Written Apr. 8, 2011 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
The release of Tuesday's Infinite Dial report from Edison Research and Arbitron showing that 10% of respondents nationally had listened to Pandora in the previous week, may prompt some extra cognative dissonance for those who feel that time spent with Pandora is coming from the iPod or its predecessors, not from traditional listening to music radio.
I've written recently that trying to separate the time that listeners give to their own music vs. somebody else's is increasingly a fool's errand. If radio TSL is down, it is cold comfort that an iPod might conceivably have lost even more listening. But a few things have convinced me recently that Pandora, for whom Edison does several research projects, belongs in the radio stack, not the "successor to 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and iPod" pile.
1) In recent years, those discovering and using Pandora have very much had a shared experience of the sort that radio used to specialize in providing. This was driven home at a recent Country Radio Seminar panel -- a live focus group of "real" radio listeners. It wasn't a very talkative bunch. But when moderator Charlie Cook asked the Pandora listener on the panel to describe it, she snapped to attention, describing it in detail, and in pretty much identical words to anybody else you've ever heard describe the service. With the increased amount of national radio programming, I've been waiting for radio to ramp up its shared experience quotient, creating an Infinite Dial of Musicradio 89 WLS and 77 WABCs for our age. But, clearly, that isn't the only sort of shared experience radio can offer.
2) It's been the case for a while that if your Pandora listening starts with a mainstream music choice, it will continue among those lines and may even be a little more conservative and gold-based than what you would hear on a comparable terrestrial radio station. While Pandora's personalization and the ability to skip songs leads some people to think of it as "the other," it's actually the culmination of what many radio programmers have been trying to do for the last 35 years, since listener music research took hold on a large scale: progressively eliminate more and more of the "bad songs." It's just that Pandora users have the advantage of deciding for themselves what the "bad songs" are, even if their own tastes aren't all that different from what 100 respondents typically decide.
Written Apr. 1, 2011 in Advertising + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
The issue of how radio stations fill their stopsets on their Webstreams has gotten a lot of trade press this week as an increasing number of industry observers take up our call of the last four years. Some of that, undoubtedly, is because the issue is being put in sharper relief -- hearing six minutes of dire-sounding PSAs and bad fill music never sounded good, but it sounds worse now that radio is competing with pureplays that typically run only a few units an hour.
As an avid consumer of terrestrial radio online, the stopset issue has gotten better over the last four years. The worst practices of today are about equivalent to the best practices of four years ago and everybody has improved proportionately. If you were running the same two pieces of fill music over and over four years ago, now you are probably filling with PSAs. If you were interrupting the "stress free workday" to remind listeners repeatedly that their children are at risk, you've may have upgraded to a paid spot or two and a fill song.
That doesn't solve some of the larger issues, of course. If you fill up a six-minute Web-stop with twelve :30s, as I recently heard on one station that seemed to be running a mix of paid spots and promos for co-owned Websites, it's still 12 units (perhaps 24 an hour) vs. a pureplay's three. But it's not actively exacerbating the problem as we were a few years ago.
One possible solution? I still feel that we will utimately have to re-open the issue of selling sponsorships, not spots, as a way of sporting a competitive spotload. But if that's easier said than done today, would it at least be possible to fill with music or other station content and sell it to one sponsor. After all, it's unlikely that all the units in a six-minute Webstop are sold anyway. And any advertiser who bought an entire stop would get the sort of share-of-mind among streamies that now goes to McGruff the Crime Dog and the Red Defender.
Written Mar. 2, 2011 in Content + Internet Radio + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
So whose time, if anybody's, is Pandora beating?
One talking point that often seems to emerge in any discussion of radio's future on new platforms and its future viability is that Pandora is merely the most recent delivery system for people to listen to their own music. It's the argument of those who, nearly a decade ago, would have told you, "We survived the 8-Track and the cassette deck and we'll survive the iPod, too."
But even as somebody who loves the "real radio" experience that I grew up with, I've never been able to break it down that neatly. My first iPod in 2002 certainly replaced dubbing mix CDs for a CD Walkman, itself a successor to cassette mixes. But building and maintaining my iTunes library certainly cut into desk time that might have been otherwise accompanied by Internet or FM radio. When I got a car with an iPod plug, it certainly replaced radio listening--or more precisely, it replaced a half hour of punching among stations looking for music in the morning. When I got my iPhone, streaming radio replaced listening to the iPod. But recently, my attempts to stream in the car have been so erratic that I've been returning to the iPod and even CDs.
If that distinction is fluid to somebody who grew up with the shared radio experience and plans to do everything in his power to help carry it forward on any platform necessary, how much more specious must it seem to a 16-year-old. And more important, if radio's TSL among today's 16 year olds is not what it was a decade ago, it doesn't do much good to argue that a new platform is biting into somebody else's time, because something is still cutting into AM/FM's time.
So with yesterday's announced purchase of Thumbplay, you have to respect Clear Channel for taking a logical step in being able to offer both "our music" and "your music," just as CBS Radio did with Last.fm. That makes a lot more sense than trying to teach that distinction to a new generation. Or waiting around arguing about who the competition is.
