Three NIN fans are using Net radio to move their fan sites
to the next level
RadioSpy has long hoped that some enterprising music fan would see the value
of adding an Internet radio station to their fan site. It just seems a
logical extension of the comprehensive artist experience that fan sites --
make that good fan sites -- attempt to deliver. Perhaps not surprisingly,
given the vast number of sites devoted to the group, we found exactly such a
fan in Matt Dunphy, the ringleader behind TheNINHotline.net, one of the most
complete and best-run Nine Inch Nails fan sites on the Web.
>From first view to last post, Dunphy oversees a quality operation.
Contributors from around the globe update the news daily, reporting on
everything from recent and upcoming local appearances by the band to
published articles and gossip. What's more, they provide viewers with a chat
system and a growing collection of interviews, album reviews and concert
reviews. When you visit The NIN Hotline, you can be sure that you'll pick up
some valuable piece of information or entertainment relating to Trent
Adding a Web radio station just seemed like the logical next step in the
evolution of the site. And Dunphy took a clever approach to setting up his
Webcast: first off, he pooled his resources with those of two other NIN fan
site Webmasters, Yves Boudreau and Keith Duemling, giving the station the
promotional power of three hotbeds of NIN fan activity. Next, he broadened
his approach; the station shouldn't -- and, thanks to the provisions of the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act, couldn't -- just play music by Nine Inch
Nails. It could, however, play music on Trent Reznor's Nothing Records
label, home to such diverse electronic music acts as Meat Beat Manifesto,
Marilyn Manson and Squarepusher. After signing up to use Live365's EasyCast
system, Nothing Radio was born. But the story doesn't stop there, as we
found out when we caught up with Dunphy via e-mail for this week's DJ
RadioSpy: When and why did TheNinHotline.net decide to launch a Web radio
station? And why did you choose to use Live365 as a vehicle for the station
over some of the other Webcasting services out there?
Matt Dunphy: I had the idea to do Net radio before I got involved with doing
a NIN news page, but I had no access to any kind of high-bandwidth server,
no way to pump anything out of my bedroom. In my part of Pennsylvania,
you're lucky if you've got a one-way cable modem connection, much less a T1
When I hit college, Net radio became appealing to me as a listener. I had a
half-decent ethernet connection at Penn State, so I started checking out
different SHOUTcast stations. RealAudio never really did it for me, but
streaming MP3 was real nice. By the time I started working full time, I
noticed that a lot of these stations had [Live365.com] tagged in front of
their station marquee. Worked like a charm -- I went to that page, and my
radio station ideas were rekindled. So I bought the domain NothingRadio.net
in January and set out to make the kind of station I would have liked to
have heard out there when I was listening to stuff in school.
I picked Nothing Records because the stuff on that label really appealed to
me, but it's hard to find some of this stuff, to listen to it before I order
it at the local record shop. It's not like you can switch on the radio at
work and listen to the latest from Squarepusher. Nothing Records has saved
me a few bucks on import fees too ... I'm a big fan of Autechre and
Squarepusher, and when I'd learned that Nothing had exclusive license to
release these in the U.S., my wallet breathed a sigh of relief. On top of
that, I've bought CDs solely because they're on the Nothing label, and
rarely have I been disappointed. Because I had trouble finding these albums
myself, I felt that by promoting the music, getting more people to take a
listen, I'd help play my part in helping the label grow and bring out more
of the stuff I like to listen to. Something I've come to respect from
treading my local punk scene is that you should support the talents and
music that you appreciate.
How did Nothing feel about this? Were they encouraging or discouraging? Have
you had any run-ins with Interscope, Nothing's distributor?
Actually, things have been pretty smooth.
Throughout development, I kept in check with Nothing Records' management.
I'm still not entirely sure what the management thinks of our radio station.
When I first told the publicist about NothingRadio.net, she talked about how
they were planning a similar concept for the official Nothing Records Web
site. Their plan was strikingly similar to what we had already been
developing at the time -- Live365.com broadcasts at two different speeds, so
both modem and high-bandwidth listeners could listen in. The main difference
-- we were a week from going live, and they were over a month from
implementing theirs. Mind you, this was in late January of this year. At
first, the folks from Nothing offered any assistance and made offers to work
together on the project.
Then we went live with banners on SmashedUpSanity.com, TheFragile.com and
TheNINHotline.net, and opened NothingRadio.net to the public.
A lot of kind, encouraging words turned into unreturned phone calls. The day
after NothingRadio.net went live, someone had TheNinHotline.net shut down,
incorrectly citing copyright violations. We only managed to put it back
online after 36 hours of downtime -- our host's legal department was under
serious pressure to have our site deleted outright. A few days after the
Hotline came back online, I got an e-mail from Nothing Records' publicist.
