MouseWorldRadio on the Internet

by Mike Scopa, contributing writer

MouseWorldRadio Magic

I don't know about you, but my first day back after a Walt Disney World vacation is always a downer for me. It could be because I think of the sights and sounds of Disney magic that surrounded me the days before and the Disney withdrawal began.

I can counter this by watching videos, looking at photos, and even writing a trip report. However, let's face it—it's very difficult to rekindle the same feeling as you get when you are in Orlando, but we all try.

Is there other ways to relive the magic; to bring it home or more importantly, achieve a post-trip Disney Zone experience? The answer could be MouseWorldRadio.

In this session, let's look at MouseWorldRadio—its history, technology, and impact on those of us who love the magic of Disney—as well as Mike Newell, the mastermind behind this phenomenon.

What is MouseWorldRadio?

MouseWorldRadio is a series of seven Internet radio "channels" that play Disney-genre sound loops 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I cannot just say it,s Disney music, because it's more than that.

You can find this music by going to and listen through LIVE365. [You will have to download the LIVE365 player.]

In general, you will hear:

  • Background music you would hear only in the theme parks.
  • Complete audio tracks of the present attractions
  • Vintage audio from previous attractions
  • The entire programs from Wishes, Fantasmic, Illuminations, and yes, Sorcery in the Sky
  • Parades
  • Walt Disney World Resort TV
  • Other audio such as Disney Cruise Line audio and anything else Disney

Imagine first thing in the morning clicking on MouseWorldRadio and hear the opening for Magic Kingdom, or tuning in at night to listen to the entire audio track of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.

The Beginnings

You could say that MouseWorldRadio had its beginnings way back in 1980 when Mike Newell made his first trip to Walt Disney World, in which Newell as a child got hooked on Walt Disney World.

Then in 1992, Newell made his first trip to Epcot as an adult and noticed something. A musician by nature, Newell paid attention to the music, and noticed that it was special and different everywhere in the park. He says it basically "knocked" him out. He needed to take this music home with him so he could listen to it over and over again.

He started walking around the parks with a camcorder, not to capture video but to capture music, so he could create a .wav sound file for each piece of music. It wasn't long before his audio collection began to grow.

He looked for other sources to capture as much audio from all over Walt Disney World as possible. He found them, but they are held close to the vest. Some of these sources can be found online, some of these come from very friendly cast members, but most of the music is captured by Newell himself, walking around the theme parks with professional recording equipment.

Bringing Disney music to the Web

Newell got around to bringing his collection of music to the Web because he wanted to be able to listen to music at any time during the day, so he looked into how to do it.

"Our entry into Walt Disney World Internet audio began in November 1992," Newell said. "The very first site, called very simply "Disney Park Audio," was basic at best. Looking and listening back now, it was pretty bad, but it had a decent following."

Many of the tracks he had placed on this initial site started turning up on other sites, a testament to their popularity.

In 1995, the site became The Ticket and Transportation Center, and it introduced a big change: Instead of waiting to download tracks with a 9600 modem, everyone was streaming with Real Audio.The site was hosted by Prodigy.

Still, Newell wanted to do more. He wanted better quality, more availability, and easier access for his listeners. He acquired better equipment to capture better quality. Then in late summer of 1999, Newell looked around for Internet radio show host sites and discovered Live365. He set up an account and called it Disney Parks Radio.

Newell says, "Everything was pretty static until the fall of 1999. Live365 had been online since the summer, and there were very few broadcasters, especially Disney broadcasters. What was then called Disney Parks Radio became one of about five Disney broadcasters that were online in late fall of 1999 hosted by LIVE365."

Everything was running smoothly until March 2000. That's when things got interesting. In early March, Disney Parks Radio was pulled off the air for copyright infringements.

"Our account was canceled by Live365 and all of the tracks were deleted," Newell said. "I had to argue our way back on the air in mid-March 2000, and then reload all of the tracks. In the meantime, someone began a broadcast using our name, and began gaining listeners. Not being embarrassed, we went back on air using the exact name. Why should this guy get all of our credit? Soon it became apparent who was the original, and he dropped the name to become something else."

There were even more changes coming. In those days, Live365 was free for broadcasters and listeners, so Newell opened a new channel called Disney Parks Radio 2. With broadband not yet on the scene, this new channel was targeted to listeners with the faster 56K modems.

The Disney World Network

By fall 2000 Newell came to the conclusion that even more changes were necessary. Things were happening fast and he decided it was time to make some wholesale changes. First in his line of changes was a rebranding—thus Disney World Network was born. And with this branding came the branding of the channels:

  • Radio 1 became the station for 56K listeners.
  • Radio 2 moved up to broadband with higher quality bit streams and offered stereo CD sound.
  • Soon Radio 3 was added. This channel was for listeners still using 28.8k modems.

However as Newell collected more and more audio, he found he was running out of channel space. Newell needed more channels so he could put as much music on the air as possible. So within a year, Newell added Radio 4.

Today, Radio 3 and Radio 4 have the larger audio loops, and there are seven stations from which Newell tries to squeeze in as much of the 250 gigabytes of audio he has in his collection. He estimates that he would need at least 20 channels to come close to putting every bit of audio on the air.

As fall 2001 approached, Disney World Network radio and its four channels were cruising along.

…and then came a bump in the road: September 11. At the time, Mike Newell resided in New York City. The city was experiencing some troubled times. Live365 was also experiencing troubles with server and financial issues.