Written Feb. 16, 2011 in Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 5 Comments
I've worked alongside radio broadcasters for nearly 20 years, helping them understand their audiences by researching and anticipating their wants, needs and desires. You don't do that unless you have a deep love for the medium - and I truly do. That's why articles like this one, "Radio Exec Says Suckers Invest In Pandora" don't make me laugh, elicit a snide remark, or turn on my generally dormant inner cynic. No, they make me sad - genuinely sad.
Read the article. I have no interest in engaging the arguer here, so I'll deal solely with the argument, as presented: Pandora is a "sucker's bet," for two reasons:
1. Pandora isn't available in cars.
2. Pandora has no localized human connection.
Proponents of this argument - the "Pandora as fad" argument - are clinging desperately to the ephemeral nature of #1 and drastically overstating the importance of #2, especially with listeners under 40.
We have plenty of research that shows the lengths to which people will go already to listen to Internet radio in their cars - this stat isn't limited by the availability of car-based Internet, it's only limited by (at this point) feature phone penetration (not even "smartphone" penetration) and a cheap patch cord. More importantly, however, is the stat that is right under everyone's noses - even with Pandora's car "disadvantage," they currently enjoy somewhere between 40 and 50% of all internet radio listening. Even if you only look at the AndoMedia rankings, which, though not comprehensive, do at least include the largest radio companies (Clear Channel, CBS, Citadel, Cumulus, etc.), Pandora is as big as the rest of the top 20 combined.
When you superimpose the enormous Internet listening Pandora enjoys today with the significantly smaller penetration of in-car Internet radio capability, you do NOT get a "sucker's bet." You get pent-up demand, just waiting to be unleashed by technical developments that aren't 5 years away, or even one year away. They are happening now. Ignoring that, putting your head in the sand, is the real sucker's bet.
The "local" advantage is similarly a "sucker's bet." Presumably, all of those Internet radio listeners (and they are legion) already live in cities and towns that offer "localized" broadcast media. Half of them have demonstrably voted with their mice, keyboards, phones and tablets that they don't care about #2. In most cases, they don't care about radio's local advantage because most of what passes for local on broadcast radio are the ads and the weather. Ask your neighborhood repeater for Rush Limbaugh or Ryan Seacrest if they are winning on "local."
I rarely, if ever, sound so strident in this space - it's generally unhelpful, and distracts from my arguments. But broadcasters simply have to do better. No longer can you rest on the deteriorating advantage of your towers. On the Internet - and believe this - you are David, and pure-play streamers like Pandora are Goliath. David didn't beat Goliath by underestimating him. Goliath figured out what Internet consumers really want from a music radio service in 2011, and provided it, pure and simple. It is now David's turn to learn, and not to denigrate Goliath with ineffective taunts.
If terrestrial broadcasters are going to survive in the next several years - and some of them will, don't get me wrong - it won't be by dismissing Pandora. It will be by studying Pandora and offering meaningful improvements that offer value to today's listeners. So many broadcasters are resolutely incurious as to the reasons for Pandora's success, and it is that lack of curiosity that some broadcasters may not live to regret.
Written Oct. 17, 2010 in Advertising + Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
Until this week, I'd never gone to a radio station's half-off page.
It wasn't that I hadn't been asked. Half-off couponing is a big part of radio's Website and sales strategies these days, and is getting more on air-time accordingly. Listen to a station's Webstream and if you're lucky enough to hear anything other than hardsell PSAs inserted in the stopsets, it will likely be for the half-off page.
Half-off couponing seemed like a slight vehicle for so many of radio's hopes. But was that only because I had never looked? So I went to the half-off pages on our local stations. The exercise was complicated by the limited number of stations directly targeting Northern New Jersey, several of which (like our non-comm Jazz outlet or Christian AC) don't seem to do couponing at all.
The first station was a local AC outlet. I clicked through to the restaurant deal of the week. It was a new Mexican restaurant one town over from me. We'd actually been looking for a new Mexican restaurant. This one sounded worth trying. I didn't buy the coupon because it was $50 for a $100 certificate - more than we usually spend at a Mexican restaurant (and more than the mostly $25 for $50 deals I saw elsewhere).
An area Rock station's site had a neighborhood Italian restaurant an hour away. It also had a lot of retail that was too far away or not of interest. And for a Rock station, it also had a lot of day spas and nail salons and not many "guy" sponsors - there was one gaming option, however.
Another area AC station: There are a lot of Websites where the deals are probably too prominent, but here the deals require a lot of scrolling down the homepage. The restaurant deal comes from the same provider as the separately owned stations I'd already looked at. Another neighborhood Italian place that was too far out of range.
Finally, another Hot AC from about 45 minutes away: There were a bigger selection of deals here - comparable in variety (if not quite in depth) to a Val-Pak coupon mailer with the same sort of hit-or-miss ratio of things that you might actually use to things that weren't relevant at the moment. There were tubing passes and tuxedo rental. The one I would have used was the two-for-one certificate at a dry cleaner - if it had been in the area.
