The FezGuys
Streaming And Scheming
(New Options For The Online Musician)
[ No. 49 - November 2000 ]

So, you've been plugging away at your web site, working with downloads, graphics and uploads to other sites. Now you've heard about Internet radio. It sounds intriguing: A free, all-your-music station, all the time? OK! But guard against euphoria. Just because you put your music on the Internet doesn't mean anybody's noticed. If you've been developing your web site in ways we've discussed in this space over these past four years, however, your fans may be ready to tune in online. Thanks to the venture capital funded company, they can do exactly that. is the biggest kid on the personal Internet radio block. They handle the grunt work, streaming almost any music you desire, whether its yours or that of your favorite musician. There's a wide range of stations already available in genre-based formats from "Jam Bands" to "Medieval" and anything else one could think of.

Two Other Free Streaming Services:
<> (recently acquired by allows you to create your own rudimentary streaming program containing only Wiredplanet-sanctioned music.

<> will stream your uploaded band tracks, though it simply plays each song and then ends, which isn't radio.'s early entry into customized major (and indie) label music streaming ( ran aground on the rocky shore of litigation and needs one more ridiculous multi-million dollar deal with a major label before it returns, probably as a fee-based subscription service.

Let's "create your own Internet radio station." Go to: <> and click on "Broadcast". Click to the signup area to create a member account. Pick a member name, enter a valid email (this makes sense - they want to be reasonably sure we are who we say we are). Thankfully, the rest of the required fields are kept to a minimum (entering zip code and country doesn't feel too intrusive). Unless you're interested in's news updates, unclick the newsletter and program guide subscription options. You can always change your mind and edit your profile later. Next go to: "User Agreement." Under "Rules" (always interesting) uses the phrase: "At present" which we take to mean: "Who knows how long this will last?" The rules are generally meant to discourage audio file copying (see sidebar). If you want to create a program of music you don't own the rights to, be sure to study them carefully. Despite the current chaos and confusion consuming Internet audio, it's possible to be ethical without the unnecessary morality crap. Pirating songs isn't that big a challenge anyway.'s Internet Broadcasting Rules
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (See FezGuys #26 for more info)'s Internet broadcasters must comply with these points. ( says they will be "obtaining licenses from the copyright owners" and have "abbreviated these rules to include only those likely to be relevant given the manner in which you are able to use the system.") Keep in mind that if you are only working with music you own the rights to, you are free to do as you choose. Some of the restrictions limit the creative side here. Hopefully once the DMCA settles down (or is modified in some way), some of the rules will be lifted. The rules are designed to protect copyright owners but the legal landscape must fearlessly enter the doors opened by recent technologies. At the same time listeners should be able to request a band's song, and that band should, obviously, be compensated for it.
  1. Your program must not be part of an "interactive service." For your purposes, this means that you cannot perform sound recordings within one hour of a request by a listener or at a time designated by the listener.

  2. In any three-hour period, you should not intentionally program more than three songs (and not more than two songs in a row) from the same recording; you should not intentionally program more than four songs (and not more than three songs in a row) from the same recording musician or anthology/box set.

  3. Continuous looped programs may not be less than three hours long.

  4. Rebroadcasts of programs may be performed at scheduled times as follows: Programs of less than one-hour: no more than three times in a two-week period; Programs longer than one hour: no more than four times in any two-week period.

  5. You should not publish advance program guides or use other means to pre-announce when particular sound recordings will be played.

  6. You should only broadcast sound recordings that are authorized for performance in the United States.

  7. You should pass through (and not disable or remove) identification or technological protection information included in the sound recording (if any).

We next accept the terms (do we have a choice?). An email is then automatically sent to us by the site, arriving promptly and pointing to a log-in page to "Create our account." After logging in we're dumped back to the main page. We scratch our heads for a moment before clicking back to "Broadcast" where it says we are not signed up to broadcast. Huh? Ok, here's what we do: we click on the link to turn our *member* account into a *broadcaster* account and now find ourselves on a page with three choices: "Easycast" ( handles everything), "Live Broadcast" (we broadcast from our computer) and "Relay Broadcast" (we use a remote computer). Easycast is what we want and we select it. 365MBs of storage space are instantly available, plenty for a little program of MP3 tunes.

Before we can upload our MP3 music files to their server, we need to select a streaming bitrate. Most people don't have ISDN, DSL or cable-modems, so we opt for 24kbps which works fine over a 56k dialup modem. offers a piece of proprietary software (PC only) called "EasyLoader" for uploading audio files to their site. It simplifies the upload process and also automatically converts existing higher bitrate MP3 files to the lower bitrates. This means that if we've already got our music encoded as 128kbps MP3 files, we can use EasyLoader to convert them to our chosen 24kbps bitrate as part of the upload process. Mac users don't have that luxury and need to make sure the songs they upload are encoded at 24kbps. Since we're using a Mac today we'll go the regular route, uploading our MP3 files (encoded at 24kbps) one at a time, just like on regular upload sites. The link to upload through our web browser, though available after we first registered as a broadcaster, can be a bit hard to find. From the home page, click on "Broadcast", then click on "Go To EasyCast". Option #6 provides a link to upload or delete songs through our browser. Resource links and tutorials are thoughtfully provided in case there are questions during the process.

