On December 31, 2015, at 11:59PM, Jazz Central Radio will suspend all broadcasting operations indefinitely. In light of the US Copyright Royalty Board’s announcement that Internet broadcasters will now have to pay 17 cents for every 100 streams per “performance”, i.e., song, we can no longer sustain those costs and stay operational.
We urge our loyal listeners, some of whom have been with us since we launched on July 1, 2008, to take to social media, contact their elected officials in Congress, AND members of the music industry (labels, promoters, and artists alike) to express your displeasure with this ruling and the irreparable damage it will cause to Smooth Jazz and related genres, and Internet radio at large. It is Internet radio, not traditional (terrestrial) radio that has carried the torch for these genres in recent times. Yet, many in the industry are still either unaware of this fact, or merely refuse to accept it as reality.
Our commitment has always been to provide you with top-notch programming, from household names to Indies and new artists, while varying instrumentation and tempo for a presentation that sets us apart from our competitors. We do not make this decision lightly. This station was founded on the very principles that attracted listeners to the genre to begin with, as a true adult contemporary instrumental alternative to mainstream radio. One of the first mottos we adopted, “Built by the listeners, built for the listeners” speaks to the essence of our passion, our vision of where we believed this format needed to go.
It isn’t necessary to rehash how Contemporary Jazz/Smooth Jazz has arrived at this critical point in its existence as a genre. It has been well-documented on our website and by others elsewhere. Despite our exhaustive efforts to encourage our friends in the industry to abandon traditional radio models for promotion, sales, and marketing this genre, they instead have been content to maintain the status quo and entrust the very same people who presided over the format’s demise on the FM dial.
However, we do wish to speak directly to the artists who have shared their creative talents with us through their music for the better part of the past four decades. On December 31, 2015, when the ball begins its decent at New York’s Times Square, tens of thousands of your listeners on Internet radio, who comprise the overwhelming majority of your base listenership, regardless of what the consultants and trusted sycophants will tell you, will wonder what just happened to their favorite Smooth Jazz radio station, and will disappear. Therefore, are the extra pennies on the dollar each month really worth alienating the very people who pay good money to see you perform live and purchase your CDs?
To revisit the basics, events are where the real money is made. How are listeners going to discover you if your music is not getting played on the radio? Smaller Internet broadcasters have been a tremendous force multiplier in your behalf, so fewer outlets (stations) not only means fewer listeners, but also means fewer spins, fewer attendees at your events and fewer purchases of your music. And it follows that, over time, you’ll see a net loss in royalties as well. Unintended consequences? Not at all. The fact is, like members of Congress and the CRB, you too have been sold a bill of goods by the very people who are perfectly content with smaller Internet broadcasters going dark.
Performance rights organizations like SoundExchange are nothing more than the Praetorian Guard for corporate radio and their lobbyists. Hard to believe, you say? This is what The Future of Music CEO Casey Rae, who supports the deal, had to say about its impact on small broadcasters and niche formats:
“…We are concerned, however, that there does not appear to be a distinction in rates for small commercial webcasters. Digital music benefits from diversity, and services with more modest operations often help developing talent and niche genres find audiences while contributing to the overall revenue pool. If there isn’t an option for new entrants to perform music from a broad range of artists, we may end up with a less diverse digital landscape.
It also appears that by combining pureplay and commercial rates, incumbent broadcasters will receive a sizable reduction in royalty obligations for their digital transmissions. Commercial terrestrial radio already gets an unfair advantage due to the fact that they are not required to pay performers a dime for over-the-air broadcasts. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the developed world. Congress should take swift action to close this loophole to support a positive global balance of trade and the equitable treatment of American creators. And artists and their allies should push back on consolidated corporate FM getting yet another unfair advantage.”
Some final thoughts:
To all of our wonderful listeners: It has been our honor and pleasure to serve you for the past 8 years. Just know that, although there are no guarantees, we will work toward a solution to be back on the air one day.
To our syndicated hosts, namely Ted Hasiuk of “Café Jazz”, Mark Stanley of “SoundTraxx”, and Jerry Wells of “Movin’…Straight Ahead”. Without your programs, Jazz Central Radio just would have been just another Internet stream. You guys helped enhance our status as a true “radio station.” Your professionalism and ears for this music are without peers, and I am proud to have been associated with you and call you my friends.
To the artists: Thank you for the gift of your music. The ball is in YOUR court now. It is not enough to go “show to show” thinking about the next gig. The future of the format has never been more dire than it is now at this very moment. Your radio audience is about to take a HUGE hit. Talk to your managers. Talk to the labels. Leverage whatever contacts you have to get royalties parity for small broadcasters, and to re-instate the small broadcaster exception that has been the rule until now. It’s time to fully embrace what we do for you and collectively for the long term survival of this genre.
Jazz Central Radio/jazzmatrix.com