I also looked at the Websites of my New York P1 and P2 stations. One didn't seem to do couponing. One had a big cluster-wide program, but most of it was local restaurants and retail. There were some unusual offerings here: botox, plastic surgery, tattoos, and $500 worth of rent at a rent-an-office suite for $250. None of the cluster's many national and regional sponsors were represented, making me wonder if stations are only thinking of these deals as a way to sell something to the local retailer who can't afford a traditional campaign, or if larger advertisers have been asked and have no interest.
The good news here is that going through the coupons wasn't quite as overwhelming as, say, paging through an envelope full of Val-Pak where, even if some of the categories are of interest, it's easy to glaze over before you're halfway through. But, so far, the payoff ratio was lower. But I did get a new Mexican restaurant, maybe, out of it. And I will be telling them how I found them.
Written Sep. 28, 2010 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Tomorrow will see the first release of Edison's new American Youth Study: 2010, a look at the media and technology consumption habits of teens and young adults. The debut presentation of this project, which was sponsored by Radio-Info.com, will be at the NAB/RAB Radio Show in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, September 29th, but we'll be pulling nuggets from this study throughout the rest of this year. We've got some great new findings about how young Americans discover, consume and obtain new music, as well as some potentially surprising findings about social networking in this demographic, so do stay tuned.
One finding that has already been talked about is this datapoint about Pandora and other online radio listening among 12-24s:
These are some staggering figures - not only have 20% of 12-24 year-olds listened to Pandora in the past month, but 13% have done so in the past week - and this is nationally representative, projectable research data (see our methodology statement, below). While we have seen server-based metrics that have demonstrated Pandora's incredible growth over the past few years, this level of recalled listening amongst 12-24 year olds is truly a significant finding.
Yet, I can't help but be drawn to another, more subtle point from this graph. If you examine weekly online radio listening, you can't avoid the fact that more than twice as many young Americans have listened to Pandora lately than have listened to the online streams of terrestrial AM/FM stations. Equally significant, however, is the figure for listening to other (i.e., NOT Pandora) online-only radio streams, which among 12-24s is almost the same number as the AM/FM online number (5% vs. 6%).
Even taking Pandora out of the equation, the reach of online-only radio from services such as Slacker, Accuradio, Last.FM and others is nearly equivalent to the online reach of their tower-laden cousins. The "long tail" of independent online radio in other words, is nearly the same size as the dog in terms of reach. If you are an independent webcaster, this of course means that the youth market is as available to you as it is to terrestrial broadcasters. And if you are a terrestrial broadcaster, it's equally good news - with your production, programming and branding expertise applied to your own online-only efforts, these no longer need to be viewed as "side channels." They are channels, pure and simple - and are limited not by geography or Internet penetration, but by your imagination, and the size of your ambition.
Methodology: A total of 1,533 respondents were interviewed to investigate interest in, and consumption of, traditional and new media among American youth. From September 8 to September 13, 2010, interviews were conducted online with respondents age 12 to 34 chosen at random from a national sample of Knowledge Networks' "KnowledgePanel," an online panel that is representative of the entire U.S. population through its use of dual-frame sample recruitment and a known published sampling frame. Data from this year's study is tracked with the 2000 Edison Research study, "Radio's Future: Today's 12 to 24 Year-Olds," which was conducted via telephone.
Written Aug. 10, 2010 in Internet Radio + Mobile Media + Technology with 2 Comments
I don't claim to hear radio station processing like a Chief Engineer, but as the former PD of an R&B Oldies station in the mid-'90s, it was usually easy to tell when something was wrong. Our Motown hits, cut in the era of hard stereo separation, usually had something missing. On the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," the "all I want/all I need" bridge would be missing half of its call-and-response. Or Junior Walker would ask "what does it take?" and get a barely audible answer. Even if the Motown hits had been engineered for a mid-'60s AM transistor radio, everybody knew what those songs were supposed to sound like and they weren't supposed to feature The Jackson 3, The Two Tops, and Jr. Walker and the All-Star.
Fifteen years later, I'm hearing a lot of processing issues on radio station streams. I hear stations where the jock or stagers are at dramatically different levels from the music. Or where mid-'60s songs often lose half their content. If you have ever listened to a station at your desk at an office-appropriate level and not known that station was playing "My Girl" by the Temptations until the vocals came in, you know what I'm talking about.
Radio stations, of course, have other issues with their streaming. If your station is not subjecting me to 13 minutes of hardsell PSAs in the second half of the hour, and the otherwise-very-good radio station that prompted this post was not, then what's a few bars of intro between friends? (Even if it is one of the greatest intros of all time.) And we've only recently made the transition as an industry from barely allowing our PDs enough time to hear what goes out over their air to now holding them responsible for what's on the stream.
