Favorite

College Issue: Complete Internet Radio Article Interviews 

All the questions and all the answers...

Dear Readers,

In the course of researching this week’s College Issue feature on Internet Radio (and specifically, the local web-based outlet WRFS, or SCAD Radio), I conducted lengthy interviews with two key players at that Savannah station, and one internationally-known expert and lobbyist at the forefront of the legislative battle over webcasting royalties.

Regrettably, space constraints in our printed edition prevented me from including many of their responses.

The following are the complete transcripts of those interviews.

- Music Editor Jim Reed

----------------------------

Interview with SCAD’s Student Media Advisor, John Bennett:

How long has SCAD Radio been “on the air”?

John Bennett: SCAD Radio began transmitting programming over the Internet in January 2002.

Is it still broadcast on a low power transmitter to the immediate downtown area in addition to its internet stream? If so, where is that on the dial and how far does that signal usually travel?

John Bennett: SCAD Radio has discontinued the legal but unlicensed AM service. We were never truly satisfied with the range or quality of the signal and elected to concentrate exclusively on Internet delivery. An interesting bit of trivia: The first song broadcast from that transmitter was “Brain Damage” by (infamous local freak-rock band) GAM. Maybe that somehow damaged the equipment and caused the deficiencies described above.

How do you think SCAD’s radio station stacks up with the stations at other schools of a similar size (in terms of library size, variety of programming, quality of instruction, and student enthusiasm)?

John Bennett: I think SCAD Radio compares very favorably. In terms of library size, we are struggling now to store the CDs and vinyl the station has accumulated. I’m pleased with the variety of programming and particularly the emergence of our news and public affairs offerings. SCAD Radio has received numerous national awards for news programming over the last two years. The station is a finalist for a Society of Professional Journalists radio news award. The winner will be announced at the SPJ national convention next month.

One thing we’ve insisted on from the very start is that SCAD Radio is operated in accordance with Federal Communications Commission regulations for noncommercial broadcasters, even though as an Internet-only station it is under no legal obligation to do so. By doing this, our students gain “real world” broadcast experience, providing an industry-standard skill set they can use after they graduate.

In the student enthusiasm department, I think SCAD Radio in good shape, too. When my students interact with their colleagues from other stations, they are often surprised to find that other stations, even licensed FMs, have trouble recruiting students.

Approximately how large of a listener base does SCAD Radio boast when school is in session?

John Bennett: Historically our stats indicate that in any given hour, the number of people listening can vary from a dozen to more than 200.

Do you have any way of determining from those statistics how many listeners are students, and how many are not?

John Bennett: While I think it would be possible to determine the number of stream requests that originate in the residence halls, this would not give us a true picture of student listenership, as that figure would exclude off-campus students.

At its peak, how many hours a week are students running the station manually, and what sort of credit if any>do they receive for this effort?

John Bennett: When the station is at full staff, it offers around 120 hours of live programming per week. The students do not receive any academic credit for their efforts. A limited number of students, who hold management positions, receive a small monthly stipend. The students who produce our sports broadcasts receive compensation from the athletics department.

Give me an idea of some of the specialty shows you are most excited by that will be featured this quarter. How were they developed and vetted by the student staff and their staff/faculty advisors?

John Bennett: I can tell you that all specialty show proposals are originated by students and approved by a student program director, who evaluates them based on compliance with FCC and other regulations and their compatibility with the station’s programming philosophy. I’m the adviser for the station and I do not make programing decisions. That power resides with the students.

How much interaction (if any) does SCAD Radio have with other college radio stations in our area? How would you compare and contrast the programming SCAD Radio offers with that of other college’s stations, and with local commercial radio in general?

