Friday, July 13, 2007

The Day the Music Dies: This Sunday!
If one were to characterize the trends seen in America during the George W. Bush era, they would be characterized as the years where the large corporations have been rewarded at the expense of small businesses. This certainly has been true in the oil, pharmaceuticals, and international trade industries. And now, it appears that the same will be true in the music industry

The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has decided to radically alter the royalty revenues demanded by all broadcasting mediums, and the change may be enough to virtually eliminate internet radio, save for the very largest stations. The decision will destroy the small radio stations, cripple the smaller recording industry, and oddly enough, will even hurt the larger recording industry long term, as there will be less sources of revenue.

On Sunday, July 15, the new rates proposed by the CRB will go into affect, and stations all over the United States will go under. What’s more, there is only one obstacle left to prevent this from occurring: legislation proposed in congress called the Internet Radio Equality Act. The importance of this bill is immense, as it really allows stations like the one I’m developing to provide you with alternatives to mainstream radio.

Presently, as many as 72 million US citizens listen to internet radio every month. Over 37% of the music that is played by internet radio stations comes from independent musicians, as opposed to only 10% on mainstream stations. Meanwhile, nearly all of these internet radio stations operate at a loss, as my last radio station did, only existing because of the owners’ dedication to the music.

The new royalties specifically target the small internet stations. First, there has always been a revenue-based royalty option, where the small stations could pay a percentage of their income. This option has been removed, and now internet stations of any size will be charged the same amount per song, which is approximately 3 times what large stations are paying per song today. This is despite the fact that few large stations operate in the black at present.

But it gets worse. Every internet station will be required to pay a $500 per channel base royalty. This is on top of all other royalties required. To put this in perspective, my last station lost about $385 last year in total, so this $500 fee would nearly triple my losses in 2007. And in case that wasn’t enough to eliminate most stations, all these fees are retroactive to January 2006, so stations will owe additional royalties on the services provided over the past year and a half.

In other words, stations will owe $500 for 2006 and $500 for 2007, plus the additional royalties for both years, come this Sunday, and will then have drastically higher royalties to pay in the future. Few, if any, will be able to come up with the nearly $1500 immediately due to the CRB, and most stations will shut down.

The total annual revenue from the internet radio medium is approximately $37.5 million, as compared with broadcast radio, which makes $20 billion per annum, and satellite radio, which makes $2 billion a year. Despite this, internet radio will be responsible for 47% of all revenues under the new royalty scheme.

Make no mistake about it, folks, this plan is designed to eliminate the small internet radio station, and put the power back in the hands of the large recording corporations. It will bolster broadcast radio and satellite radio while homogenizing the music industry, and crushing the hopes of so many small artists that internet radio supports.

What’s more, it destroys the free speech that this country is based upon. It is a firm declaration that only the mainstream stations, with the mainstream programming, can remain on the air, eliminating all other broadcasting competition. And that is not what this country, or this industry, has ever been about.

Internet radio is just beginning to blossom, and new revenue streams for small stations are only now becoming available. The diversity this burgeoning industry is creating is awe inspiring, and honors the greatest traditions of this country. But this new legislation threatens to kill the internet radio industry before it can reach its true potential. Help prevent this tragedy by going to Save The Radio, and supporting the internet radio industry.


Posted by Scottage at 2:00 AM / | |  

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Iranian Opinions and Palestinian Similarities

Terror Free Tomorrow conducted a survey of the Iranian people that’s fairly balanced, and determined that the vast majority of the Iranian people want free elections, interaction with the West, and improvements in the economy over the present religiously based government, seclusion from the rest of the world, and massive investments in a nuclear program that appears to be geared towards building weapons of mass destruction.

Guess what, there’s no surprise here!

Yes, for some time various leaders have been disputing such claims because there was no empirical support for these claims. But most people have known for some time that the actions of the Iranian government support the Iranian government, and do little if anything for the Iranian people.

Ahmadinejad’s recent activities, both in the public forum and with regards to their nuclear program, have crippled the Iranian economy and crushed the living conditions of most Iranians, but have pushed Iran into the position of being a world power. Interaction with the West and international trade could greatly improve conditions for the average Iranian, but increasing sanctions against the country prevent that from occurring.

I experienced a similar phenomenon while living in Israel, where I came into contact with many West Bank Palestinians. Most were sick of the constant fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians, and were willing to trade Jerusalem for an autonomous state and a chance to live a peaceful life with hope for their future and hope for the next generation of Palestinians. Only the government benefited from the fighting between the two people.

When Mahmoud Abbas came into power, I was hopeful for peace between Israel and Palestine. Abbas is an average, perhaps above average, citizen, and his wants greatly reflect the wants of the average Palestinian. His agenda included a push for peace, and he was willing to make concessions to build a free state of Palestine. The cease fire he brokered in his first month of office was a direct indication of Abbas’ agenda.