Listeners are not themselves audiophiles these days. They listen to MP3s through earbuds and hear your station stream through tiny speakers. It doesn't mean that something doesn't register as "wrong" to them when things are out of kilter. I also hear station streams with a lot of oomph, even under less-than-ideal circumstances. Part of the genius of the original Motown records is the famous quality control process that made them sound great on a '60s transistor radio. And part of the quality control process for radio today is making a station sound great on the transistor radio's 2010 equivalent.
Written Jul. 23, 2010 in Advertising + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
After more than three years of our railing against the hardsell PSAs, fill music, and even occasional silences that punctuate the Web-only stopsets of streaming radio, more people are finally starting to express similar concerns, as evidenced by last Saturday's Conclave session on station streaming.
Of course, as with the problem of programmers not listening to their own radio station on its terrestrial feed, knowing there's an issue and knowing what to do about it are two different things. You would think that with the work that some major groups have done in improving the creative of their sponsors that there would be some in-house resource for the streams. But until then, may we suggest . . .
It's still funny (to me, anyway). Creator Dick Orkin's skewed sense of humor is still all over radio, thanks to the ubiquitous Regional Help Wanted spots. And anything is better than a PSA reminding you that your kids are in mortal peril three times an hour on what was supposed to be your stress-free, refreshing at work choice.
Okay, now some equal time: At Conclave, I actually had somebody tell me that their mother had liked the ambient music that used to run as fill on KLOS Los Angeles. And a few weeks ago, I had a listener of a Gospel station in Atlanta e-mail me to ask where she could hunt down that rappin' Scruff McGruff PSA--having seemingly Googled one of my many jibes about it. But imagine how many calls the Great White-Winged Warrior would generate!
Written Jul. 9, 2010 in Internet Radio + Mobile Media + Music Industry + Terrestrial Radio with 2 Comments
My Edison colleague Tom Webster will probably find plenty of takers for his assertion that "the Internet as a medium is actually better suited to music discovery than radio anyway." And I don't disagree that radio could do a much better job of using its Websites to compete with YouTube, Vevo, and other music discovery choices.
But if I were radio, I wouldn't give up the on-air battle just yet. Even as an industry person with access to music, I still discover music all the time over-the-air. WXRK (92.3 Now) New York rushed Eminem & Rihanna's "Love The Way You Lie"--easily one of the most talked-about songs of the summer--on to the air before I got access to it anywhere else. Crosstown WRXP was the first place I heard OneEskimO's "Kandi," a song that I'm ashamed to say had been at arm's length on my desk for weeks.
And I still have a lot of over-the-air destinations for music discovery, particularly now that I have streaming radio on-the-go: Juice FM Liverpool and FM 107.9 Oxford, U.K., will play more songs that I haven't heard than their more recurrent UK Top 40 counterparts. Hungary's M2 Petofi is a reliable showcase for the hipper records that get European pop airplay but rarely make it to any U.S. radio besides the handful of true-Alternative outlets. Similarly, Tom Leykis' online indie rocker, New Normal Music, sold me at least four songs in the hour I listened last week.
On the Top 40 side, there are a handful of stations I can count on from KLJT (The Breeze) Tyler, Texas, to WKSE (Kiss FM) Buffalo, N.Y., that won't necessarily give me my first listen to a song, but will be the first place I hear it in a radio context and remember what it sounds like. Almost any European or Australian Oldies/Greatest Hits/Classic Hits station can send me looking for a song; so can a half hour with non-comm Oldies treasure trove WGVU-AM Grand Rapids, Mich.
Even though I earmark a few hours a week for catching up on music and searching it out, there's still something very different about having a song or two put in front of you in the context of other songs you already know and like. Those songs make more of a lasting impression--as opposed to plowing through a pile (or cyberpile) of unfamiliar product.
This morning, the new Usher single, "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love," went to radio. I did manage to find it posted online when I first heard about it a few weeks ago. Doesn't mean that hearing it on the radio this weekend will be anticlimactic. It's almost like the difference between watching the trailer and seeing the movie.
Again, I'm all in favor of radio offering something more robust than a handful of videos on its Website. But fighting for the music discovery image on-air would reinforce the value of anything you could offer on your Website (just as the Website could eventually bolster any on-air discovery claims). So what could radio do?
For starters, it could actually start talking about music discovery and recommendations instead of just "new music." As much as I've heard those terms bandied about, I don't hear it on the air in conjunction with new music. And I guarantee that for 90% of the people hearing the new Usher this weekend, radio can still credibly claim responsibility for discovery.
And, as has been previously suggested, it could also co-opt listeners and let them be the ones making recommendations on-air. If listeners are going to think they found everything first themselves anyway, using them in your new music stagers kind of allows radio and listeners to share the credit.
Finally, every so often, about the time a song goes No. 1, I'd put listeners on the air to talk about where they were when they heard the song on the radio for the first time. Many people never think of it in those terms like radio people do. But in August, when "California Gurls" is either officially set (or upset) as this year's summer song, there will be enough people who do have memories associated with it to get a great morning show bit.
