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News ::
The Web: 'Streamies' reamaking music online
10 Sep 2004
This is an expose of how the Internet is changing music online by Gene Koprowski
The Web: 'Streamies' remaking music online
By Gene Koprowski
United Press International

Published 9/8/2004 11:14 AM

A weekly series by UPI examining the global telecommunications phenomenon known as the World Wide Web.

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CHICAGO, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Pop diva Avril Lavigne -- whose 2002 album, "Let Go," sold 14 million copies -- does not debut new songs on the radio. Rather, the Canadian singer and her producers premiere new tunes and music videos exclusively on the Internet.

The cyber-strategy, employing the latest audio and video streaming technologies to reach music fans online, is being utilized by other popular musicians, such as Usher, and rapidly is remaking the global media business.

"We can reach 2 million people in 24 hours," Evan Harrison, vice president and general manager of America Online's radio operations, told United Press International. "That allows artists to cut through the clutter of conventional media, like the radio and MTV. We can put new stars on the map."

The world of Internet radio is something of a mystery to many. Radio audience-measurement firm Arbitron dubbed streaming media listeners on the Internet "streamies" in a series of reports on the emerging industry. Advertisers have been slow to embrace Internet radio, though, because it is difficult to predict how many people will listen to content online at any given time.

That is what has prompted producers of Internet radio to rethink the way they do things. Like HBO, the cable TV entertainment network that started up by providing paid telecasts of boxing matches and other sporting events, Internet music distributors are evolving, encouraging artists to debut original content through their niche medium.

"We have our own studios in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville," said Harrison, who works out of offices in New York City. "The concept is to bring a recording artist into a studio environment, and create different versions of songs for our audience before they are hits. That creates a tangible value for our viewers -- they get music from us which they can't get elsewhere."

The same kind of thinking is prevalent in other genres of online programming, not just new music. There is an array of Internet talk show hosts, sportscasters and newscasters who send their audio content around the world without ever having to use the airwaves.

"People are getting used to Internet talk radio," Antoinette Kuritz, who hosts a show at writersroundtable.com, told UPI. "They are finally beginning to seek it out. It's growing faster than FM radio did in the '70s."

These talk shows are helping disseminate information that does not appear in the conventional media.

"Internet radio-streaming audio is a fantastic value-add for our clients," Wayne Schaffel, an account supervisor at Euro RSCG Magnet, an advertising and public relations firm in New York City, told UPI.

For one client, Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Schaffel and his cohorts recently arranged the taping of an interview on the syndicated "Travel with Stephanie Abrams" radio show, which is streamed live over a number of Web sites.

"Using the Internet as a separate medium to carry one's message and expand audience reach is a benefit that one should clearly capitalize on," Schaffel said.

Listeners seem to like this kind of content, too.

"I'm an avid listener to AirAmericaRadio.com," Josh Roberts, an Internet radio fan, told UPI. "I don't know what kind of numbers they have, but they claim to be good. In the beginning, they had non-profit, highly-specialized, left-wing advertisements. Now, they have actual consumer spots, so something has to be going right."

Programming that would not be able to sustain an audience big enough to justify being on the air via a regular radio station can do just fine online, too, experts said. WTOP-AM radio in Washington, D.C., operates an Internet-only service, called federalnewsradio.com, which is directed at federal employees who work all over the United States.

"It is probably a very good example of how Internet radio can effectively serve a niche market," Duane Peters, vice president at the Lupus Foundation of America Inc., told UPI. "I'm considering advertising on it just to reach federal employees who can contribute to our organization through the Combined Federal Campaign -- the federal government's version of the United Way Campaign."

Trade magazine publishers, experienced at reaching niche audiences, also are operating Internet radio stations.

Entrepreneur Magazine has a radio service completely online -- Entrepreneur Radio -- and located at wsradio.com/entrepreneurshow, a spokesman told UPI.

Even college radio stations -- long the vanguard for experimental and new-music distribution -- are embracing Internet radio.

A 100-watt college radio station, WVOF, operated by Fairfield University in Bridgeport, Conn., is becoming well known internationally due to its Internet streaming audio operations.

"Our programs are being picked up around the world, thanks to the Internet," Nancy Habetz, a spokeswoman for the university, told UPI. "Our Irish music and other ethnic programs are being picked up in European countries."

A broadcaster at the college station even has garnered awards for his country music programming, in other states, since it has been available online.

Mike Gross, host of a western music show, is being inducted into the Western Swing Hall of Fame in Sacramento, Calif., and earlier was named Disc Jockey of the Year, both for his Internet operations.

"Streaming has really helped me with listeners and awareness in the state of California," Gross told UPI.

For those who want to be on the air, but who are not computer savvy enough to program a server to stream an audio broadcast over the Internet, there are options online as well.

Norm Bour, host of "The Real Estate and Finance Show" on KRLA, 870 AM, heard on Sundays in Southern California, said he recently looked into purchasing time on an Internet radio station.

"The one I was looking at was a brokered show, like a paid advertisement," Bour told UPI. "I found the cost very reasonable."

The future for Internet radio appears to be wide open, as it remains unregulated by the Federal Communications Commission. If the government continues to crack down on shock jocks, Howard Stern and others may find a refuge, and an audience, online.

"The FCC jurisdiction does not extend to Internet radio," P. Craig Cardon, an intellectual property attorney with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP in San Francisco, told UPI. "That means that even though a broadcast radio station is subject to FCC regulation, the same content streamed by the radio station would not be subject to FCC regulation."

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Gene Koprowski covers telecommunications for UPI Science News. E-mail sciencemail (at) upi.com
See also:
http://ww.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID-20040901-011125-6071r

This work is in the public domain