to Pandora takes it to a “whole new world,” and that it’s “just a matter of time” that it will be available on all major carriers.
“We’re going against Clear Channel, and we’re going to win.”

Let’s hope so. While the FCC is currently closing to finalizing fines to be leveraged against major radio conglomerates like Clear Channel—reportedly in the $12 million range—that’s nowhere near the impending financial devastation that another recent decision may take on the future of radio.

On March 2, the Copyright Royalty Board, a division of the Library of Congress, passed new financial terms affecting internet radio stations, like Pandora (the world’s third-largest internet radio station). It tripled the licensing fees for Internet radio stations--with more hikes to come--meaning that they’re paying three times more than broadcast radio stations, or satellite stations like Sirius and XM. Sirius and XM, which still have to pay higher fees than broadcast radio, weren’t affected by the recent hikes. (Congress is opposing their recent announcement to merge—which would create something of a satellite radio monopoly, but would at least form a viable opponent to Clear Channel; the entire bit is another story entirely.)

Behind all of the sad, jargon-laden discussion of licensing and royalty fees are a few breaths of fresh air. What can you do? Thank Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), for co-sponsoring the Internet Radio Equality Act, which currently has 121 sponsors in the House of Representatives.
In fact, in Washington state, only Brian Baird and our senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, aren’t on board. Write, call, and bother them until they change their minds.

Go to savenetradio.org, and tell everyone you know to do the same.

Lastly, take note that I'm probably the last twenty-something in Seattle who doesn't own an iPod. So if you’re going to buy anything on Amazon.com (for me), the website that refers to and draws the traffic to Amazon.com gets a cut of it; Pandora is no exception. Next time you want to buy anything, go to Pandora, buy a CD through it, and then add a bunch of crap to your shopping cart.
“Dump your RV in there,” Westergren joked.
But he’s serious—even though Amazon.com is slowly putting local CD and bookstores out of business, if you’re buying something large from them that you were going to buy anyway, you may as well be a little less evil—do something good, even!—and support internet radio in the process.

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