We've uploaded some tracks and now click on "Go To Easycast" again. A numbered list of options appears. #1, "Create A Playlist," is a scroll down menu which now contains more options for creating or deleting playlists as well as containing the playlist of our uploaded tracks. We select our clearly marked playlist. The rest of the dialog boxes immediately change to reflect our new playlist. Broadcasters can choose a genre for their music which is helpful if you like genres. Since the tracks we've uploaded are encoded at 24kbps, we choose the 33kpbs "Minimum Connection Speed." Below this are two boxes, one containing our playlist "Library" and one called "Current Playlist." We add the tracks from the libraray to the playlist and click "Save." Next click on "Broadcast Now." A dialog box tells us our playlist has been submitted and we should be up and running in about ten minutes. After ten minutes or so, we use the site's search option to look for our playlist by name, choose it from the resulting list and voila, we are an online streaming program. On their homepage, has a useful feature called "10 ways to promote your station." It's worth checking out and includes tips and also the URL you can use to link to your show from your web site.

Some Thoughts On Internet Broadcasting

The long-term financial health of companies streaming unlicensed music is uncertain. At some future point web sites like will have to pay back licensing fees as a result of the DMCA. These back fees scare the hell out of potential investors. Given the rapacious nature of copyright Collection Societies it's plausible the past-due balance may exceed the current (and future) worth of the entire company.

Until these fees are decided (this is a good time to be a digital rights lawyer), amateur Internet radio stations are swimming in murky waters. If Internet radio broadcasting services like get run out of business by huge licensing fees, your personal band streaming service will disappear. No offense to independent musicians, but companies providing streaming service for indie music will be hard-pressed to show profit (how much money can they make from ad banners delivered to listeners of "Bob and Gail's Excellent Groove Thang"?). The service could possibly fold into a larger business model (a la The FezGuys actually spent a pleasant lunch looking for other funded (read: venture capital money) companies providing free streaming services for indie music. We couldn't find any. (If you know of any please tell us!) This appears to reinforce the idea that potential investors are standing by to see whether or not this particular business model (such as it is) will work. The Internet broadcasting sites mentioned above are visible enough that it's unlikely new sites will chance starting from scratch.

The FezGuys had a consensual FezDream last night. We saw a future of thousands of grassroots arts organizations working together, providing streaming services for local bands and all paid for by grants from the National Endowment of the Arts. Then we woke up.

Bottom Line on They are a group of plucky folks bold enough to provide this service in the current climate. The FezGuys say: "Go for it."

A Subscription Overview

Got an audience who might pay you for access to your music? As Napster continues to shake things up, musicians are toying with subscription services as a way to make a little cash using the Internet. Sometimes called fan clubs, this idea has been around for ages. Many bands (and even, *gasp*, major labels) have used them succesfully to both build community and drive revenues. Consider the profit margin involved in the Dave Matthews Band taking in $30/person annually from 30,000 online fans before shipping anything out (we made this up but it's possible). Musicians like Todd Rundgren have been testing subscription waters for years and (as mentioned below) younger bands are breaking new ground, quickly building up databases of online users to market their music directly to fans.

One popular model asks fans to buy a low (we mean cheap, like, one dollar) monthly subscription (paid yearly) to your online music and art. Musicians must make some important decisions first. Sorry to have to say it, but there it is. A little work must go into your subscription model. Get out of bed, you! The most irritating decision is how you will accept their money (For more info on payment options see: "Collecting The Funds" in FezGuys #8. Also check out newer payment options: <>, <>, <>, <> and, of course, standard credit card transaction systems. These last can be purchased as off-the-shelf packages - search around online). Keep a safe (from prying eyes and from accidental loss) database (backed up frequently) of your users. Then you must decide what you will deliver and how you will deliver it. How secure does it need to be? If you're advanced (or have techie friends) you can create password-protected accounts. If you have a small user-base (up to 300 people) and trust them not to give their passwords away, this should be good enough. If you have 100 subscribers or less you might even be able to get away with emailing them all a "hidden" (no password and no link in to any other page or site) page containing the goods. The more subscribers you have, the more likely it is they may share their password and so the more complex it will be to provide a solid technical solution. If you've got a lot of fans, you'll want to team up with a tech programmer or perhaps even a small company who can provide these services at a realistic price.

Musicians Doing Cool Things
To quickly build their mailing list, punk-style popsters The Offspring created an online contest, leaking the first single of a new album as a free mp3 file and offering all downloaders an opportunity to win 1 million dollars (money put up by the band). They originally wanted to upload the entire album as free mp3s but the label responsible for releasing the music to stores (Sony) threatened a major legal spanking. Interestingly enough, while hanging out at we noticed an option to add their entire album into your playlist in one click!

Similar to what Pat Dinizio (formerly of The Smithereens) did earlier this year, Evan and Jaron <>
have created a "We Play Where You Say" tour. To independently promote their new album, they'll play in fans living rooms, backyards and garages. The musicians are collecting user information, building their database and posting regular news updates and photos from each stop.

To get the best response, deliver something on a regular (monthly is good) basis. A combination of news, photos and music is a good start. Even though it's delivered online, consider creating a collection of the same materials in a familiar physical package on a yearly basis, included in the price of the subscription. Take the long view. Be creative. Do some oddball packaging rather than a boring old CD jewel box. Remember those fans willing to pay a little money in advance for your art are the truly dedicated ones, but also the most demanding. Fans of this nature will alternately be your best grass-roots promotion team and your harshest critic (after you, of course). Treat them as you'd like your favorite musician to treat you. Too many times we've seen a musician turn on a dedicated online fan. It only has to happen once, but the ripples travel infinitely. Also, if you care whether or not your subscribers toss your music onto Napster, consider using a watermarking technology to track down those who leaked it. For one watermarking option take look at Cognicity's AudioKey software at <>. They offer a free 20-day evaluation period. Have a friend "steal" a song and post it. Follow directions to discover whether you can actually see the trail.

The subscription model offers a myriad of choices. There's no "right" way and that means creative freedom. Have fun with it. Your fans will thank you.

DIY everybody! <>.



About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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