SCAD Radio doesn’t really have any “peer” radio stations in our area. As you know, Savannah State’s WHCJ-FM is operated by professional staff and community volunteers. It’s my understanding that WVGS-FM at Georgia Southern, while still staffed by students, has recently adjusted its format toward a more commercial approach. However, my students do have contact with other college radio stations across the country through our affiliation with Collegiate Broadcasters, Inc. This summer we hosted a group of students from Clayton State University, who are using SCAD Radio as a model in their efforts to launch an Internet station at that institution. On the commercial side, our students do have contact with personnel at WZAT-FM.

Tell me about that partnership, where a block of programming from SCAD radio is actually broadcast on WZAT.

John Bennett: SCAD Radio’s “Uncharted Territory” is aired Sundays on Z102 from 11 pm to midnight. The partnership was spearheaded by Shannon Javetz in the SCAD Communications Department. It’s still going on. Stephanie can answer the rest.

Despite the fact that the station has been in operation for several years, to the vast majority of locals, SCAD Radio is a virtually invisible presence. What do you perceive as the single biggest impediment SCAD Radio has to becoming more popular and known in this market (as opposed to internationally, as its signal can be heard essentially worldwide via the web)?

Most people assume that college radio stations will be heavily involved in helping to promote live events in their immediate vicinity. However, despite the Sound Sampler series, which has had difficulty in drawing large crowds, it seems that SCAD Radio is not particularly involved in such things. I am assuming that this is due at least partly to the notorious Savannah apathy. Yet, I also know that budget constraints and tight regulation of college radio play a role. Please explain the types of constraints that are placed on the station both from a monetary and a regulatory standpoint which may conspire to prevent SCAD Radio from playing a greater role in sponsoring or publicizing concerts both on campus and off.

John Bennett: I’ll answer both of these together.

As you and I have discussed over the years, if you look at communities with healthy live music scenes, you’ll almost always find the following elements: 1. Professionally run live music venues. 2. A college radio station that emphasizes local music. 3. Affordable practice spaces 4. An independent record store (some may argue that No. 4 is becoming less important these days, but I would disagree). SCAD Radio certainly aspires to supply its part of the equation. While you mention the Sound Sampler concerts in passing and suggest that the station is “not particularly involved,” I would counter by asking you to name another local radio station that has sponsored a similar number of free concerts featuring local musicians. Or name another local station that plays music by local artists every single day. In addition, the station has hosted a steady stream of touring musicians who have participated in live interviews or performances in the SCAD Radio studio. When you look at it that way, it’s clear that SCAD Radio is actually leading the way.

From a historic perspective, college radio as we now know it began in the early 1970s when the majority of college FM stations were licensed. So while other college radio stations have had three decades or more to cultivate relationships with the local music scene develop reputations for promoting live events, it’s only within the last two years or so SCAD Radio has been in a position to devote attention to these types of efforts. The station is really just getting started in this arena.

I know there has been some confusion regarding events which are held on SCAD’s campus - namely that some shows which are seemingly open to the public are actually strictly limited to those with valid SCAD IDs. If and when SCAD Radio helps to put on shows in the future that are held on campus, will those be open to the public or not? If not, is there any interest in trying to find ways around this restriction so that listeners who don’t attend the school can still attend these shows?

John Bennett: To refer back to our compliance with FCC regulations for non-commercial broadcasters, while stations are licensed to colleges, they are supposed to serve the community as a whole. This is a mission my students take seriously and it is manifested in the airing of public service announcements for community organizations and the students’ desire to host events that the entire community can attend. They are committed to ensuring that their listeners, whether they are students or not, have an opportunity to attend events that the station sponsors.

There has been no shortage of drama regarding the regulation of Internet radio, specifically pertaining to the way copyright royalty fees are calculated. At several points in the past few years, it has seemed that the RIAA lobby has come close to pushing through what many proponents of internet radio believe are onerous rate increases which would supposedly bankrupt a majority of smaller, niche-oriented and college internet stations. How serious do you perceive this threat to be?

What has SCAD Radio specifically done to try and stave off such restrictive legislation?

