But what about the artist?

David Byrne explains the irrational royalty mess that may break internet radio.

The royalties in question only cover digital transmissions of music, and don’t apply to terrestrial radio stations, as traditional radio play is seen as a benefit for record labels by promoting sales of recorded music.

While traditional terrestrial radio does pay songwriter/publishing royalties for the musical work itself, in the U.S. they don’t pay performance royalties for the sound recording under the rationale that airplay promotes the songs, which benefits the copyright holders.

Web radio, however, along with satellite and cable services, does pay performance royalties — these are the rates that are being raised now.

Catch 22: Web radio pays more royalties than commercial AM or FM radio. The more listeners Web radio has, the more it costs. The new rules further penalize listening. To keep costs down, Webcasters should turn away listeners. If this sounds nutty, it is.

But what about the music? Mike Felten, owner of the Record Emporium record store in Chicago, writes at his very personal site, Weaselworld:

Searching, I keep stumbling onto awful quotes from the record industry..

“The exec who eventually signed Britney Spears, Jive Records’ Jeff Fenster, said he based the decision not on a song in particular, but on a picture of the then-teenage Spears. She was sitting on a picnic blanket, wearing cutoffs and cuddling a puppy, Fenster said. “She looked like the sweet, All-American girl that you just wanted to defile and do bad things to, and that appealed to me.”

— Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune, reporting on Fenster’s panel appearance at SXSW; in the archive now, but confirmed by Jaded Insider at Billboard.

And they did do bad things to her, didn’t they? I never liked her Mickey Mouse music, but she went from a cute little kid to a slutty, cocktail waitress in rehab. Don’t tell me it is the price of ‘fame’…

Is it any wonder there’s nothing to listen to on the radio, if airplay isn’t actually about the music but about record execs’ fantasies?