Bandwagon Network Radio faces challenges of surviving big biz control of Web

Bandwagon Network Radio logo; used with permission
BWNR logo used with permission

Before the Web came of age, a publisher or broadcaster could usually keep things going without spending a small fortune.

As large corporations began to control the Web, things changed. A big change came in 2015 when a little known entity named the Copyright Royalty Board let the Small Webcasters Act of 2008 expire. Why does this matter to indie musicians and to broadcasters like Bandwagon Network Radio?

It matters because the expiration of that Act and subsequent changes in broadcast fees and royalties made it harder for wannabe small broadcasters and existing small broadcasters to continue to operate. One of the best assets in today’s marketplace for indie musicians is Bandwagon Network Radio. Right now BWNR is trying to raise enough money to pay for their annual broadcast rights.

As with so many commercial endeavors in today’s world, doing business is complicated. The mom-and-pop model that benefited so many in times past is a very difficult to maintain model in today’s government dominated world.

I follow BWNR on Facebook where there is a great deal of information about indie artists and music-related memes that put a smile on my face every time I see one. I mentioned BWNR in a previous article, and the founder, Clifford Broyhill, was nice enough to take time to thank me. That led to a conversation with Mr. Broyhill, and it reminded me of the challenges for small businesses in the arts today.

Broyhill explained changes that impacted BWNR:

“The station was founded in February 2014 and went online on May 23, 2014. Originally it operated under the “Small Webcasters Act” of 2008 which protected non-profit broadcasters. In 2015, that ended when the Copyright Royalty Board let it expire. Since 2016, we have been paying a $500 a year fee to Sound Exchange for the right to broadcast legally worldwide. Each month, a report is generated that gets sent to SX that distributes that fee as royalties to the artists. Once the listener counts reach that original fee, I pay them for those as well.”

Broyhill said he worked for Clear Channel and Radio Computing Services before founding BNR. He worked on a project for iHeart, and he said he created BWNR “because I didn’t like what they and the biggest labels were doing to music.”

Broyhill saw what many of us in the arts see. Big labels pretty much dominate traditional radio. To break in, you need a miracle or a personal connection. Meanwhile pop culture has become more about the image and brand than the talent. Broyhill had a vision, though, and there was a personal reason too:

“Unlike other broadcasters, my vision was a 100% independent radio network that aired nothing that came from any of the Big 3 labels or the subsidiary labels. It was also to respect and honor my father who had his own, what would now be called “cover band”, playing Country/Western music. It was always a family band and at one point or another included uncles, aunts and starting at 14, my younger brother Darrin.”

Thus far, BWNR hasn’t strayed from that vision and goal “to be independent in every way.” BWNR creates its own website, and maintains their own playout computer in Ash Grove, Missouri. Thus far, BWNR hasn’t made money for Broyhill—he, like many other indie businesses in the arts, is just focused on staying operational.

Now it’s that time of year when the fees come due so that BWNR can continue to broadcast:

“Every year, and the only time each year, we ask for help paying those fees. It allows us to support Indie Music without being dependent on a stream host like LIVE365 to operate. Our station is totally independent from outside influences.”

Broyhill and his wife personally subsidize BWNR, and he says he does get some help for certain expenses:

“Valley Web Systems in Yakima, WA hosts the website and pays the fees associated with that. Then we have what is called a barter system with SecureNet Systems in Deerfield Beach, FL and the main (and currently only) sponsor Musik & Film Records/MAF Radio Promotions from Jacksonville, FL (FYI – Stephen Wrench is the president of this company & it’s worth reviewing his music career as well).”

At present, Broyhill is hoping for support in paying the license fee. On the BWNR Facebook page, he said they only need another $450, using as an example a $10 donation from 45 people. It’s easy to donate any amount you’d like, and you can do that via Broyhill’s Paypal account.

 In an age where so much popular art is cookie cutter stuff and there’s no welcome mat for outside voices, entities like Bandwagon Network Radio are vital if we are to nurture creativity outside the programmed model. Broyhill commented on why he continues to do this:

“We take pride in the fact that we haven’t strayed from our goal to be independent in every way. From creating our own website, maintaining our playout computer located in Ash Grove, MO to supporting only Indie music and educating and informing every artist we air with as much information as possible to help them succeed to whatever level they wish to reach.”

Personally speaking, it seems to me if enough musicians got together, maybe they could do a fundraiser similar to what National Public Radio does. It’s just an idea, but in these times, we need ideas that work.

(Kay B. Day/Jan. 14, 2020)

 

 

 

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