So I’m generally not a generous guy. I make okay money at my day job. The usual stuff. You know: house, cars, mortgage, &tc, but I don’t like to give it away. And, I’m a big fan of the Blues. Since the early Naughts (which is what I’ve chosen to call the decade from 2000-2009), I’ve enjoyed listening to a few streaming internet stations. Streaming internet audio is the next leap forward from what I’ve heard called “terrestrial radio.” Some of the stations are fully commercial, just like their 20th century radio ancestors, while some of them operate under the “user supported” model.
So, several years ago, I found a great internet stream that played some ass-kickin’ blues 24/7. And I listened to it a lot. Finally, at one point, I decided – and this is *very* *very* rare for me, that I’d go ahead and become a paid supporter. So I set up an automatic monthly check to be mailed to the fellow for $5 every month. Now five bucks really isn’t a lot of money. Hell, you can’t get coffee and a doughnut anymore for five bucks, so I know the guy wasn’t going to get rich off of me, nor was I going to make the family starve because I was squandering the fortune.
I paid him his five bucks, month after month, for almost four years. Now, while his station could rightfully be called commercial free, it wasn’t devoid of numerous “spots” where he would explain – sometimes cleverly – that his station was user supported and relied on donations to pay the bills. They showed up about as much as regular commercials showed up on regular radio. But, as I said, some of them were clever, and I didn’t really mind him asking for the donations, since he needed them to keep the station on the “air.”
He had a pretty slick little website too that I sometimes visited. Right on his main page the first entry was usually a request for donations where he showed how much money he needed by the end of the month in order to keep the station running. I felt bad that he had to struggle so hard to keep the station on the air, and it was clear that it often frustrated him as well. But I felt no guilt, because I made my monthly donation.
Clearly, however, the strain began to build up for him, because his posts began to become quite negative in tone. His monthly post became a threat. “If we don’t get $XXX by this date, we’re going down for good!” Now, it may be a bit old fashioned, but it seems to me that if you’re asking people for money, you generally ought to be polite to them. Calling people “dickheads” – which he did this month – for not supporting him doesn’t really fall into that category. In fact, I find it downright rude. Of course, it didn’t really apply to me, because I was a contributor. Still, it irked me.
I had the phones on my head, blissfully digging me some blues while the creative juices flowed and I was writing away at my First Great Novel. And then the music quit. I visited the web page. There was nothing on the first screen, so I figured it was maybe a software glitch and the music would be back on shortly. Then I hit his little chatbox thing, where he and listeners could chat back and forth. There was a very angry entry in there to the gist of him turning the music off until the pace of the donations picked back up again. Some pretty crude language in there too.
And that *really* pissed me off. Again, it wasn’t directed at me, because I was a regular contributor, but it still got me mad. So I told him he probably ought to just leave the music off if it upset him so much. Next thing I know, I’m getting fired on by him and a couple of his buddies about freeloading assholes and so on. At which point I told them, “Hey, it’s user supported. There will always be a large number of people who won’t pay, no matter what. I don’t think calling them names is going to win any extra support.” I really was trying to be sympathetic, but there was a group dynamic going on there, and because I wasn’t taking their exact position, I was one of *them.*
I explained that, in fact, I was a paying supporter but that I wasn’t feeling particularly well appreciated at that moment. They told me what I could do with my donations. So I pulled the plug. I told them I wasn’t paying $5 a month for silence and attitude. And then, they started jumping all over me because I *only* pay $5 a month. Wow. I pay about $150 a month for my satellite TV and I get way over 150 stations. $5 a month for ONE internet radio station is a very reasonable sum. Especially considering – I counted – I’d paid a grand total of $225 up to that point. Then one of the guys told me he’d pay the $5 for me, because he knew I’d be listening for free anyway because, he explained, it was the ass-kickin’est blues station on the internet. Except that, almost simultaneously, the owner of the station banned my IP.
After I logged onto my bank website and made sure there would be no more donations flowing toward the ass-kickin’est blues station on the internet, I went to find the second ass-kickin’est blues station. There are thousands upon thousands of streaming internet radio stations. Within about five minutes, I found another station – commercial free and listener supported – that was playing some excellent blues. Within the first hour, they played one of my favorite versions of one of my favorite songs: Key To The Highway, done by Little Walter. Bliss.
There’s not a single negative word anywhere on the website, nor is it filled with reminders to “donate, donate, donate.” There is a link at the bottom for donations, but no mention of how much or how often, or how tired the operator is of asking, or how many days until the station is off the air for good. Just great support for the blues and a decent little website dedicated to the station. And great music 24/7.
I’ve been listening for a few days now, and I haven’t once heard a request for money. Think I just might send him some.