What Ever Happened to Internet Radio?

Collin Pointon

Class: Communications-Chapman Radio


This essay is a response to the question: “In your opinion, what will the future of radio be? How will this affect the future of Chapman Radio?”

I happen to know precisely the future of radio. I’ll begin with arguments for why internet radio isn’t as popular as it should have been. I’ll then speak at the end about Chapman Radio in this world and its future.

Why is terrestrial radio so big and why is not dead already like so many people predicted? Two reasons: One, virtually every car built in the world comes with a terrestrial radio and two, it’s free! If it’s a technological device and it’s cheap and it provides a service for free, it will be ridiculously popular. iPods are a great example, even though they’ve normally been over a hundred dollars. If iPods could be close to free, or come free with a car perhaps, many more people would have one. In a way, this is already true with iPod shuffles now going for $50![1] And how many raffles have you entered to win an iPad, iTouch, or other Apple music playing device? Finally, you don’t have to pay a subscription service for iTunes—although your songs are “handily” only transferable from your iGizmo to a computer if you’ve bought them off iTunes.

"What do you mean my downloaded Enya albums won’t transfer!?"

As I’ve said, if a technology is cheap or free and provides a free service it will be ridiculously popular. So what does this have to do with the future of radio? Well in order for anything to have the success of terrestrial radio, it will need to be cheap/free and provide a free service. Internet radio: absolutely free! Crap to play it on: not free. You need an internet connection, which may be free but not available on-the-road without an expensive wi-fi device and usually a subscription fee. You also need a computer or internet capable device. That will run you anywhere from a few hundred dollars up. Now despite the cost most people own computers, internet, and aren’t moving around 24/7—so why isn’t internet radio ridiculously popular?

The major reason internet radio hasn’t taken off is because of funding. Ever see an internet radio commercial on terrestrial radio, TV or in print (wait people still read)? No you haven’t. This is because none of the billion dollar media conglomerates that control basically everything you watch, hear, and read [2] want people to get a piece of their media oligarchy pie. Viacom, Disney, News Corp, etc. ain’t gonna’ run a commercial for something they can’t control yet. Honestly, there goes basically every avenue to mass market your internet radio service or station to a wide audience. So you can’t get backed by the wealthiest media companies that know all the ropes of the biz’ and you can’t advertise to a lot of people. That’s not to mention the fact that these conglomerates that buyout everything unique and employ armies of lobbyist and lawyers to crush their measly opposition and increase their Scroogian power hate you.

Oh you haven’t heard of the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” (DMCA) also known as “The Great Screw You, You Really Thought We Would Let You Do This For Free?” (GSYYRTWWLYDTF?)? No of course not because you either couldn’t vote in 1998 or you thought you only needed to pay attention to politics when Jon Stewart interviewed someone referred to as a “presidential candidate.” The DMCA addressed piracy laws like how much should we fine college kids for using Napster? In addition it said internet and satellite radio stations had to pay publishing royalties just like terrestrial radio stations.[3] But wait there’s more! These stations also had to pay “performance royalties” which is money that goes directly to the artist in addition to the publishing royalties that go to label companies.[4] Why aren’t we all listening to internet radio? The answer is the DMCA. Here’s the mythical American economy in a nutshell: if people can make money doing something, they will do it. The market is a beautiful place that rewards those creative and intelligent people that see a need and fill it. Here’s it is in reality: not on Viacom’s watch![5]

Shall we watch Viacom, Viacom, or Viacom tonight?