Written Jul. 2, 2010 in Internet Radio + Marketing + Mobile Media with 0 Comments
It's only 2 p.m. on Friday, but it's already been a pretty good holiday weekend in terms of the number of format changes in significant markets: Clear Channel has flipped '90s Alternative WRXS Columbus, Ohio, to '90s-based Gen-X radio and Active KYRK New Orleans to Classic Rock as "The Brew." Univision has installed Latin Urban "La Kalle" at KRGT Las Vegas, in case you were wondering if that format had outlived the regggaeton boom. And Atlantic City gets a dance/rhythmic outlet this evening when WJSE Atlantic City, N.J., drops Alternative to become WWAC (Wild 102.7).
But three of the most publicized format changes of the weekend are not taking place on terrestrial radio. Early this morning, Buckley unveiled a New York-targeted Country stream, WOR Country (The Elephant); their announcement of the pending station prompted the owners of KKGO (Go Country 105) Los Angeles to launch a similar New York-targeted stream, due to arrive tomorrow morning. And Talk host Tom Leykis has launched Indie rocker New Normal Music--promising music from only the last 12 months.
So despite Leykis' protestations on New Normal's Website that his stream shouldn't be compared to anything as mundane as radio, it is interesting to see Webcasters (even those with connections to terrestrial radio) opting to launch on what has traditionally been radio's biggest format change holiday. Then again, part of what made July 4 such a big changeover date was the promotional opportunities it represented. So how long do we have before somebody flies a banner over the beach telling listeners to tune their smartphone to the new pureplay?
Written Jun. 30, 2010 in Internet Radio + Music Industry + Terrestrial Radio with 2 Comments
One of the recurring themes we have seen in our annual research series with Arbitron is the continuing erosion of radio's image for music discovery. Certainly, radio has ceded this territory to the Internet - but as tempting as it may be to dwell on the negative, the fact is that the Internet as a medium is actually better suited to music discovery than radio anyway. This isn't a knock on radio as much as it is a recognition that the various cognitive activities that music discovery and appreciation engages are best served by the combination of audio stimulus, search, context and serendipity that only the Internet can provide.
Still, while the Internet may have wrested this crown from radio, it isn't a zero-sum game. After all, radio stations have websites too, right? In fact, the interactive capabilities of the Internet give ambitious radio stations more (and more powerful) tools than ever to foster music discovery. Today, there is no better example of this than NPR's music initiatives. In recent weeks, NPR has released a number of new music initiatives, and commercial radio would do well to follow their lead.
NPR recently released an NPR Music app for the Apple iPhone/iPad ecosystem that basically packages up all of their original performances, interviews and other artist information that they already had sitting in the can. This app, however, is but a taste of the significant web presence NPR has built at their online portal for NPR Music. There was certainly a time when "NPR Music" might have conjured up images of classical, jazz or folk music, but one look at the NPR Music website tells you that their goals are a bit more ambitious than that. NPR's "Listener Top 10" reads like the playlist at a college radio station, and the post itself is designed to encourage interaction, debate and ultimately engagement.
Music discovery matters - it's what makes music radio important, instead of simply a utility. NPR has boldly stepped into what has been a vacuum for radio on the web and provided a glimpse of one possible future. What's your take?
Written May. 25, 2010 in Content + Internet Radio + Mobile Media + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
It was once a cliché, but it's rare to hear stations asking listeners to set a button for their station anymore. Perhaps some broadcasters (wrongly) consider it irrelevant in PPM world. Perhaps the constant crossplugs for their Web content, or encouragement to connect via Facebook and Twitter, is taking up all that on-air real estate.
But it can never be wrong to ask listeners for the order. (Or, for that matter, to thank them for their existing business.) Or to try and set or reinforce in-car radio listening as its challengers gear up against it. And one also can't help noting that one of the much-cited revelations of PPM is that people who were thought to listen to an average of three stations instead consume an average of six. In other words, about as many stations as they have on their top suite of punch buttons. So why not make sure you're one of those buttons?
When the Infinite Dial does come to every car radio, of course, how stations are found is going to be crucial. I've said for several years that unless broadcasters show some interest in helping design the directory, radio's future is in the hands of a relatively small number of aggregators whose personal taste in station recommendation clearly runs to pureplays, foreign stations, and exotica. Mobile listeners' current choices for streaming existing over-the-air brands are relatively involved directories or single-station apps. And one reason for Pandora's success must be that it offers both the multiple-station choice of the former and the ease-of-use of the latter.
So it's worth checking out Livio Radio's effort to bring the six-button model to mobile streaming with its new Car Internet Radio app. Much of it will look familiar if you've been using a stream aggregator app such as WonderRadio (my radio dial of choice for the last six months), but Livio's app is built to replicate the six button ergonomics of a car radio, as well as containing the rough equivalent of a scan button that gets you similar stations to what you're listening to.
You can see my full review of the Car Internet Radio app here. There were still a lot of early bugs, and I'm not ready to abandon my other apps until I have at least the two or three suites of buttons that I have on an existing car radio. But as an attempt to give radio the mobile ease of use of Pandora, it moves things in the right direction.
