Dancing About Architecture

Noise ordinance debate blows over -- for now -- while Internet radio crisis threatens, and SIMS crisis subsides.

Good Cop (left, Fealy), Bad Cop (right, Piatt)
Good Cop (left, Fealy), Bad Cop (right, Piatt) (Photo By John Anderson)

Okay, Troops, Sound Off!

Like I remarked to Andy Langer, who wrote this week's cover story, as the packed house emptied out of last Wednesday's noise ordinance meeting, "If they'd brought out the Good Cop first, we could have skipped that horribly tense hour with the Bad Cop." Similar thoughts were no doubt in the minds of most, if not all, in attendance; for over an hour, the finest minds of Austin's music community had encountered only frustration discussing the details of the planned new ordinance with APD sponsor Lt. Harold Piatt. Keeping short of overt hostility, Piatt played the authority figure role to the hilt in countering everything the audience brought up. From the well-informed and succinctly expressed to the blurted, meandering, and inane, all opinions voiced that night were met by Piatt with the same stern attitude -- a zero-tolerance, parental-style "I said no!" Even the prankster-scrawled "If it's too loud, you're too old! -- KISS" notice on the board behind Piatt throughout the meeting did nothing to shake his irony-proof armor. No matter what opinions were offered, there was a sense that the powers that be had made their decision and what we saw -- a draft indicating huge drops in acceptable decibel levels and stricter enforcement of noise violations -- was what we were going to get. And just when it all appeared hopeless, Piatt introduced his boss, Assistant Police Chief James Fealy, who shrugged and said, basically, that the draft was a mess, and that it would be a long time before anything was done regarding the matter. Again, it would've been nice if somebody had said all that sooner -- before members of the populace were driven to such desperate acts as taking a decibel meter to a garden party at the Governor's Mansion and determining it to be in violation of the pending ordinance. Hell, even The Dallas Morning News felt the need to make the potential death of the Austin music scene their front-page story that morning! Then again, such a scenario has been the Big D's wet dream for as long as anyone can remember, so it's no surprise they'd give it major column inches. Too bad, Dallas. For now, you'll have to settle for the pride of being home to the Dallas Cowboys, "Big Tex," J.R. Ewing, and that whole JFK assassination thing.

Keep Your Laws Out of My Ears!

You didn't think it was only Austin out to kill music, did you? Nope, the federal government is in on it too, and they've set their sights high! You can read the full story at


, but here it is in a nutshell: Congress passed a law in 1998, called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which established that webcasters must pay performance rights fees to record labels for the music they play, just as broadcast radio and other music outlets do. That law instructed the Copyright Office to set the appropriate rate via the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (C.A.R.P.). What's fishy about the C.A.R.P., however, is the fact that their recommended rates are currently more than 100% of most webcasters' gross revenues. The Copyright Office is required by Congress to decide whether to accept, reject, or modify C.A.R.P.'s rates by May 21, 2002, and if they accept the panel's recommendation, the decision could bankrupt all but the three or four largest webcasters. Most observers say, with good reason, that this would mean the death of Internet radio. What is certain is that it would effectively kill Internet radio as an art form -- and as a competition to the airwaves' big guns like Clear Channel. Besides Internet-only stations, the DMCA would also apply to radio stations, commercial or nonprofit, that simulcast their programming over the Web. In addition to the royalties aspect of the legislation, passing the DMCA would mean added paperwork and restrictions on "interactivity." To give examples of the problem, KVRX's broadcast advisor Steve Metze offers the following list of ways that the DMCA would adversely affect KVRX if they continue their Internet simulcasting:

1) No interactivity means no one could request any songs from KVRX DJs.

2) The restrictions on how many songs by the same artist can be played per hour would get rid of The Artist Hour -- a show focusing on a single artist or group -- as well as Local Live, devoted to highlighting local bands and giving them an hour to play live on air.

3) The record-keeping requirements would be almost impossible to keep up with. For every song, we would have to record the title, artist, album title, label, catalog number, International Standard Recording Code, and date and time played. With no full-time staff, and a focus on rare and hard-to-find music, and at our current budget, automation would be impossible, and it would take almost twice the normal time for each DJ to do their show with the paperwork.

5) The fees are out of our budget, and would be retroactive to 1998. The RIAA is proposing .004 cents per song per listener. With 15 songs per hour, that comes out to $525 per year per listener. Our budget would barely be able to support one listener per year at that rate.

6) Finally, if we lose webcasting, we would lose the ability to broadcast during the day, and between 30-50 students would lose out on the "on-air" experience each semester.