It read: "[Please] indicate if there is a time today when you can conduct a
5-minute phone call with myself and nothing records attorney."
After sweating a little bit, conferring with Yves Boudreau and Keith
Duemling (who worked together with me to develop NothingRadio.net), we
agreed that, excepting the use of the Nothing Records logo on the site,
there was nothing that we could possibly be in any legal trouble for.
Everywhere on the site, we indicate that it's unofficial, run by fans,
unaffiliated with Nothing Records, etc. I'd been using the Nothing Records
and Nine Inch Nails logos on my Web sites for over five years and had never
had a problem before. To be on the safe side, we eliminated any plain,
unaffected occurrences of the logo and began strictly referring to the site
as NothingRadio.net. After those minor changes, I made the phone call, under
the circumstance that I could tape the three-way conversation.
Nothing Records' attorney was a nice fellow and said his main concern was
that people would mistake the site as an official site, that our use of the
Nothing logo was bordering on copping the likeness of an official Nothing
entity. And he told me that broadcasting music solely from one record label
might be a problem as well.
After he ran through the list of problem areas, I noted the disclaimer, the
boldface "unofficial" on every page and in the broadcast marquee, the lack
of Nothing Records' logo anywhere on the site, informed him about the
[Digital Millennium Copyright Act], and in the end, the lawyer seemed a
little confused as to why the publicist felt the phone call had to be made.
Since then, I've heard nothing else from Nothing management with regard to
NothingRadio.net. The offers to work together, the "Is there anything I can
do to help?" attitude and -- thankfully -- the threat of legal action all
I'm not sure if I stepped on some of Nothing's toes by releasing a
promotional monster a month before their official version came out. Every
step along the development, I kept management informed of what was going on,
and I kept in touch with [Trent Reznor], so that if anyone saw anything they
didn't like, they could speak up before we went live with the site. The
bands are cool about the station, but it really seems as though someone in
promotions or management really wasn't keen on the idea. They had all my
phone numbers and e-mail addresses though, and I asked several times along
the way for them to let me know if I was doing anything to piss them off.
You mentioned the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and that makes me
curious: Does running a station focused solely on the bands from one label
provide any problems with meeting the DMCA's restriction on the number of
times that you can play songs by one band (an average of three songs by the
same band or from the same compilation album in a three-hour time span)?
At first, that was a bit of a concern: Would we have enough content from a
relatively small label to be able to broadcast in accordance with these
laws? After uploading massive quantities of songs from each of the bands
currently on the label, everything seemed to work out. There are a lot of
remixes as well, which introduces even more bands into the mix, in a sort of
gray way. Listening to a Coil remix of a Nine Inch Nails song, there's often
a lot more of Coil in there than NIN. Guest tracks by Aphex Twin and Adrian
Sherwood, as well as the myriad collection of artists on the Natural Born
Killers and Lost Highway soundtracks [both arranged by Trent Reznor] also
help to mix things up and keep everything compliant with the law. Besides, I
don't want the listeners to have to listen to three remixes of "Radio
Babylon" in the same hour or an hour of uninterrupted Einstürzende
Neubauten. You've got to keep the mix interesting.
Along those same lines, have you had any encounters with the RIAA or any of
the major licensing / publishing agencies (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC)? Even
indirectly, through Live 365, which does its best to make sure its hosted
Webcasts conform to the tenets of the DMCA and the wishes of the RIAA?
At this point, we haven't had any trouble of that sort. But we're still
pretty new at this -- the station's all of four months old.
Have you had any direct response from any of the bands whose music you're
playing? Above and beyond what the record company thinks, do you think that
the artists are generally excited about operations like Nothing Radio?
Well, the Nine Inch Nails camp seems to appreciate the effort we're putting
forth on this project. You can't really wrong with this -- if you like one
or two acts on the Nothing label, there's a good chance you'll dig some of
the other stuff on there.
The NIN Hotline and its sister sites (Smashed Up Sanity, TheFragile.com,
etc.) are among the more successful fan sites on the Web. Has this success
benefited Nothing Radio, i.e., have you any indication that people are
finding their way to the station via the other Web sites?