John Bennett: I’ll combine these questions, too. The fees are only part of the equation. For a station like SCAD Radio — which is staffed by student volunteers who are playing literally thousands of different songs every week from a variety of media including vinyl LPs and singles — fulfilling the data collection and reporting requirements desired by Sound Exchange presents a significant challenge. This is complicated significantly by the fact that the format, frequency and detail of the reporting requirements is currently in a very fluid state. Nonetheless, we are working now to prepare for the future and supporting the efforts of Collegiate Broadcasters, Inc., which is working on behalf of college stations.

---------------------------------

Interview with SCAD Radio’s General Manager Stephanie Adamo:

How do you think SCAD’s radio station stacks up with the stations at other schools of a similar size (in terms of library size, variety of programming, quality of instruction, and enthusiasm of the students)?

Stephanie Adamo: I think we stack up quiet nicely. Our library has grown to the point where we are having to come up with creative ways just store all the material. I am extremely pleased with the variety of our programming as it has expanded beyond what you usually think of when you think of college radio with specialty shows ranging from bluegrass to disco to movie scores.

As far as enthusiasm of students I think you would be hard pressed to find any group of students who are more dedicated and work harder than those at SCAD Radio. We are able to give students real world experience that will help them beyond graduation. This is something that I can personally attest to as working at WRFS helped me get industry internships in New York where what I learned at SCAD Radio directly translated to my work this summer.

At its peak, how many hours a week are students running the station manually, and what sort of credit - if any - do they receive for this effort?

Stephanie Adamo: During the year we probably have around 120 hours of programming that is produced by students. With the exception of our small management staff, who receive a small stipend, our DJs are volunteers who receive no academic credit for their efforts.

Give me an idea of some of the specialty shows you are most excited by that will be featured this quarter. How were they developed and vetted by the student staff and their staff/faculty advisors?

Stephanie Adamo: One of the shows I am excited about is the resurrection of our Locals Only show. This show will be on Monday nights from 10 to midnight and will play all local Savannah artists, give information about shows and have interviews with the featured bands.

Another new show added to the line up is Symbiotek Sessions that is a completely live spun show featuring drum and bass, jungle and dubstep and will air Thursday nights from 10 to midnight just in time to kick off your weekend.

I am also excited to hear new installments of returning specialty shows. Most notably SCAD Radio’s longest running program The Edge which plays some the best selection of metal you will find anywhere airing Monday nights from 8 to 10 and Painting the Grass at a new time on Sundays from 6 to 8 pm which features a wide selection of bluegrass, folk and classic country.

How much interaction (if any) does SCAD Radio have with other college radio stations in our area? How would you compare and contrast the programming SCAD Radio offers with that of other college’s stations, and with local commercial radio in general?

Stephanie Adamo: There really aren’t many other college radio stations in our area, and especially not ones that are completely student run in the way ours is, but we recently have had a group of students from Clayton State University visit and are using SCAD Radio as a model to start their own internet radio station. I find it hard to compare us to other commercial and college stations since it has been my experience when coming into contact with other stations, both around our area and up north in the New York and New Jersey area where I am from, that there are very few that give so much power to the students and trust that they will produce and provide their community with quality programming.

Do you feel the weekly co-operative show that finds SCAD Radio programming broadcast on WZAT-FM provides a decent microcosm of WRFS’ own schedule?

Stephanie Adamo: Uncharted Territory has been on-air since late January 2006. I think it is a great success, as it has been on for over a year now and has gained a steady listenership. Each week our music directors pick a combination of new music we get in and what is doing well on our charts to bring Savannah a small sampling of what they will hear when they tune into our regular programming.

Two questions: Despite the fact that the station has been in operation for several years, to the vast majority of locals, SCAD Radio is a virtually invisible presence. What do you perceive as the single biggest impediment SCAD Radio has to becoming more popular and known in this market (as opposed to internationally, as its signal can be heard essentially worldwide via the web)?