And, of course, it makes asking for the order that much more important, particularly for any listeners who are choosing not 18 stations from a market's available 40 or so, but six stations from an Infinite Dial. And it once again forces stations to offer something that will set them apart from scores of other jockless Bob- and Jack-FMs or from hundreds of Kiss FMs.
Written May. 5, 2010 in Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 2 Comments
We're very proud of the work we do here at Edison - not only for you, the radio industry, but also for our clients in politics, new/social media, consumer products and the many other industries we serve as a leader in opinion research. When you assume a leadership role, you take a few shots. It comes with the territory, and its generally unproductive to respond. In the odd case, however, these shots miss wide, and end up doing more collateral damage to our industry and our clients than they could ever do to us, and it is on those occasions that we are obligated to, at the very least, correct some inaccuracies.
In Mark Ramsey's post today, "My Internet Radio Stream Is Bigger Than Yours," we have one such shot, which appears to be directed at Edison, Arbitron, Jacobs Media, Inside Radio, Mary Beth Garber and the Southern California Broadcasters Association, and - ultimately - survey research, which is ironic, as Mark has at various times been a survey researcher. Do read Mark's piece - I encourage you to - but do also consider the flaws in his argument.
Mark's post was written as a refutation of this piece from Inside Radio:
Buzz aside, terrestrial webcast usage tops internet pureplays. A pair of recent studies shows that online radio listeners prefer pureplay internet radio stations over the streams of terrestrial stations. But unpublished results from Edison Research and Arbitron's 2010 Infinite Dial survey obtained by Inside Radio paint a different picture. The researchers found that 47% of Americans 12+ have listened to the stream of an AM/FM station, more than double the amount (22%) that have ever listened to "online audio from internet-only sources."As one of the co-authors of this study, I can assure you that we stand behind those results. Mark's argument is a bit abstruse, but essentially he challenges this data by noting that the "100% accountable statistics published by Ando Media...routinely show that the usage of Pandora outstrips the usage of terrestrial radio streams, even when you aggregate some of the top radio groups together."
We are big fans of the work Ando Media does and are certainly friends with many from their parent company, Triton Digital Media (who, in the interest of proper disclosure, are clients of Mark but not Edison clients). Mark is 100% correct in noting that Pandora is the clear leader in streams today; however, this is so far afield of the Edison/Arbitron finding that it isn't merely apples-to-oranges, it's essentially a non-sequitur on at least three levels:
1. What the Infinite Dial survey shows is that a little more than twice as many Americans have ever listened to streams from terrestrial stations as have listened to online-only streams. This is a measure of people, not streams.
2. Furthermore, the question cherry-picked for this comparison refers to persons having ever listened to internet radio. Surely over the past decade this is true--Pandora's success as a mainstream play has been a fairly recent phenomenon. Mark is comparing a recent monthly ranker to what could be for some a 15+ year history of listening to radio online.
3. Finally, Mark states that Pandora outstrips usage of terrestrial radio even when you aggregate some of the top radio groups together, and later in the article notes that there are as many tuned to Pandora as CBS and Clear Channel combined. Again, this is apples-to-oranges to our question. We did not ask a representative sample of Americans if they had ever listened to the streams of "some of the top radio groups" or "CBS and Clear Channel combined," but any terrestrial radio stream. This is compounded by the fact that while Ando measures much of online radio, they don't measure all of it. Again, we are measuring Americans, while webcast metrics measure streams.
Most troubling, however, is the tacit assault on survey research in general, which is what truly prompted me to write this response. In the service of his argument, Mark positions survey research against server research, but this is simplistic and, at best, an intellectual shortcut in an argument populated largely by straw men. Mark notes that the "competing" webcast metrics "are not estimates. These are not polls. These are not opinion surveys. These are not samples. These are accurate accountings of all stream usage among the pure plays and broadcasters who allow their usage data to be measured by Ando."
Webcast metrics do indeed measure things that survey research is not well-equipped to measure. Certainly, I'd trust a server-based accounting of streams and sessions six-ways-to-Sunday before I'd buy a survey on the same data. Measuring unique Americans, however, and gaining insight into why those Americans use Internet radio, is the purview of survey research, and to pit the two against each other is truly a false choice - they are not only highly complementary, they need each other to truly provide the full picture on media consumption, advertising effectiveness and what really rings the till. I have to believe that Mark, who again provided survey research for clients in the past, believes this as strongly as we do. Perhaps, however, Mark's breathless pronouncement that "Pandora...is redundant to nothing and complimentary [sic] to everything" belies the fact that his criticism is less a polemic against survey research, and more of an emotional assertion that in his mind the battle for ears online is already over.
