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Mayhem at the Milestone

Internet radio bill threatens local webcasters



If it's May, that means it must be time for Mayhem at the Milestone.

For patrons of Charlotte's longest running rock club, that could seem redundant, except for the fact that this particular Mayhem is an annual festival of local acts held each May over the last four years.

Put together and promoted by solo musician Perry Fowler, this year's show gets underway at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 26, with a lineup that features 12 different solo and full-band acts playing half-hour sets. Most of the solo slots will play the Milestone's bar stage, while the full-band acts will be on the main stage.

"It's a pretty expansive local lineup," says Milestone owner Neal MF Harper. "Perry puts together a circle of friends who know each other but would probably never all play together on one day. Their styles range pretty widely, and the only thing that really connects them all is that they're all from the same city and run in the same scene."

Getting the night started will be Chris Gervais, of the recently defunct Canyoneros, playing a solo set, followed by Salisbury's indie rockers OK Wig. Folk pop performer Jason Palmiter is up next with a solo set, then Bo White and math-rock-improv-voodooists Calabi Yau will do a solo/full-band set on the main stage. Loud-soft-loud instrumental outfit Job's Method is next, followed by a solo set from Erika Blatnik, whom Harper calls the most promising female singer and guitarist in Charlotte -- "I haven't seen anybody else who's got a voice and can play guitar like she can."

Another promising new act follows with ex-Canyoneros‚ drummer Amy Coccia fronting Fernandina, which sounds like a cross between Rilo Kiley and Jenny Lewis. A full-band set from garage-grungers Labia Minor is next, before party host Fowler performs his funky blues -- "It's got a G-Love vibe," says Harper -- as the next-to-last set of the night. Can & String, featuring ex-members of Via, will close out the festivities.

"It's gonna be a fun party," says Harper. In other words, just the right kind of mayhem.

Internet Radio Update Internet radio got a recent reprieve when the due date for the Copyright Royalty Board's new rates were pushed back two months to July 15, but the majority of the nation's 2,500 webcasts still face an uncertain future. As reported here two weeks ago, the CRB -- acting mostly on behalf of the Record Industry Association of America -- raised royalty rates March 2 on a per-song played basis, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2006. That will result in an increase of 300 to 1,200 percent for most individual webcasters, effectively bankrupting most.

But a massive grass roots effort organized by The Save Net Radio Coalition ( resulted in a new bill sponsored by Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Donald Manzullo (R-IL). The Internet Radio Equality Act would provide royalty parity by vacating the CRB's decision and applying a uniform rate of 7.5 percent of Webcast revenues to commercial Internet radio, bringing it in line with satellite radio's fees.

But webcasters of all sizes are not out of the woods yet. If the CRB's current rates stand, the change will seriously affect the rates for Internet radio station provider giants like Live365 or Yahoo Music. Even a local webcaster like Charlotte Indie Radio, which asks local artists to waive royalties in exchange for exposure, will feel the pinch.

"We use Live365 to host our station," Brian Hartzog told us via e-mail. "So when they raise their rates, it will catch us in the rising tide. We are making our contingency plan now. My hope is that one of the following is true: The royalty change will be reversed; Live365 will offer a plan for stations like us who play royalty-free music; We will be able to find a cheaper way to host our station."

According to Arbitron, over 50 million Americans listen to Internet radio at least once a month.

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