As Newell puts it, "I honestly thought it would be the end of broadcasting at Live365. Things were so bad there, they were laying staff off left and right and there was talk of charging broadcasters, listeners, and even airing commercials. Well, we know now that is what eventually happened, but there was plenty of talk that this was the end of Live365."

The broadcasters were approached and asked if they would be willing to subscribe to keep their accounts and help LIVE365 stay on the air. I guess I don't have to tell you that the response was overwhelming.

Black Tuesday and the birth of MouseWorld Network Radio

They call April 16, 2002 Black Tuesday. That was the day Newell says Live365 "went full force at Disney broadcasters."

"That day, there were 46 stations broadcasting some sort of Disney programming, most of them theme park-related," Newell said. "By 7:00pm EST, Live365 had shut down all but seven broadcasts running that day;including all four of ours. Legal notices were waiting in all of our mailboxes that night. We scrambled with other broadcasters to find out how we could get around this. It seems Live365 was only interested in the word 'Disney' being used in broadcast titles and descriptions. In other words, we all had to change our names."

The very next day, Disney World Network emerged from its shutdown as "MouseWorld Network Radio."

As it turned out, MouseWorld Network Radio was not out of the clear yet. Even with its new name, it experienced yet a second shutdown just days later.

"Again, all of our accounts were closed and all tracks were deleted," said Newell. "We had to re-open and restore four broadcasts in those following days."

He also recalls:

After all of the work that went into restoring our broadcasts, the threat of closure of our stations again began in late April 2002.

Hundreds of Internet radio stations and channels across America were shutting off their music streams on Wednesday, May 1st, in a "Day of Silence" to highlight their concern over the U.S. Copyright Office ruling on royalty rates that would shut down or bankrupt the vast majority of the Internet radio industry.

The Librarian of Congress was required to set "sound recordings performance royalty" rates for Internet radio stations by May 21st 2002 and an arbitration panel (a "CARP") working for that office had recommended a rate of $.0014 per listener per song (or $.0007 for broadcast simulcasts). Many webcasters said the proposed royalty rate is the equivalent of 200% or more of their revenues. MouseWorldRadio has never made a penny broadcasting throughout the years, and it was time to rethink our online existence. We participated in the May Day May 1st Day of Silence to protest the upcoming decision. It was bad enough that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) went after sites like Napster, and closed them down. We weren't going to let them close Live365 down without a fight.

The Librarian of Congress released a rate for Digital Sound Recording Performance (DSRP) royalties. Many independent webcasters, including Live365, were quite vocal about the structure of the royalty rate, advocating one that was based on a percentage of revenues. However, the rate was based on a "per-performance fee," which creates considerably more difficult conditions for the webcasting industry to grow.

Live365 had an idea.

Newell recalls:

August 2002, Live365 decided that in order to pay RIAA fees, they would need to sell advertising on some broadcasts, and then charge listeners and broadcasters. Most of us felt that this was good for Live365 to stay in business, and for us to stay on the air. We started to pay the royalties for our Radio 1 and Radio 2 broadcasts. These fees kept these broadcasts available free to everyone. Our other broadcasts became available only to VIP listeners who paid a monthly fee to listen.

Live365 began restricting available track space according to new account plans. Depending on which plan we signed up for, we were given a certain amount of storage space for tracks. With the new rules, the faster the station speeds, the less space you had to store the tracks in a given play list.

So Newell had decisions to make, and came up with a plan.

We decided to drop the stream speed of Radio 1 to 33k for more space to add more tracks. Radio 2 remained at broadband speed," he said. "Live365 introduced new VIP plans for listeners and broadcasters."

2003 saw the birth of X. MouseWorld Network Radio Xtra became Radio X and its twin, X2. We dropped the Network from our name, and just went by the name MouseWorldRadio.

In February 2004, we decided to discontinue paying the royalty fees to Radio 2, and it became a VIP station. And later in the year MouseWorld Memories went on the air playing tracks from parks of yesterday.

January 2005 saw the launch of MouseWorld Jr. and then re-launched as MouseWorld X3.

MouseWorldRadio has become quite a hobby for Mike Newell.

The most popular time of the day for MouseWorldRadio is in the morning. Listeners find the Magic Kingdom opening quite appealing, as it helps them start their day.

Newell tries to simulate the daily audio sounds of the parks, including the 9:00 p.m. (Eastern) playing of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. I admit that I'm hooked, and listen to Illuminations every night on Radio 1.

Newell loves this hobby of his and loves hearing from his listeners. He's always trying to please them and wants to play what the majority of his listeners want to hear.

Someday Mike Newell envisions a video version of Live365 with streaming video.

Mike Newell does his thing. Photo by Lisa K. Berton.

He would also to see a "portable version" of Live365 so listeners can access it on their cell phones, PDAs or anywhere via satellite.

I should point out that most of the music found on MouseWorldRadio is not commercially available, but is exclusive to sites like MouseWorldRadio.

Newell constantly gets requests for copies of his tracks, but unfortunately due to many legal reasons he cannot distribute them.

It's a lot of work. "And honestly, it can get frustrating being a broadcaster on Live365," he said. "But you know, the emails we get from happy listeners makes it worth it at the end of the day."

If you'd like to send a message to Mike Newell, you can reach him at to tell him what you think of MouseWorldRadio, and to thank him for helping us all…

…Remember the Magic!

Next Time

Spring is in the air, and it's time to start preparing for my Annual Flower and Garden trip to Walt Disney World.

So what's going on this year and what is there to do?

We'll talk about it next time.

Class dismissed.