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Monday, June 23, 2014

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Radio Industry "Feel Good" Policy Hurts


Radio industry publications just won't allow those in radio to feel the pain of performance royalty. What I'm reading also says radio doesn't quite get the fact that Pandora isn't the only competitor stealing audience.

These two separate issues are really one problem: 1) The refusal to acknowledge an upcoming House Judiciary Committee hearing IS about broadcast radio paying performance royalties; 2) It is not about SoundExchange planning a Pandora attack.
"Pandora may be the elephant but there are so many ants - in online audio services - as to make your skin squirm, should the radio industry decide to look."

In order of importance, let's get this Pandora hangup out of the way. The radio industry has continuously misread what was happening online. It's doing it again. If anyone believes that Pandora is the only online music service needing attention - or that its share of online radio listeners precludes being fearful of any other service - wake up to reality.

There is no possible way to tabulate how large the online audio experience is. Anyone trying to is foolish. Options are so many as to fool even the best statistician, and I'm not aware of any service providing an accounting of all available streams, song services, arists' web sites, social media sharing, and file sharing of songs. These have been growing under the radio industry's radar since 2002.

Lately, I'm noticing an increase in the amount of online spoken word audio programs.

Pandora may be the elephant but there are so many ants - in online audio services - as to make your skin squirm, should the radio industry decide to look.

Now, about this upcoming hearing, where Charles Warfield is expected to save the day. We've been down this road with Hubbard Radio's Bruce Reese. Remember the "Music Licensing Part One: Legislation in the 112th Congress" committee meeting? It happened November 12, 2012 under the guise of a discussion on "The Radio Fairness Act." Broadcast radio was pummeled. Here are a few excerpts I wrote the next day:
Congressman Berman to Hubbard Radio CEO & President Bruce Reese:
"...free doesn't work anymore..."
SX President Huppe (in a refrain mouthed multiple times by multiple persons):
"...we shouldn't be politicizing the process..."
Congressman Watt to Mr. Reese:
"...you would have to go and negotiate with every artist, for the playing
of their music..."

At the time I also wrote: "...quite astounding to me, given how much I respect Mr. Reese and his accomplishments, were his antiquated and redundant reasonings as to why radio should not be required to pay performance royalties for songs played over-the-air"; they will be used again this Wednesday by Charles Warfield.

But what are we reading in various radio industry trades?
"The radio industry will get its opportunity on Capitol Hill Wednesday...."

"NAB EVP/Communications DENNIS WHARTON said 2 weeks ago, 'Local radio provides an unparalleled platform for record labels and recording artists to our 240 million-plus listeners every week.'"

"Radio is a promotional tool for artists."

"The radio industry should charge artists to play their music."

And my favorite, specifically stated about this week's Congressional hearing: "...the emotions will be more heated toward Pandora and other digital media than toward radio." No, they won't.


Radio must get away from hiding words showing its weakened position relative to performance royalty. Accepting that this issue is now one of parity is a first step. The second is that all of radio - online and off - needs to understand each program source is but a drop in a very large ocean now.

Constantly stating a multitude of untruths like the radio industry is "local," that "it's all we have for emergency notification," or (one I read this morning which makes no sense given the auto-pilot many broadcasters use today) "Consider the fact that, if you are Pandora, you are completely devoid of personality."

It's time for the radio industry to wake up to its new world of competition and the new outside forces having an impact on the business. The time for action was in the past, but it was ignored.

This Feel Good policy is damaging radio to such a degree that it will not be able to recover once the vehicle center stack is rearranged to include digital.










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