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An Indie Artist Pipeline to Internet Radio
Monday, March 4, 2013
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Solid Future for Internet Radio Industry

For anyone creating radio online, there are reasons to push harder. They include the broadcast radio industry giving you a wide open future, and the days of diminished advertiser support soon disappearing.

Today we'll cover Part 1, with Part 2 appearing tomorrow.

Here's what entitles me to speak on this topic: After spending 28 years in broadcast radio I moved to multiple disciplines online. Analytics, web site design and search engine opitmization are my specialities. Since 1999, I've also built a radio portal and a system that places indie artists on internet radio stations. (Deep background here.)
"I've asked this question for nearly a decade: 'Can you name one thing that has been brought home from a radio industry convention which is digitally oriented and has been implemented by broadcasters?' It's never been answered. It cannot be answered."

It was an easy transition from broadcast to online because I had even more years of experience writing software code. And I could see how the radio industry was living off perpetuating myths - basically kicking the can down the road in the same manner as our government does today with the economy.

Radio's peak of productivity and creativity was in the early 1990s. With the Telecommunications Act of 1996, radio sat on the precipice of decline. Leadership shifted from those who wanted to serve the community to pencil-pushers wanting to squeeze more profit from less effort.

From that point on, in radio markets #1-#75, creativity and local involvement began to diminish. Problems were spoken of and declared "solved" by persons with less and less mass communications experience, while each began taking on more and more responsibility.

The facilitation of this downward slide rested with radio industry trade publications willing to continue smoke and mirror reporting. These publications made money off conferences; promoters knew radio executives would not attend those sponsored by anyone that spoke of radio's declining influence - not even ones that suggested ways to improve.

The exception is RAIN, a leading publication which concentrates on reporting about companies that offer new media solutions to radio.

Strike One: Failure to Follow Digital

Read any radio trade today - especially Clear Channel-owned "Inside Radio." Words printed speak in glowing terms of the industry gaining digital knowledge, but it's a revised definition of the term "digital knowledge." To them, having a web site and running audio ads in a stream or placing banners is "digital."

There is a nearly complete lack of understanding on how to use accountability for delivering advertiser ROI and in building audience, which true digital advertising or content delivery companies possess.

The best to expect from broadcast radio is duplicating that which already exists in the digital world. Clear Channel's iHeartRadio is an answer to Pandora; ironically it was introduced as radio executives claimed that Pandora was not radio.

A most recent development is former Westwood One founder Norman J. Pattiz planning to "curate" talk shows at "PodcastOne." Spoken of by nearly all radio trades, it is strikingly similar to the Stitcher concept, which is missing from the storyline.

Here are words I wrote to a senior Cumulus executive in December 2011 on his request to supply my thoughts of how to handle its digital plan: "Create a small set of centralized streams that have individual stations acting as a funnel; i.e., all country stations would push their audience to a single Cumulus country stream. The power of having 85 country stations all promoting the same stream would create a large online audience worthy of an advertiser's attention."

Now go read about Cumulus' "Nash," started in 2013.

There is also Cumulus' SweetJack. Despite early warnings that couponing is not a service radio should be getting into, it proved easy to copy from Groupon and give the image that radio was moving into the digital space.

Let's see, though, how well the execution part goes for all of these examples.

It would be irresponsible not to mention the Emmis pursuit of an FM chip in smartphones. This is going to be such a dramatic failure that even HD Radio's run will seem successful in comparison. The FM chip initiative depends on: 1) an Emmis (NextRadio) app; 2) overcoming a lacking consumer demand; and 3) having the purpose of being built for no reason other than an ability to say "radio is now in smartphones." The "public safety" aspect of its reasoning is moot - given that our most recent storms silenced East coast radio stations.

Strike Two: Hubris

I've asked this question for nearly a decade: "Can you name one thing that has been brought home from a radio industry convention which is digitally oriented and has been implemented by broadcasters?" It's never been answered. It cannot be answered.

Until recently, radio conventions were for gathering radio executives in groups to have concepts explained by radio industry people who did not understand the complexities of the topics they spoke of.

Today's conventions have digitally knowledgeable people speaking to groups of executives who do not understand the complexities of implementing digital strategy. An example of this is the Radio Ink "Convergence Conference" (now underway), where attendees were told "All you need [to bring] is a number two pencil and a very thick notebook to write in." I'm guessing notepads and tablets haven't yet made an impact on this group.

Go to any convention and pay attention to the questions asked by audience members in digital sessions. What you'll hear is a sign the info discussed is over their heads. More importantly, watch what happens when attendees return to their stations. Historically, it's back to business as usual. (Return to the above question, "Can you name one thing....")

Where radio has made inroads is in duplicating what it sees in the digital world, for example, social engagement of audience. Radio trades and companies make it sound as if there are deep roots into this area. Yet, ask if anyone has the ability to measure whether this engagement is producing results and there's silence.

Strike Three: Following the Same People Who Pushed Radio Into Disarray

If there's one constant within the radio industry it is that the same leaders who led it down the path of decline are still calling the shots; and gathered around them are consultants who, from 2000 through 2007, neglected to respond to the oncoming train. These consultants are now considered experts because they read a few books or articles. Only a few have experience in the digital trench, in actually building systems that digital companies successfully employ.

The blind leading the blind is a most appropriate metaphor - and a major reason why those involved with internet radio will ultimately prevail.

Tomorrow we'll discuss why there is a growing opening for internet-delivered radio, with examples of how the radio industry continues to dig a deeper hole.

While the broadcast side of radio has a near lockout on indie artists, introducing music is open wide to internet stations.
Here's a Rock artist to consider: Phono Emergency Tool.
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Phono Emergency Tool

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We listen for songs that evoke emotion; fast, slow, female, male, group, it doesn't matter. When an artist has the power to please, they should be given a chance to be heard.

Give Phono Emergency Tool's "The Wind" a listen.

Add it to your playlist, free! Such is the new world of music distribution.

The radio industry had its shot. It's time internet radio programmers take a chance and reach into a huge pile of talent. It is there that new hit songs will increasingly be found.

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