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AG News: Tuesday - 5/12/2009

Where Are Indie Artists in Radio Industry?

Did you hear the one about the network television news anchor that's now introducing independent artists? It's not a joke, but an indicator of changing media that you should become accustomed to.

The radio industry can no longer claim exclusive rights on introducing new music to the masses. Adding to the growing number of indie artist web sites (including Audio Graphics' own, NBC's Brian Williams has announced BriTunes. Dubbed "an inaugural web experiment," a number of elements within this new music series makes one wonder why the radio industry could not have created something similar first; though, after viewing the first installment of BriTunes, you will understand that radio's production of such an online program would have looked entirely different.

We hear of Clear Channel's new "Premium Choice programming elements," which is positioned as a means of bringing high quality talent to all CC markets (as an elective to be decided by local program directors). Except there are questions about how much "choice" is being handed to local programmers in the selection process. From everything I've been able to determine, few new artists are being offered within this program concept.

"Premium Choice" is brought up here only to display the direction of local radio content - seemingly away from what's happening in your market.

Clear Channel's introduction of "" is the closest thing to BriTunes being produced by the radio industry. It's a good attempt at using the internet to deliver a stream of unknowns. Only, considering the reach of Clear Channel and the time that this new music web site has been operating, it should be a much brighter blip by now on the radar screen of music lovers.

When Googling the keyword "indie artists," CC's New Music site doesn't show in the first 100 returns - which translates to it doesn't exist in the search world. Google "independent artists" and you'll find the same lack of results. (It's been reported that Google's share of the search market is at 73%, showing you just how important being listed there is in becoming a player online.)

A quick check at Entercom, Emmis, Cumulus, and Radio One shows nothing that indicates any of these radio companies are moving towards exposing new music. Point made: Clear Channel is leading the charge and nobody else is following. Although CBS Radio does have half-a-foot in with its acquisition of Last.FM, there's nothing from CBS saying it is giving considerable thought to the new artist scene.

A quick example of excellent search engine placement is seen in Googling "Independent Rock Artists," "Independent Rap Artists," "Independent Country Artists," and "Independent Pop Artists" (along with multiple other "independent artists" terms). Notice how these searches deliver Audio Graphics' and RadioRow web sites in the top 5 listings. "Independent Rock Artists" and "Indpendent Pop Artists" capture 3 of the first 5 returns; the other two keywords grab 2 of the top 5 slots.

With all the discussion about the public's insatiable appetite for new bands, why is it there's so little action coming from the radio industry? And why do we have a well-known NBC News Anchor treating the introduction of new artists as an item of news that's worthy of his time?

Answer: Because this is the void that's being chased by TV, the opening where one traditional medium sees that it can one-up another traditional medium that is not paying attention.

I urge you to take a look at the presentation of BriTunes. Consider that the program's approach is not what you might expect if the radio industry were producing such an online program. It is soft-spoken, with the band being a central focus and not the personality who is conducting this exposure session. That's what this is, an opportunity for the band to be exposed to a large number of people who might not have considered their music.

For years AG has promoted the concept of radio getting back to its roots of introducing new music. For just as long, the radio industry has ignored the concept as it fired the people who would do this very appreciated task. By waiting to install some form of new artist introduction to its - at minimum - online presence, the radio industry risks further erosion in credibility and attention.

BriTunes will become a major player for introducing new music not just because of the approach, but due to its ability to cross-promote the existence of this service. Cross-promotion is something that the radio industry still has the potential to do if it stops sending people to "check out at our web site" for insipid reasons. Discovering new music not heard on broadcast is filling a void, just like Brian Williams is doing.

The public has a strong desire to hear from quality unknown bands. The response to being introduced to new music is to tell a friend and come back to the originating source for more. Repeat web site traffic is generated by offering items like this. Do your own little research to see if the radio industry is providing such a service, or anything that begs repeat web site visits.

BriTunes is a refreshing attempt at providing what the public wants. If radio has any hope of regaining the relevancy it once was so proud to possess, it had better start making an effort to emulate the concept on a local level.

Just sitting back reporting how revenue declines are caused by a bad economy is not the answer; neither are reports that once the economy picks up, the radio industry will follow suit. Those are the items that are laughable within the radio industry today.

The joke now is that radio is introducing more quality programming. Or, more directly, how the radio industry is failing to see that it isn't.

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President, Audio Graphics
Ken Dardis
Online Since January 1997

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