Also, most people assume that college radio stations will be heavily involved in helping to promote live events in their immediate vicinity. However, despite the Sound Sampler series, which has had difficulty in drawing large crowds, it seems that SCAD Radio is not particularly involved in such things. I am assuming that this is due at least partly to the notorious Savannah apathy. Yet, I also know that budget constraints and tight regulation of college radio play a role. Please explain the types of constraints that are placed on the station both from a monetary and a regulatory standpoint which may conspire to prevent SCAD Radio from playing a greater role in sponsoring or publicizing concerts both on campus and off.

Stephanie Adamo: If you consider the fact that SCAD Radio has only been around for five years the strides we have made to make the community aware of more local music are pretty great. In other areas with college radio stations most of these stations have been around since the ‘70s, we are just now starting to establish ourselves as a force in the local music scene. You briefly mentioned the Sound Sampler and while you suggest that we are not that involved, how many other stations in Savannah are providing the community with free, all ages concerts? This year we are hoping to take our involvement a step further by adding in a daily concert calendar at 6 pm that will update listeners on all the shows for the week. In conjunction with that we are starting “Hot Tix at Six” where listeners call in and are entered in a drawing to win tickets and other prize packages for events and concerts going on in the city and are currently looking for venues to partner up with us on this so we can continually provide listeners with great opportunities to see local music... I think the addition of the Locals Only show will help tremendously in giving a voice to the Savannah scene and provide artists with a show that specifically designed and geared toward promoting them.

I know there has been some confusion regarding events which are held on SCAD’s campus - namely that some shows which are seemingly open to the public are actually strictly limited to those with valid SCAD IDs. If and when SCAD Radio helps to put on shows in the future that are held on campus, will those be open to the public or not. If not, is there any interest at the station and the department in trying to find ways around this restriction so that listeners who don’t attend the school can still attend these shows?

Stephanie Adamo: We are always looking for venues both on and off campus to host events that the whole community can attend. We are committed to the idea that we are here to expose our listeners, both students and non-students, to the best college radio has to offer and give as many opportunities as we can for them to attend SCAD Radio sponsored events.

What has been the most surprising element of the SCAD Radio phenomenon in the time you have been involved with it?

Stephanie Adamo: There are two things that have surprised me the most. The first being the dedication of the DJs who volunteer and work so hard to make this station what it has become. In the past year we have grown so much and are venturing into new territory that when I as a freshmen three years ago could not have dreamed we would go. Its things like starting the Sound Sampler and bringing national tour acts to Savannah to the accolades our news department has received that make me proud to say that I work at SCAD Radio.

The second thing is something that has come up recently. We have just started to bring national acts to Savannah, both by hosting concerts with them and just having them stop by the station for interviews and on-air performances, and the reaction of the artists themselves it what has surprised me. Every artist that has come through our doors has been so impressed with how our station was run and how professional our staff was that they all say how they want to come back. We recently has Men Women & Children come play and though Savannah has not been a stop on their tour before they told us that they has such a good time that they think every one of their tours from now on should stop here, the same with Pattern Is Movement a band we hosted last fall. To me that is the reason why we do what we do, as a station it is our job to promote the city we are in.

Name some specific types of music, names of bands, or just information that you were introduced to through your work at SCAD Radio that you’d likely not have discovered on your own otherwise, and which have had some sort of positive influence on your life.

Stephanie Adamo: Without SCAD Radio my life would be so boring. It has exposed me to so many new types of music. When I first came to college I was strictly a punk rock/classic rock kind of girl and even though both are still my mainstays I have discovered the magic that is electronic music and country and good old indie rock. I think it is that way for a lot of our DJs, you come here one way and you have the opportunity to meet new people with different tastes and it rubs off.

Also I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without it. I came to SCAD as a performing arts major, then switched to Photography and now I am a Senior Sound Design student who was able to get an internship this summer at The Bowery Presents and work at New York City venues The Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge. This experience has prepared me for life outside of the classroom. I give all the credit to John Bennett who has developed a program that gives students valid industry training and the ability see ideas through start to finish. At SCAD Radio if you have an idea and can find a way to make it happen, you are the only person that can stop you. I don’t think you can get that anywhere else.