Indeed, Mark ends his piece on this note: "if you want to be assured the online radio sky isn't falling, I'm sure I can find a blue sky survey somewhere out there." We are not in the business of 'blue sky surveys.' On the topic of Pandora, in fact, I wrote this piece last week, and I hope you'll agree that I'm far from a Pollyanna on the topic. There are plenty of wake-up calls for the broadcast industry in our most recent Infinite Dial research report, and I invite you to spend some time with it and feel free to ask us your questions - the hard ones, and the easy ones. For our part, we pledge to do more than just critique; we will continue to create content, resources, and, yes, research to help you create your future. Ultimately, you will be the ones to make the hard choices, and to execute moving forward. Mark is right that the "whose stream is bigger" argument is frivolous - so why have it?
Written Apr. 26, 2010 in Internet Radio + Social Networking with 3 Comments
In this year's edition of The Infinite Dial, our cross-platform study on radio's digital future, we noted three distinct factoids:Pandora is by far the most widely recalled brand in online radio
Facebook is by far the most popular social networking Web site
The Internet has nearly caught Radio for music discovery
Now mull those factoids over in light of what we recently learned from F8, Facebook's developer conference. Last week's series of announcements regarding Facebook's new Open Graph initiative will be talked about for years to come, but their impact upon radio will certainly be felt this year. The most important development as far as the Infinite Dial is concerned is Facebook's pending integration with Pandora. Essentially, Facebook has created a giant "like" button for the web, and is closing the loop on all the data associated with expressing preferences online.
Consider this: the next time you visit a website equipped with these tools and express an opinion, Facebook will capture this data, whether you are on Facebook or not. I wrote a few days ago on Social Media Today about just how sinister this development could be, especially in the hands of a company that has already stumbled several times on the issue of privacy, but lets set that aside for a moment, since you and I both know most Facebook users simply don't care (yet.) What is fast becoming true for Facebook users is that "searching" and "browsing" are being replaced by links from friends. Search engines are already preparing for the next generation of search - prioritizing links from your network - and Facebook has jump-started the process by making your friends' "likes" around the web part of their social graph, and your social data stream.
As the ReadWriteWeb piece I linked to above notes, if you are a site that is built around proprietary social tools, like Last.fm, you just got served. In other words, if your path to revenue was monetizing a social network around books, or music, or anything else, you are going to be faced with the prospect of forcing your users to "like" things twice (maintain profiles on your site as well as Facebook) which only the hard core fan would ever do. Facebook has made things easier for users, but a whole lot harder for competitors.
Now, if you are Pandora, and you aren't built around monetizing social interactions, you are in a position to essentially make a deal with the devil. Pandora hands over the reins of user suggestions to Facebook's Open Graph, and in exchange, when people share links on Facebook about songs or artists they like, those links are increasingly likely to be Pandora links. Facebook captures the data, Pandora captures the ears. And the more you integrate the two from a listener/user perspective, the easier the whole thing gets and the richer the experience. Again, setting aside the privacy implications, for most people this integration is going to be a good thing.
Take all of this together, and the future for online radio (both for terrestrial broadcasters AND for online-only streamers who are not part of this master plan) just got a little murkier. With the near-total commoditization of music online, playing music is essentially like trucking wheat. The only way to grow in that business is scale. Having already leapfrogged everyone else on mobile phones, Pandora is set once again to leapfrog its rivals by getting in bed with what is increasingly everyone's home page on the Internet. As shared links to "liked" songs become the new currency of music discovery online, Pandora and Facebook may have just done an end run around everyone in the online music space, and there probably isn't anything you can do about that.
I don't like ending a post here on such a down note, but I've noted several times in this space that jukeboxes - online or terrestrial - are a race to the bottom at this point. With the confluence of the web's most popular social networking site AND most popular online radio service, music discovery in America has reached another inflection point. For broadcasters of all stripes, the future will likely be increased (online) consolidation, cooperation with former rivals, and of course aligning yourselves with Facebook's own rivals (Google, for now). It also wouldn't hurt to accelerate your plans to load up those wheat trucks with something besides music...
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Written Apr. 13, 2010 in Content + Internet Radio + Mobile Media + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
Okay, I don't think anybody really wants to go back to April, 2009 -- a time of abject panic, sparsely-attended conventions, and daily downsizing in our business. But I thought it might be interesting to look at the headlines from The Infinite Dial a year ago with an eye toward radio's issues at the time and what kind of progress we've made, or haven't. Among the topics of the day:
* The "Second CHR" Boom -- THEN: We took a "First Listen" to WVHT (Hot 100.5) Norfolk, Va., one of many even-more-rhythmic-than-usual Mainstream CHRs popping up around the country. We also wrote in Ross On Radio about whether a second Top 40 had the ability to reclaim teen listening. NOW: The KAMP-FM (Amp 97) Los Angeles miracle didn't repeat itself for everybody who tried it. And while there's still no shortage of the rhythmic pop that fuels that kind of station, we've had another year of CHR hits that didn't sound like anybody's idea of a CHR hit; ("Hey Soul Sister" is the latest). And while broadcasters are hardly tripping over themselves to repatriate teens with any kind of music, much less the all-Owl City format, we do think it's interesting what's happening at KBKS (Kiss 106.1) Seattle.