In many ways, the election of Hamas was a direct result of Israel’s treatment of the Abbas government. Israel took Abbas’ stance as a sign of weakness, and decided to clean up various terrorist cells in Gaza, forcing Abbas to speak out against the attacks. His inability to enforce the cease fire weakened Abbas’ role, allowing Hamas to run its election on a platform of being a strong negotiator with Israel.

Certainly, events have shown that Abbas represented Israel’s best chance at peace with the Palestinians, and that since the election of Hamas, that opportunity has passed Israel by. Many Israelis long for the opportunity again.

In both Palestine and Iran, the government (Hamas and Ahmadinejad, respectively) represents the interests of a small minority of the populace, and a fanatical minority at that. Each government did win an election, and both won the election on the platform of being the best advocate for their respective populations.

Both of these governments are militant, forceful, and vocal. Both capture international media attention, and both are also willing to work behind the scenes to accomplish their goals. Both are willing to employ terrorism or any other method that will improve their country’s position in the world order.

But neither government truly represents the will of the people of their country. Neither is really an advocate for a better day to day life for their citizens. Both governments are willing to sacrifice any number of people to achieve their political agendas. And such lack of caring for their respective citizens makes each government extremely dangerous.

Of course, the biggest threat today is coming from Iran, where their nuclear program and the massive amount of oil produced there create a clear and present danger for the entire world. But in reality, both countries are dangerous, because any government that cares more about power or status than they do about their own people is a danger to everyone around them.

Thus, our goal is obvious; to help the people of these countries find their voice without determining for them who is in power. If these people can find their voices on their own, and take control of their own destiny, the world would quickly become a safer place for all its inhabitants.


Posted by Scottage at 2:59 PM / | |  

What Makes Israel Special

The other day, a friend asked me to repost this blog posting, indicating that he had searched for it and couldn't find it. It was a response to a Meme on what makes Israel special, conducted by Haveil Havelim. I hope you enjoy it.

Near the end of 1995 I traveled to Israel for what was supposed to be a 6 month excursion and what turned into my making Aliyah. I was heading to an Ulpan at Kibbutz Beit Hashitah, and to be frank I think I was running away from Philly more than I was running to Israel.  I was looking for a new shot at some real happiness in my life, and in many ways, my last truly happy memories were from my last Israel trip in 1987.  

I arrived at Ben Gurion after midnight, and took a cab up to Beit Hashitah.  I got the key to my room, smoked a couple cigarettes, and tried to catch a few winks. Problem was, I was pretty excited, and had didn’t get much in the sleep department.  So at 5:00 am I got up, took a long walk, and settled in for a smoke in this beautiful grove on the Kibbutz with hundreds of baby trees.

I was staring at the mountain across from the kibbutz, puffing away at a cigarette, when a 70 year old man sat down next to me, and motioned for a cigarette. I gave him one and lit it up, wondering if he would be able to speak English.  He took a drag at the American Marlboro, pointed appreciatively at it while nodding to me.

The old man then answered my question by, without introduction, moving right into the story of the Mountain I was looking at, Mount Gilboa. His accent was thick but I understood every word, and remember his speech to this very day.  And at that moment, I knew for the first time I had found a home.

“That is Mount Gilboa, from the Torah. I know, you haven’t heard that story, but it’s there, you can look it up. Once, long ago in our history, Saul stood on that peak with his sons, with Jonathan, and David, mighty David not yet king, stood on the other peak. And beneath them, the Philistines were outnumbering us 100 to 1.”

“When Jonathan fell, Saul was so distraught he committed suicide….well, sort of. You know, a Jew won’t take his own life. He commanded his own aid to kill him. Oy, could you imagine having that job? Anyway, he did it, then went over to David and told him. David, yes, the one who slew Goliath. And that’s who he was, a warrior…not the type you want to upset, not the one you want to tell bad news.”

“Well, the aid learned it first hand, because David killed him right on the spot when he heard what happened to Saul. And then he said a curse. David looked at the two peaks of Gilboa, his peak where the Israelis, eh, they weren’t doing so bad, and the other peak, where Saul and Jonathan had died, and he said that the peak would turn to blood, and wash away everything living. Nothing would ever live there again.”

“Now the crazy thing is it happened. And of course the Philistines, they see this guy, who already was a very good warrior to say the least, turn a mountain to blood, killing all their friends over there, and they think, you know what, maybe it isn’t such a good idea to mess with him. And they left, and David became king.  And that is why, to this day, there are trees on one side, and the other side is bare.”

With that, the man got up, not even giving me a chance for introductions, nodded thanks for the cigarette, and walked off. Later I would find out that his name was also Saul, that he was a New Yorker who moved to Israel as a teenager in 1949, and that he had run the tree nursery, the largest in Israel, for nearly 50 years.

I worked for Saul in that tree nursery, starting at 4 am and planting nearly 4,000 trees, all of which were transplanted throughout Israel, a country that needs trees desperately.  It was hard work, but so fulfilling. And most of the time Saul was more or less quiet, never talking as much as he did that morning, when he didn’t eve know me.