What are you most looking forward to in this upcoming school year as far as both SCAD Radio and internet radio in general go?

Stephanie Adamo: What I am looking forward to most this year is getting out name out there more. This year we are trying to get all of our DJs involved in every aspect of our operations and I think because of it we will be able to have a greater prescience in the community.

----------------------------------------

Interview with Rice University’s Will Robedee, who has authored comments before Congress on the state and fate of webcasting:

For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept of Internet radio, what do you see as the most intriguing or exciting aspects of this relatively new form of media, especially as relates to standard terrestrial or satellite radio?

Will Robedee: Internet radio may be relatively new to some of your readers, but it has been around for well over a decade. Wikipedia states that the first Internet radio station started in 1993. For millions of users, webcasting, or Internet radio is a regular habit, particularly in the work place. Internet radio offers the public variety and choices that the local broadcast market cannot. In the local community, people are limited to usually a couple of dozen stations. In large metro markets the number of broadcast stations might be close to or exceed 100 stations. The Internet makes the number of stations/choices available seemingly limitless and without a monthly subscription fee, as satellite radio requires, assuming that the Internet radio is an extension of what they are already paying for, which is access to the Internet.

There are also creative ways in which the stations are presented to the users. Some of the large commercial outlets provide customized stations for each user.

When you look at college radio, you will find that many listeners are those who are parents, friends or alumni. The Internet allows these people to hear the station without geographical limits. In other words, a college station might only broadcast to a 3 mile radius, yet a parent can listen to their child’s show from almost anywhere on the planet where they have access to the Internet. Alumni can listen to their alma matter’s football games, even if they live on the opposite coast. Further, it allows stations to come into existence where none would be able to on a broadcast frequency, because all of the local channels are already in use by other stations.

How important do you feel the advent of “broadcasting” music and opinion is in the overall scheme of the internet?

Will Robedee: Important is a relative term. The importance of the Internet ten, fifteen or twenty years ago compared to today is immense. As the Internet becomes more and more pervasive, the ability of content on the Internet to influence people grows. I am unsure as to your thought process concerning your question about the “overall scheme of the internet.” I think you are thinking about the traditional one-to-many model of broadcasting vs. the increasing ways in which the Internet caters to the individual user. If this is the case, then you are likely already seeing broadcasters adapting to the demand for interactivity. Listen to any radio station for an hour and count the number of references to web sites. Those who don’t have Internet connections will be startled at the number of “aural” links.

Can you give our readers a very basic understanding of the scope of Internet radio as it exists today, in the sense of the rough number of established stations, listeners, etc...?

Will Robedee: Hard numbers are hard to come by as many Internet stations don’t participate in the costly process of ratings. Even without hard numbers it is easy to substantiate that many Americans listen to Internet radio. The top 5 Internet radio outlets, according to Arbitron, show almost 5 million cume listeners. Given the fact that there are thousands of Internet stations, we know that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Arbitron puts the number of online listeners each week at 29 million. I suspect the number is much higher as the Arbitron analysis does not seem to include the number of listeners who listen to stations that don’t subscribe to Arbitron. The variety of stations available is amazing. Just looking at Live365, you will find over 700 stations in the “Alternative” category.

For many, the details of the ongoing legislative battle are Byzantine and require a firm grasp of long-standing business models for copyright compensation and song tracking, etc... Can you explain in layman’s terms exactly what is being proposed, how it would deleteriously affect Internet radio, and specifically how it could harm or even destroy the notion of niche-casting, non-profit, educational and/or college radio on the web as we now know it?

Will Robedee: Oversimplifying matters, there are two copyrights involved with music in this scenario. The first is the “musical work.” This is the creation of the song which is documented in the form of lyrics and musical composition. The person or people that create the musical work then register their product as a copyrighted work. In order to reproduce a copyrighted work, permission must be obtained and this usually requires a fee to be paid to the creator, either directly or through an agent or rights organization.

