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An Indie Artist Pipeline to Internet Radio
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
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Artists and Today's Radio Industry

Ask any musicians what the Holy Grail of exposure is; while ten years ago they would have answered "radio airplay" (and a large number of artists still believe this), a growing number of indie artists realize that the radio industry has undergone a drastic change - and exposure opportunity now exists on many other platforms.

This is a lengthy topic which I'll keep short by pointing to two unarguable facts: 1) Broadcast radio has consolidated to a point where an indie artist stands little chance of getting local airplay; and 2) If an independent artist tries to keep up with all current online options, they'll have no time to create music.
"Content is not the issue as - online and off - the radio industry provides mediocrity at its best. For years, content has been taking a backseat to convenience, where the real war is being waged."

There's a third item that came to light, for me, by way of artist "Paul Gelsomine." He wrote a comment to an article I penned titled "Indie Artists in the New Music World." Before addressing the above, let's take a side trip to hear Paul: "Still think it's a rip off for established artists / composers / content providers [to pay radio stations or services for exposure]." He ended with, "Thanks I'll stick to the old fashion analog airwaves."

I wish him the best, and also wish I would have thought about this prior to my answering him with the following: "The article states that new artists are unproven, and seek exposure, and that I believe artists should be paid once becoming a draw. Not knowing where you fit into this, as I'm not familiar with your work, I'd suggest you go with your gut feeling."

My response started me thinking about the "Not knowing where you fit into this..." part. Reworded, that simple statement would say, "If I, and others, have not heard of you, you are a 'new artist' and 'unproven.'" So perhaps, Paul, in retrospect I'd suggest you not try for exposure on "old fashioned analog airwaves."

Today's radio industry spans two boundaries, broadcast and online. Each segment is contained within its own walls, with the exception that broadcasters - for the most part - simply regurgitate the over-the-air signal as a stream. By default, that precludes indie artists from getting exposure through broadcasters' online programming.

The internet radio industry is so diverse that it offers little help getting on one station. It's also so disorganized that among a hundred online stations none will be talking with each other to find the best songs, unlike radio's broadcast counterpart with group music directors calling the shots on who gets airplay in multiple markets.

End result is that, online, the indie artist is forced to contact individual stations and attempt to get the programmer to listen. That's a tall order considering the tens-of-thousands of indie artists who are trying this new route.

The broadcast radio industry is having a meeting in Las Vegas this week with its television counterparts; it's put on as a joint effort by the NAB. What appeared in the keynote address by NAB Chief Gordon Smith is telling of how far removed from reality broadcast radio is, and why indie artists who "stick to the old fashion analog airwaves" are making a huge mistake. Consider these comments:

Mr. Smith chose to quote Winston Churchill & Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his speech, which shows the age of the audience that's controlling the airwaves. Is it not possible to find more contemporary names with something to say, like Steve Jobs?

He also had this epiphany: "The time has come for us to unite in our embrace of new technology and to realize the consequences if we don't." If only he and attendees realized this time was over a decade ago, they might still be in the running to capture youth.

In another section of this NAB convention keynote speech, where it's common to repeat the broadcast advantage of being "free," Mr. Smith made this unusual comment: "And we all know, it's very hard for paid services to compete with free." He was referencing online (and satellite) audio programming, and obviously has not checked the bottled water industry's track record.

Content is not the issue as - online and off - the radio industry provides mediocrity at its best. For years, content has been taking a backseat to convenience, where the real war is being waged.

And this brings us to point #2 above, about artists keeping up with current options. On my short list are 40 names you can try; each has its own proprietary systematic way for gaining exposure. Many cost upwards of hundreds of dollars to purchase a package that will have an impact. Choose wisely, as it's here where the future lies. Here where the unknown indie artists can catch a break. Here that the artist has better control over distribution than if they started sending out demos to radio industry stations.

The moral is there's no easy way to gain exposure. There are no options left to give indie artists hope of airplay locally in the (broadcaster) operated radio industry.

Online is the frontier. Except many believe, as Paul Gelsomine pointed out, "'s a rip off for established artists / composers / content providers."

My last question to Paul is one I should have asked before: Are you "established"? If so, would I - and millions of others - have heard your music and name before? If not, you must be in your other category, where "new artists are unproven, and seek exposure."

Defining where you fit is not as easy as it sounds if the public has not heard your sound and the (analog) radio industry won't play your song.

Long live internet radio. It may be a much wider choice of stations with fewer people listening to each, but at least indie artists have a better chance of getting into rotation on a playlist.

As I told Paul, "I suggest sticking to your gut feeling." Here's mine: The broadcast radio industry isn't even a close second choice for new acts looking to succeed. Artists don't stand a chance without help from online. (Try what Audio Graphics created. See if it fits.)

While the broadcast side of radio has a near lockout on indie artists, introducing music is open wide to internet stations.
A Pop artist to consider:
Fiona (Miss 2.1)

sample song
Fiona (Miss 2.1)

Download Song


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 Fiona (Miss 2.1)'s "Boy Toy" a listen.

Add this 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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