WMUR makes waves

Dave Rossetti

Rather than comply with fees set by the librarian of Congress under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act last year, which requires Webcasters to pay liscensing fees to record companies, WMUR put a halt to playing copyrighted music. Local acts and indie labels that signed waivers giving the station permission to use thier material became staples — albeit unfamilar ones.

Some disc jockeys, including junior Steve Richmond, left WMUR due to the new restraints.

“A lot of the music that I liked to play I wouldn’t be allowed to play,” he said. “It didn’t appeal to me. I liked playing new music, but I wanted to play stuff that I knew and liked.”

But thanks to a summer agreement between non-commercial Webcasters — including college radio stations — and the Recording Industry Association of America, WMUR’s DJs can now access thier choice of copyrighted music.

Marquette Radio’s general manager and four-year DJ, senior Adam Starodub, said he’s excited the station can broadcast familiar music again.

“The most frustrating part of (last year) was getting requests and having to say ‘Well, we can’t play that, I can play something like that,'” he said. “When you turn on the radio, you want to hear something you know.”

Under the new agreement, college radio stations with more than 10,000 students pay $500 per year to Webcast as long as they don’t exceed 146,000 listener hours per month. Stations that exceed the 146,000-hour mark — equivalent to what 200 around-the-clock listeners would hear — must also pay two-hundreths of a cent per song per listener for any excess airtime. Lower rates exist for colleges with 10,000 or fewer students.

With a little more than 11,00 students in undergraduate, graduate and dental programs, Marquette falls into the higher bracket.

Also under the agreement, Marquette paid $1,250 for Webcasting dating back to 1998 to December of this year, said Barbara Fleming, Marquette Radio Adviser. The Kay and Don McNeill Foundation approved providing the funds to Marquette Radio last year and the station is in the process of making the payments to Sound Exchange, an unincorporated division of the RIAA, she said.

Starodub said it was in the station’s best interest to get onboard.

“We’re paying more this year, but in the long run, at $500 a year, we decided this was the best route to go,” he said.

With a number of established bands getting play on WMUR — acts as diverse as punk rockers Rancid and bluegrass maven Bela Fleck and the Flecktones pepper the station’s Top 30 list — music fans should be able to find something recognizable, Starodub said.

As smoothly as things are operating now, Starodub said last year wasn’t lost. With some DJs leaving second semester after growing frustrated with the music restraints, Starodub said the station was able to expand timeslots and became easier to manage.

The station also took a step toward increased professinonalism, Starodub said. Instead of DJs playing thier personal collections, Marquette Radio now has an in-studio library of “600 and 700” CDs from established artists, as well as the local and indie artists that dominated last year’s playlists.

And Richmond, for one, has reclaimed his spot in the broadcast booth.

“I’m glad to be back; I missed it,” he said. “Our rotation is a lot more varied now — even more than it was two years ago.”

Calling the DJs the station’s “heart and soul of the process,” Starodub said playing known music again is a great triumph for the staff.

“It’s a sense of victory for us in terms of playing this music again,” he said. “We feel like we won the fight. We went 15 rounds with the heavyweight champion and we made it.”