So no one can make money with internet radio because the US government has crippled the very idea thanks to the compassionate legal employees of the Big Six. Well when did anything get popular when no one made money off of it? Sliced bread?[6] Well you should now be pessimistic about internet radio being big in the future. If you’re not you’re either irrationally optimistic or you’ve got a good idea up your sleeve. The good idea is this: “ideas are bulletproof.”[7]

Right now I desperately wish my iPhone could play internet radio. For a while it did,[8] and I’m sure I could find a way to do it, but I don’t know at the moment. No Pandora is not internet radio because it’s all automated—thus, Pandora is a glorified jukebox. The fact that I currently don’t know how to play internet radio on my phone shows how little has been done with internet radio. If anyone plans on internet radio being big, I wouldn’t be having these quandaries. Despite this, the idea of playing internet radio on my phone is a kickass idea. In fact, it’s so kickass that it’s only a matter of time before it happens, Big Six and DMCA be damned. They won a battle, not the war. Alright, they could win the war, but it’s very unlikely.

No Napster, you’re dead to me now.

People are running around with phones that have more features than Bill Gates’ mansion[9] and it won’t be long before every device from a blender to a propeller beanie hat will be able to access the internet. When you have a house party, or carpool with a friend, or just walking around town, are you going to whip out an iPod with songs you’ve listened to a trillion times from your tight jeans pocket? If you even dare to say yes, stop reading immediately. What you’ll have is a phone that has an internet radio button. You press it, find a station you and others can agree on and you’ll hit play. The specifics will remain unknown—will there be ads, will the song lists be automated, etc.—but the result will be the same. Picture this: You want to listen to a sports game that’s on but you’re on vacation. You whip out your phone, find the station it’s on and listen. You have to head back home from your “vaca’” and when you get in your car the game seamlessly transitions from your phone speakers to the car speakers. When you get home, the same thing happens. I expect this technology pretty soon. “But what about the Big Six! They’ve ruined that possibility!” No, they just put it on hold until they can figure out how to own it themselves. The idea is too kickass. Eventually one of them will add it as a feature on certain phones/devices and then they’ll all cave. Don’t agree? Don’t act like you know what the future will be like.

So how does Chapman Radio work into this? Well it will clearly benefit from more and more people listening to internet radio. People won’t be confused by the concept like they sometimes are now. As Chapman increases in size and reputation, so will the club’s listener base. It will also increase as phones gain the capability of tuning in. In essence, Chapman Radio will only grow larger over time. But with this increase in listenership, there will come complaints. Chapman Radio will become more heavily regulated by rules and policies thanks to the demands of the University administrators.

The key for Chapman Radio’s growth beyond obvious factors will be creativity. The move to encourage sports broadcasts was genius. If increasing listenership is the goal, Chapman Radio will need to cover more events—e.g. talks, conferences, speeches, and sports. Ultimately will Chapman Radio stick to music or will it branch into news and comedy? If it’s music, when will there be shows featuring all local music—even as local as Chapman artists only? These shows do already exist but what’s needed is promotion—and not just from the show’s DJ. The problem we’re encountering is a lack of administration. While rules and bureaucracy sound bad, they actually promote work. For Chapman Radio to become more than a college club, it will need a significantly larger staff to coordinate the club, moderate shows, and meet objectives. These sorts of things are happening, just slowly.

[5]Viacom has joined other companies in blocking their shows from being watched on Google TV. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech/2010/11/viacom_to_google_tv_no_mtv_for.html  Are you reading these footnotes? http://blogs.ubc.ca/gillianong/files/2010/10/socialism_vs_capitalism.jpg. I didn’t write them for you to ignore.

[6] That would’ve been patented by the Earl of Sandwich in a heartbeat if he lived in the 21st century.

[8] Whatever happened to that Chapman Radio app?

[9] Actually Bill Gates’ mansion has way more features: http://money.usnews.com/money/business-economy/articles/1997/11/23/xanadu-20.html.

About C.P.

Collin is a professional writer and scholar. He holds an MA in Philosophy and a BA in English literature. His philosophical work has appeared in print published by Wiley/Blackwell and Open Court. More of his writings, philosophical, literary, comic, and just plain nonsensical are available online. He currently lives in Seattle where he is writing science fiction, dressing up for Cons, and wreaking havoc on his opponents (npcs and tabletop humans alike).
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One Response to What Ever Happened to Internet Radio?

  1. Lois says:

    What a great blog

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