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Radio Silence: Digital Stations Go Black

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If you’re like many EW staffers here in bad-reception New York City, you spend many of your work days (Don’t worry boss, we’re still hustling!) and leisure hours at your computer, listening to Internet streaming music rather than traditional radio. Tomorrow, though, you’ll be tuning in to the sound of silence. And we don’t mean the old Simon and Garfunkel chestnut.

Popular webstream stations like AccuRadio, L.A.’s KCRW, Pandora, Live365, Yahoo, SomaFM, Bagel Radio and Washington D.C.’s WAMU are joining together  June 26 for a Day of Silence to protest the new high music royalties for Internet radio that were laid down in March by the Copyright Royalty Board. Effective July 15, the CRB is asking stations to pay some 30 percent more for song use to record companies, applied retroactively to 2006 and in each of the next three years through 2009. Activists argue that this kind of imposition will not only widen the gap between the Davids (small independent stations) and the Goliaths (XM, Sirius), it could make operation unaffordable for most ‘Net radio outlets, ringing the death knell of some of the most original, unique programming out there. The new fees are advocated by the recording industry and digital rights clearinghouse SoundExchange, groups that argue that the protests are a smokescreen to hide the dominance of Internet radio by a few media giants who could well afford to pay artists the higher royalties.

What do EW.com readers think? Do the small stations doth protest too much? Should artists get the same amount of money for their songs, no matter who’s playing them, and to how many listeners? Or is the CRB a big, bad wolf that deserves a poop sandwich for taking the hard line?

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