Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Back In Japan - America's Lame Health Care

I'm back in Japan for a few months and have had a little time to reflect back on our relocation to the states all all things involved with becoming American again. There has been a lot of good things but also a lot of disappointments as well. One, is the American health care system. I would agree that America has great doctors and cutting edge technology but the truth is that only rich people can afford it. The insurance system is the worst of all the developed countries.

I was reading an article yesterday in a Japanese English language newspaper about it. In Japan by the way, everybody has health insurance, yes everybody. When I mention to people here that in America 16 percent of people (46 million) do not have health insurance, they react like it was the weirdest thing they had ever heard. All people living in Japan have coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions and the deductible is maybe ten percent at most. They deduct from my check every month the premium. It is grouped together with the Japanese version of social security and equals about ten percent of your monthly paycheck. So if you were making four grand a month, you would have to fork over 400 bucks. Pretty good deal I think, considering that when you go to the doctor, you only have to pay maybe seven or eight bucks. It is a better deal for someone making half of that.

Now lets compare that to what the same person in the states would pay. Keep in mind that what you earn doesn't effect anything. A five thousand deductible PPO (meaning that just like Japan, you can go to any doctor you want) costs about four hundred dollars a month. I'll say it again just to make sure you heard me: FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR DEDUCTIBLE! That means that if I get sick I'll have to pay the first five grand out of my pocket, on top of this, I'm already paying about five grand a year in premiums. This makes America's health care system the world's most expensive. And if you are sickly, you can't get insurance anyways.

The government should pass a law that makes it against the law to decline people with health problems. Premiums should be tax deductible. And health insurance should be available at a discounted premium for people in lower income brackets.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Death of Internet Radio?

It is five minutes to midnight on internet radio's digital clock. Time is ripening to its doom it would seem. I'll give you the short version and let you decide for yourselves what you want to do about it. First let me give you a short marketing lesson. The general formula for selling records (for the commercial music business) traditionally goes like this: Make a bunch of CDs, distribute them everywhere, use financial leverage to get commercial radio to play them nonstop and the result is that brainwashed (or earwashed) consumers will buy them by the truckload. But something happened and changed everything. The digital revolution happened.

First of all the digital revolution made it easy for independent artists to record their own music. They no longer needed financing from the record industry. Next it gave them a method to sell their music. As you know, independent music gets sold from artist websites (like, internet retailers (like and download sites (like iTunes or No need for carpet bombing methods of distribution anymore.

The digital revolution also gave artists a way to promote themselves through internet radio and podcasts. As we speak (or as I write this) less than 10 percent of music played on FM/AM radio is independent music while internet radio plays close to 40 percent and I imagine if you looked at the statistics for podcasts, you would find that at least 90 percent of the music played is Indie music. This is about all the record industry could take and have come up with a plan to crush us like grapes. To make it worse, they claim that they are trying to protect artists but this is a big facade.

At the request of the Recording Industry Association of America, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), which oversees sound recording royalties paid by Internet radio services, increased Internet radio's royalty burden between 300 and 1200 percent and is thereby jeopardizing the industry’s future.

The rate is only increasing from 7/100 of a penny per song streamed to 19/100 of a penny per song streamed over a 5-year period which may not seem like much but take a look at the other conditions:

No Revenue based Royalty Option - Prior to this decision all small webcasters and some large webcasters had the choice of paying royalties based on a percentage of their revenue that typically equaled 10-12%. But the CRB decision did not offer a revenue-based royalty option for any webcasters.

Retroactive Impact - The CRB decision is effective as of January 2006, so if it actually becomes effective for only one day its impact will be immediate as the past due royalties alone will be enough to bankrupt virtually all small and mid-sized webcasters.

Per Station Minimum - The CRB piled on even more, by imposing a $500 per channel minimum royalty that for many services will far exceed the annual royalties that would otherwise be due even after the CRB decision. One advantage of Internet radio is that it is not limited by spectrum capacity or bandwidth capacity, which enables several services literally to offer 10,000 or 100,000 stations and more. By penalizing this innovation and creativity the CRB further ensures that Internet radio will become less creative, less dynamic, less of an opportunity for non-mainstream artists and genres, and will look more like broadcast radio in the future.

Internet radio is like FM radio fifty years ago, DJs pick and play what they like with little regard for what big business has to say. It is refreshing to say the least, honest radio, it sounds like an oxymoron. With revenues shrinking for the big labels they have their sites on internet radio and claim that it is for me, the artist who deserves more money. It will mean less money for me because most of the radio stations that play me will be out of business. They can not be allowed to do it.

What you can do:

Save Net Radio