I never forgot the story of Gilboa, and the way Saul told it. I’ve read the true account since, and been on the mountain, determined that the soil and sunlight are identical on both peeks.  There should be life on both sides of the mountain but there aren’t. And so every day I looked at proof of the validity of the Torah, or at least of that story, and was inspired by it. To me, this is the power of Israel, and it has touched my heart forever.


Posted by Scottage at 9:06 AM / | |  

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Acceptance, Responsibility, Powerlessness, and Letting Go

Today I was confronted by my powerlessness, and was taught an important lesson in acceptance. I hope it’s a lesson I can carry through to many aspects of my life.

For weeks, my sponsee has been worrying about today, the anniversary of a tragedy in his life. This is my first time as a sponsor, and I wanted to do whatever possible to help him through the day with as little anguish as possible, thinking that would keep him sober. I knew the day would be a challenge, but figured I would provide the support my sponsee needed.

I went into today with an open mind, figuring I would do whatever my sponsee wanted, and just be with him to keep him happy. I figured with this attitude, an attitude of acceptance, I would enjoy the day, regardless of how it went, and be in the best frame of mind to help him deal with the challenges of the day.

My sponsee had specific expectations for the day, knowing exactly what he wanted to accomplish and how he wanted to accomplish it. He was rigid in his wants, and as a result when one thing after another did not go as planned, he became more and more irritated. His mood got worse and worse throughout the day, and by the end he had decided to go to a drinking buddy’s house to hang out and watch some wrestling.

The worst part was he admitted that he felt like a drink may be just what he needed, given the circumstances of the day. He couldn’t see the dangers of going back out, and seemed intent on relieving his stress by self-medicating.

I talked to my sponsee about acceptance, acceptance of the events of the day, and how he could create a positive attitude for himself if he accepted that this was the way the day was supposed to go. I talked to him about powerlessness, his powerlessness to affect the events of the day, and his powerlessness over alcohol once he took that first drink. I talked about the great strides he’s made this past month, and the potential consequences of going out. But he seemed to be despondent.

I went into a meeting, and spoke about the day, asking if there were a better way I could have handled the event, or something I could have said that would have helped keep my sponsee sober. And with the help of the rooms, I learned my lesson!

I realized that for all my desire to accept the events of the day, and to help my sponsee accept the events of the day, I was struggling with acceptance. I need to accept that, if my sponsee wants to go out, that’s his decision, and I’m powerless over it. Yes, the various things I said were probably good ideas, and perhaps I could have tried harder to persuade him to go to a meeting. But in the end of the day, I have no control over what he does.

What’s more, it’s not my responsibility to keep him sober. I can give him suggestions, be supportive of him, and point out the ramifications of choosing to drink, but in the end of the day, I need to let go and let God, and allow him to make his own decisions. Anything beyond that is not my responsibility, and any more that I try to do is my will over God’s will, and will only make matters worse.

I called my sponsee, before going to eat with friends from the meeting, and told him that I cared for him, and would care for him regardless if he stayed sober or went out. I reminded him of the potential consequences for going out, but also said that perhaps he needed more research, and that I would not judge him either way. When he asked if I was giving him permission to drink, I told him that I wasn’t, but it wasn’t my place to give or not give permission, only to be a support for him regardless of his decision.

I was worried about my sponsee, but I knew I had to let go and let God. Odds are that he would still be alive tomorrow, and still need my support. But a crazy thing happened; he called me a half hour ago, and told me that he had not drunk. He went to his friend’s house thinking he would, but in the end of the day, he thought of all the reasons I had expressed, and decided to keep his sobriety day.

I’m very happy for him, and there is a tremendous amount of joy in my heart. In the end, I know that I had little or nothing to do with his staying sober, and that God did for me what I could not do for myself. But I am so glad that, for this occasion, my will and God’s will were the same. And even more so, I’m glad that I’ve been taught such a valuable lesson about my role and responsibilities as a sponsor.


Posted by Scottage at 2:16 AM / | |  

Monday, July 09, 2007

Exciting Change, and a Contest So You Can Help

Hey everyone! As most of you know, BigDawgRadio has shut its doors. But the goal is to have a new radio station up and running by next Monday, 7/16, and this station will not be hampered by many of the trials that faced us with BDR. Frankly, the change is really exciting!

Along those lines, we are looking for a name for the new radio station. We are looking for a cool name, a fun name, and a name that hasn’t been taken so the domain name will be available.

We are holding a contest until this Friday, 7/13, where we’re asking for the best name for the new radio station. Submit your names here. The person who submits the winning name will receive two discs of great blues from musician Cole Blair, as well as a mystery prize courtesy of DJ Rogue.

The new station will be something very special, and I hope you all are ready to be part of the fun! So stay tuned for more details, and we’ll catch you on the air waves.


Posted by Scottage at 1:09 AM / | |