Current Online

Live webcast from Beale Street

Adapted from Current, Oct. 4, 1999

While bluesman Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and his band performed in a Memphis club Sept. 24 [1999], NPR's first live musical webcast allowed numerous computer users around the world to listen in.

Sound cables snaked down the stairs of B.B. King's nightclub on Beale Street to a cramped basement room where JazzSet technical director Duke Markos mixed sound for both a future broadcast of the NPR series and for the live Internet feed. M.J. Bear, NPR's director of new media, monitored the online results on a laptop and uploaded digital images of the performance to display on NPR's web site.

The hastily arranged bluescast celebrated a copyright deal that now allows NPR stations to put streaming audio of the network's newsmagazines and most other NPR programs onto the web.

The eight-month experimental deal between NPR and the composers' copyright organizations ASCAP and BMI was announced in principle in May but was not complete until September, Bear announced at the Public Radio Program Directors Conference, then meeting in Memphis. The license relieves stations of negotiating separate pacts with the copyright-holders.

The agreement also allows NPR to put news reports on the web without editing out the music, which it has been doing, Bear said.

Stations can webcast programs even if they don't carry them on-air. But the NPR programs cannot be archived on stations' web sites for audio-on-demand, and webcasts are restricted to certain time periods. Stations also can't offer the national webcasts through Broadcast.com or other third-party web sites.

Clarence Brown had long been booked for JazzSet, a production of WBGO-FM in Newark, N.J., but Internet rights for the session were obtained only at the last minute, Bear said, so stations had only a week's notice to promote the webcast and insert links on their web sites.

The audio from JazzSet's mixing board went by ISDN line to NPR headquaters where it went onto the web in RealAudio format, Bear told Current. The feed also went to an Apple Computer server, which provided it in Quick Time format for visitors to Apple's home page.

NPR and Minnesota Public Radio, which are jointly operating a web service for stations, announced a series of further webcasts. National Press Club luncheon speeches were available for webcasting as of Oct. 6.

A Prairie Home Companion began offering live backstage chats between its guests and Internet visitors during the shows starting Oct. 9. And NPR announced a live web chat with primate specialist Jane Goodall. And a series of chats celebrating Morning Edition's 20th anniversary will begin in November.

 

To Current's home page

Outside link: Bio of Gatemouth Brown on JazzSet's web site.

Web page posted Oct. 22, 1999
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