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AG News: 3/12/2007

"Chicken or the Egg?" for Internet Radio Industry

This is just beginning to surface as online radio stations play unsigned acts, and it's a question closest to the one about "the chicken or the egg." Does an artist gain recognition from producing a great record, or is it the exposure radio gives a great record that generates recognition?

I recently had a discussion with one person who believes all recording artists should be paid by any radio station that uses their music. It's a concept which I have trouble accepting, and here's why: Done right, radio is much more than music. There are many elements besides the songs that give a station - online or broadcast - its personality. Given that most similarly-formatted stations play the same songs, a high ranking station gets there because of what's played after the music stops.

A song is introduced to the audience in similar manner regardless of the station, though. Rotation is slow to start. Increased exposure comes only after it's proven the audience likes it.

This person who voiced concern that all artists should be compensated for any music played argues that all music has value; it attracts an audience. (Mentioned here the other day: "What is a song worth, and why should a popular song be worth the same as one that's only so-so?")

Let's twist this into reality. A radio station provides the platform that gives musicians a chance to be heard. It places their product in front of a group of people. This is defined as advertising.

Bottom line is that if acts want their songs heard, they may go to the record labels in hopes to get backing under reasonable terms; or they can provide their music to online radio stations in exchange for the exposure the stations offer.

So is it the chicken or the egg?

Good numbers do not come solely from playing good music. There are costs to building an audience that negate the money due an artist before their song is accepted by the public. What's packaged around the songs creates the relationship with a radio audience. It's the relationship that keeps people coming back to the same station - and that has value too!

Independent artists can be made into stars if the online radio industry organizes an effort to distribute quality music. This will take time, but it will also take a lot less money than paying the new royalty rates.

Check RRadioMusic. It lists artists who have signed waivers giving radio stations the right to play their music in exchange for the exposure it brings. These musicians realize they must advertise their work to gain recognition, and they've chosen to pay for that advertising by trading royalty payments for play.

If the public starts accepting a band's music, royalty payments are due. Although, who judges this is up in the air for now. (My suggestion would be that the musicians contact SoundExchange. They will get a response only after SoundExchange recognizes there's a market for that band's music.)

The above describes willing sellers meeting willing buyers in a free market system - exactly what the Copyright Royalty Board declared as its must-meet criteria, which molded their latest decision.

Chicken or egg? If online radio stations start playing independent artists' music and making their own stars, the chicken wins.

About Contact Indie Artists Radio Stations Audience Data Privacy

President, Audio Graphics
Ken Dardis
Online Since January 1997

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