Elsewhere on the dial, all the LBJ-S frequencies observed Wednesday's nationwide "Day of Silence" on the Internet, while KUT-FM reps said their station wouldn't be affected because of their status as an NPR affiliate. Despite NPR's taking some of the financial brunt, however, KUT's Jay Trachtenberg says that as he understands it, the costs to the station would still be prohibitive. KOOPer Joanne Delk says KOOP isn't affected, but that's only because the station isn't webcasting -- thanks to the imminence of the new law. "We do have money set aside to begin," she says, "but we are waiting to see what happens May 21." So's the rest of the radio world.

SIMS Like Old Times

When the plans were first announced for SIMS, Services Invested in Musician Support, a local nonprofit focused on aiding musicians in dealing with mental and emotional problems, the proposal was met with cheers. In recent months, however, those cheers have turned to jeers, as seen in the Chronicle letters page and elsewhere, with complaints targeting poor management and lack of service and support, most of them laying the blame with Executive Director Peyton Wimmer. That would appear to have changed at last, as last week the foundation issued a press release declaring that the organization was adding two new board members. Those additions, Charlie Jones, director of Music & Events at Capital Sports & Entertainment, and Amy Calistri of Applied Economics Consulting Group Inc., plus founding board member Don Harvey, have joined forces with Luniece Obst, M.Ed., L.P.C., as consultants, "to ensure the organization fulfills its primary goals responding to the mental health needs of Austin musicians in a timely manner and expanding both its Board of Directors and funding base." Noted in said release was the fact that Wimmer had moved into the role of honorary board member. "I don't want to dwell on the past," responds Harvey to questions about Wimmer's tenure as executive director. "It's time to move forward." Harvey says that the goals of the foundation currently are to ensure professionalism in their role in musicians obtaining affordable mental health counseling. "Accountability is everything," he asserts. Of his partnering with Obst, Harvey points up the fact that "we have completely different skills; I'm a musician with a background in business, and she's a therapist specializing in the area nonprofits." Between the two, Harvey says he has great confidence in SIMS regaining its footing. In the fundraising department, note that SIMS has partnered with Austin's Hard Rock Cafe to produce a live music showcase every Wednesday at 9:30pm at the new Sixth Street venue. David Holt's Violet Crown Jewels will feature a different guest star each week, joining Holt and the rhythm section of Ernie Durawa and Speedy Sparks. SIMS is also having a punk rock show Saturday at La Zona Rosa. The brainchild of 15-year-old Aurora Porter, a McCallum High School freshman, the all-ages event will showcase the Distressed (6pm), the Ends (7pm), and the Applicators (8pm). For more information about SIMS, log on to the SIMS site at www.simsfoundation.org.

Mixed Notes

If you're wondering where Lone Wolf VP J.W. Williams has gone since his recent retirement, look for him at the Alison Krauss & Union Station show Sunday (7:30pm), which inaugurates the Riverbend Centre. After all, his own Geronimo Management company operates the venue, which is located near the shores of Lake Austin by the Loop 360 Bridge, in what GM calls "a non-drinking, non-smoking, easily-accessible, family-friendly environment" (after all, it's owned by a church). The 2,400-seat venue features 1,500 free parking spaces and plans call for more concerts there in the future... This month's newly discovered musical relic is the Reactors' Live at Raul's 4/1/81 CD, a blazingly raw set of punk savagery recorded way back when at the legendary Austin venue. The recording is also notable for guest appearances by Larry Seaman on keyboards and the late, lamented Dick Hays on French horn(!). Frontman Mike Runnels has a spanking-brand-new CD out as well -- his kiddie band Little Scooters' new one, Tippie Toe. My, how times change! Ah, well, at least Runnels hasn't become a televangelist!... Speaking of Larry Seaman, the former Standing Wave called to point out that despite what was printed in last week's fine Reivers feature, Cindy Toth is still a member of both Trigger Happy and Seaman's own Violet Crown. To prove it, the two bands play the Hole in the Wall tonight, Thursday. Just to add insult to injury, I asked Seaman what he thought of David Holt's new band. He was not amused... Everybody loves a mystery, so the arrival of the MQFH, aka the Mysterious Quartet From Helsinki should meet with approval, at least from fans of Alex Coke, Chris Duarte, drummer Jimmy Way, and Vanguards/Greezy Wheels bassist John Jordan. Starting on May 5, and continuing May 19, and June 2, the foursome perform a series of Sunday shows at Antone's, with a self-titled debut available in the near future on Jordan's Tana Records.

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