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Monday, December 12, 2011
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Music Distribution has Changed - Good or Bad?

The words describing Audio Graphics are "Analytics, Metrics, and Music for the Radio Industry." They appear at the top of every page on this web site, and refer to my focus on data, quantifying results, and independent artists in what's described as a new world order for music distribution.

We've heard of the problems major record labels are having. I believe it's because artists and independent online radio station owners now have a process of moving music to consumers in ways never possible before.

"...please consider that technology has provided tools to circumvent a broken, decades-old, music distribution system. New artists may use this to their advantage." "Buy now" buttons make it easy for indie artists to sell songs through iTunes, Amazon, or a music listing service, without the aid of a middleman like the record labels. (I think we can rule out indie acts getting played on broadcast radio industry stations. Although that does happen, it's a rarity.) Today, all an indie act really needs for exposure is internet radio.

Is this the new normal? Maybe not yet, because many artists and stations need more practice on how this new system works. Eventually, though, independent artists will be able to bypass broadcast radio, head directly to online radio stations, and sell their music online.

Audio Graphics serves radio stations through RadioRow, where both pure-play and broadcast streams are listed. AG also serves radio programmers and indie artists through RRadio Music, a system that pre-qualifies music for airplay consideration.

What's becomming apparent is that in this new world order for music, many independent artists believe their ability to distribute music to radio stations is something which now exists like air; it should be free! And it is, to a degree, as I'll mention in a moment. But before we get to the "free" part, let's chew on the reality of music distribution for those artists trying to get established, and for a radio industry getting its foothold online.

RRadio Music is designed to pair indie artists with internet radio programmers. Artist listings are 15 on a page, in one of six music genres: Country, Dance, Hip Hop & Rap, Jazz, Pop, and Rock. (Another genre for Spiritual is being formed.) Programmers know these songs have been screened for quality; while every song might not be what they want to add to their station's playlist, all of this music is good enough for consideration.

In addition to the RRadio Music listing, a subscription program service is also offered to internet radio stations. These "Intro to Indie Artists" programs come in 5, 3 and 2-song lengths, in each mentioned genre. Over 380 variations of these progrmas play on over 150 online radio stations. Also, nearly 740 individual songs have been selected from RRadio Music for rotation on 130 stations.

This is a different form of music distribution. Programmers come to choose from a short list of songs, or the station simply receives a program of new songs for their audience. Whatever you want to call it, this is not the normal way of distributing music to radio, which has existed for decades - and, in my opinion, is broke.

But is this good or bad, especially for artists? Obviously, I've going to vote the former. It's just that I've received my share of comments from artists who feel a system like this should be totally free, and that they should not have to pay - even a small $10 charge - to place their music in this type of distribution.

Point is, music distribution is free for independent artists. There's a radio industry that's at arm's length for anyone willing to contact each station and request airplay. Just do the work to submit the music, and wait to see if it gets considered.

However, IF an independent artist wants the ability to reach multiple stations with one easy submission, IF they don't have access to the names or email addresses to make this possible, or IF the indie artist has better use of their time than to send out mailings to people with whom they have no relationship, then I urge you to follow this new Audio Graphics path.

RRadio Music and our "Intro to Indie Artists" series of subscription programs have become a leading form of music distribution in this new online age. Don't assume a radio programmer has time to listen to the hundreds of songs sent to them each week. Instead, the offering to a station of pre-qualified songs is a time-saver, from a company with an established relationship with the programmers.

As indie artists dig to find ways for getting exposure, please consider that technology has provided tools to circumvent a broken, decades-old, music distribution system. New artists may use this to their advantage.

Our new world order of getting exposure for music still requires effort, which can come from you or any number of services now catering to indie artists and the radio industry. So go at it. But, if your opinion is that $10 is too high a price to pay for having much of the work done for you, perhaps before settling into distributing your own songs, your consideration should be placed on how much your time is worth.

I believe what Audio Graphics has created is a new, affordable system to get quality music into the ears of internet radio programmers. I also believe that the broadcast radio industry is not where indie artists have a shot at getting their music aired.

You want exposure? The good news is that internet radio is where indie artists are getting the most response. How they do that is now very much the artist's decision - which I don't think is bad for them at all.

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