Broadcast stations pay three rights organizations for the music they broadcast, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Once a musical work is recorded, the recording of the musical work becomes a separate issue. The recording is then given a copyright status of its own. For instance, if I write a song, I am the copyright owner. If Bob Dylan then records a performance of the song, that recording is a distinct and separate work from the writing of the song and under US law, that recording is also given copyright protection.

Please talk a bit about your impression of an internet landscape mostly devoid of the myriad of webcasting choices which current legislation now affords. How big of a step backward would this be for the web, and can you extrapolate from that how much potential damage it could do to the ability of independent, underfunded or commercially marginal musical artists to have their work heard by the public?

Will Robedee: For the sake of accuracy, the immediate problem lies within the regulations as promulgated the Copyright Royalty Board, not with the statute, but you are essentially correct when you reference the statute, because it is the statute that governs the CRB process and allowed the outcome they reached.

The biggest losers, if this outcome is allowed to stand, are the artists and the public, followed by the educational opportunities that will not be available to the students who will likely loose their ability to exist on the Internet as a webcaster.

If the ruling is allowed to stand, only the largest and most profitable webcasters will be able to survive. The result will be that only those Internet stations that generate the most money will be allowed to survive, even among the large entities. The “fringe” stations will go away because they don’t generate the needed revenue to even off-set costs. As these stations disappear, the ability of the smaller, independent artists to gain exposure needed to help them grow disappears as well. In addition the revenue they might have seen from the royalties paid by the smaller stations will evaporate.

The phrase, “commercial radio sucks” is often attributed to the heavy commercial loads and limited number of songs and artists heard from over the air stations. Internet radio provides the public with all less commercials and more variety. The CRB decision will force the Internet stations to increase commercial loads and program less variety from the stations that can afford to continue to operate. Further the rates are not the only problem. At the far end of the spectrum are college, high school and community stations who will have higher rates forced upon them, but more problematic for many of these stations is the issue of overly burdensome record keeping and reporting requirements.

By this I mean that these stations, for the first time are being required to provide detailed information about each and every song they play on the Internet along with audience data in an electronic format that is unique and cumbersome. For many of these stations, the fees aren’t the problem, the “paperwork” is the problem as they don’t have the fiscal or human resources to comply with the requirements.

What can individuals do to inform themselves more on this little-known crisis, and what do you currently think is the best-case scenario for what will ultimately come to pass regarding this proposed legislation?

Will Robedee: The best source of publicly digestible information is the www.savenetradio.org website. Unfortunately, the issues here are complex and arcane. Further, the issues break down a little differently for each type of station on the Internet. For instance, large commercial, Internet only operations, such as AOL, have specific issues they want addressed. The commercial broadcast stations who put their audio on the Internet have a different subset of issues. Religious and NPR stations are also distinct services that have different issues. Further, the college/high school stations have different issues.

As a case in point, I have a blog that is devoted to informing college radio stations about the issues at www.collegebroadcaster.wordpress.com. Again, the short answer to your question is www.savenetradio.org.

The best-case scenario is that a short-term solution would be found that respects the artists, labels and the services that provide a wanted and valuable service to the public, coupled with legislation that would avoid this outcome in the future. To be clear, a short term-fix will only exacerbate the problem, because in the rate and term setting arbitration process begins in for webcasters starts again in January of 2009. Unless the rules of the arbitration process are rewritten, a short term fix will only delay a revisitation the issues that are before us today. Further, it is important that any “fixes” be approved by Congress or the CRB, because the way the law is written, any negotiated settlement that is not approved by either Congress or the CRB will result in a situation where major label artists will receive preferable treatment over the many of the independents.

Favorite

About The Author

Jim Reed

More by Jim Reed

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Connect Today 12.03.2016

The Most: Read | Shared | Comments

Right Now On: Twitter | Facebook

Copyright © 2016, Connect Savannah. All Rights Reserved.
Website powered by Foundation