NothingRadio.net would not have the traffic it gets today if it weren't for
this collaborative support from Keith (SmashedUpSanity.com) and Yves
(TheFragile.com). Nine Inch Nails has a lot of fan sites. But there's also a
lot of redundancy. I wanted to get around that, and I wanted to bring some
of the larger sites together on a neutral, collaborative project. I went
with SmashedUpSanity.com because I've known Keith for years; he's a real
hard worker, and the page is just immense. I've also been talking to Yves
for a long time, and you just can't go wrong with TheFragile.com; a lot of
fans have free e-mail there, and hell, it's the name of the new album. So
when you bring a popular old-school NIN fan site together with a popular new
spot on the "ninternet" [the informal name for this growing affiliation of
highly trafficked Nine Inch Nails fan sites] and a daily Nine Inch Nails
news page, put permanent links to the radio station on each front page, it's
bound to generate some large-scale traffic. The three sites also receive a
lot of hits from the links on NothingRadio.net, which works out rather
Tell us a little bit more about your Nothing Radio collaborators, Yves and
Keith. Each of you operates from different areas of the United States and
Canada. First of all, how difficult is it to maintain a Web radio station
when not all of you live near one another?
Location isn't so difficult as much as work schedules and time zones, when
it comes to working together on the Internet. I juggle more with the
Hotline's staff. U.S., U.K., Germany, Canada, Japan, and Argentina -- we've
got a lot of folks helping out from all of these places. So when it's just
three people, it's not so bad. Between ICQ [instant messaging] and #nin99 [a
NIN message board], we've always got someplace where we can get together and
bang out ideas.
What do each contributor bring to the table? I mean, in listening to the
station, it seems like you guys use Live365's EasyCast program, which allows
you to set up a playlist and Webcast 24/7 without having to actually monitor
or play too direct a hand in the station's administration.
We all have played a part in uploading songs from our own collections (we
own a copy of every song we play on the radio; none of it comes from
downloading off the Net) to the accompanying Web site design. Every part of
this project has had all three sets of hands in it along every step of the
way, and I think it turned out surprisingly well. Right now, things are in
fact in EasyCast mode. I switch around programming from time to time, but
things are real busy for everyone at the moment, and we aren't able to focus
on the station as much as when we kicked it off. Yves is about to graduate
from college; I just got back from catching my eighth NIN show; and Keith is
always up to something. As soon as I have some kind of high-speed connection
here at home, I definitely would like to engage in something more live and
interactive. But at the moment, the EasyCast system is very convenient while
we're all very busy.
What are some of your short-term and long-term plans for the station? Do you
expect it to evolve into something resembling an actual radio station, with
special programs and exclusive features, or do you think Nothing Radio
serves enough of a purpose as an adjunct to the NIN Hotline?
I definitely want to make the station more interesting. There's some neat
exclusive stuff I haven't gone live with because I'd like to organize
something around it. I'm planning to get NothingRadio.net involved when NIN
next tours North America; I think there's some real cool potential there.
Again, it all comes back to time. Between working full time, maintaining a
NIN news page, keeping in touch with people, writing my own music, eating
and occasionally catching some Zs, it's hard to balance everything or to
focus on one thing in particular. I'm looking to set aside time to really
put together neat stuff for the station this summer. But I definitely do not
want it to just sit idle, playing the same shuffled playlist all day long.
What aspect of running the station has been the most enjoyable for you? What
aspect has been the least enjoyable?
The coolest thing that's come out of this station has been the response, I
think. It's really cool to know that people are enjoying something you
worked hard to get running. The only negative feedback we've gotten was when
Nothing Records wanted us to talk to their lawyers. A lot of people seem to
really enjoy what we've put together, and it's encouraging, and I want to
make it even better.
The least enjoyable aspect would have to be that I don't have hard-core
bandwidth pumping into my bedroom so I can DJ live over the Internet. I'd
really love to get more involved, but where I live and with the money I
have, it's just not a real possibility at this time.
Finally, any interesting anecdotes from your adventures in running Nothing
I think the most interesting thing was the reaction from Nothing Records'
management. When I first presented the idea, they tell me they're doing the
same thing but that I should keep at what I'm doing and that they'd like to
work together with me on it. When we went live with the station, the
constant contact turned into an iron curtain, and one of the supporting
site's hosts gets threatened with legal action and turns off one of the
major promotional links to the radio. The Official Nothing Radio [the
label's competing broadcast] shows up on the SHOUTcast listings for a brief
time. When I'm finally contacted again by the label, it's "Our lawyer wants
to have a word with you." But when I talked to the lawyer, it turns out he
was misinformed, and in fact, our station was totally legit. The phone call
ends with a "Keep in touch; we still want to work together with you on
this," and I never hear another thing about it again. This thing that serves
to basically help the label grow instead sparks off an odd sequence of
ass-kissing, followed by a FUD [that's Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt]
campaign, some confusing phone calls, empty promises, and then we're finally
left alone. It's a long, strange story, but as you can see by this point,
I've already written a hell of a lot as it is.
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.