* The Idol/TV Effect - THEN: We suggested a first single for Adam Lambert, the already polarizing breakout star of "American Idol," who was clearly headed for a recording career whatever the outcome of the show. We're not sure we chose better than "Whatya Want From Me," the current Pink-penned single that stopped just outside the top 10. But we certainly did better than the ill-fated first single, "For Your Entertainment." We also talked about the lack of airplay for then-Internet-phenomenon Susan Boyle, something that AC radio only briefly rectified at holiday time. NOW: In this less galvanizing Idol season, there are still people who would be fascinating to do A&R for (Michael, Crystal, Siobhan). This season's winner will still get a hearing from radio, although being an Idol is less of a sure thing than ever. And whether it's Boyle or "Glee," radio still hasn't found a good way to acknowledge the format-breaking music sent to it by TV. We'll see how they handle the return of "Glee" this week.
* The Loss Of Radio Jobs - THEN: A year ago, we commented on how many people were trading employers' e-mail addresses for membership in "G-Mail Nation." NOW: We've changed a few of those addresses back to work e-mails, but not enough. And there are still downsizings in the trade press daily, if not three or four each day.
* Changing Usage - THEN: A year ago, Edison's Tom Webster wrote about the 47% of respondents to Edison/Arbitron's just released "Infinite Dial" survey who said their cellphone had a big impact on their life, vs. 23% who cited the iPhone and 21% who named AM/FM radio. NOW: The cellphone number is 54%. The iPhone number has nearly doubled to 45%. Radio nudges from 21% to 22% in the brand new 2010 study.
Written Apr. 9, 2010 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
In the just released Arbitron/Edison Research Infinite Dial 2010 study, the Internet is rapidly closing the gap on radio as the place where people learn about new music, winnowing radio's lead to 39% to 31%. And among 12-to-34-year-olds, it's not even close, 52% to 32%.
Some will undoubtedly argue that anything radio can do now to recapture ground for music discovery will not be on its own airwaves, but on some last.fm-type play.Of course broadcasters need to engage on all platforms, but I'm not willing to concede the power of the over-the-airwaves shared discovery experience just yet. (And, oh yeah, if you oppose a performance royalty, conceding the music discovery function weakens radio's case for an exemption.)
So how could radio fight for the discovery franchise?
The most obvious one is that it could offer new music to more than one or two types of listeners. If you're a 16-year-old fan of the Rhythmic Pop that dominates Top 40, chances are that radio will still get to those songs in a relatively timely manner. If you're looking for the next "Say Hey (I Love You)" or "Hey Soul Sister," it might take its time to reach you. And if your tastes are toward the Alternative side, your new music is doled out a song or two an hour between "Lighting Crashes" and "Lithium." KBKS (Kiss 106.1) Seattle has built a new beachhead over the past two years playing more teen punk/emo than comparable CHRs and it seems to be working.
I'm also in favor of making the music director a star on the air. Every new song that goes on the station should sound like it was walked into the studio and set up by the MD (or PD, if that person is off-air and the MD isn't). Recommendations count these days and a person still counts more than a stager. And, hey, these days we're talking about that happening no more than once or twice a week anyway.
Or go a step further and have listeners introduce new music. The people who care enough to search out new music are the ones who want to evangelize for it with others. A 16-year-old make express indifference toward radio, but being able to reach tens of thousands of people with the song you thought you discovered is still pretty seductive. Deputize five listeners a week and play their picks off against each other (clips on the air, full song on the Web if you must).
We've also suggested making the whole music meeting process more transparent on your Website. Discuss every song you added and why. Discuss what you're still looking at. We've suggested this before and heard back from some programmers who say that they occasionally have a few listeners into the music meeting. It's not the same.
And this is probably a column unto itself, and does take us beyond the airwaves, but radio does need to have a strategy for dealing with YouTube as a new music destination. Radio Websites tease a new song (or album) or two at the time. Recently, I decided to use YouTube to listen to any new song that wasn't yet available to me on an industry Website or sampler; I was able to hear every song receiving 100 spins or more in every major format; (one or two of them had clearly been recorded off the air). Were radio to ever consider cutting a performance royalty deal with the labels, an ability to offer a more comprehensive new music library, including video, on station sites would have to be part of it.
Recently, a colleague was reflecting on WRXP New York morning man Matt Pinfield. "I was a huge '120 Minutes' fan," he told me. "I remember seeing 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' six months before it showed up anywhere else." Then he went on to tell me that he couldn't see somebody waxing nostalgic about discovering a song on-line. The shared experience was too much a part of it, he said. And a constantly evolving type of shared experience is one of the things radio can still offer for music discovery.
Written Apr. 6, 2010 in Internet Radio + Mobile Media with 0 Comments
Whatever radio's true long-term utility on the iPad may turn out to be, some respect is due to CBS Radio and their CBS Interactive Music Group, which did a great job of seizing the moment this weekend with the rollout of their iPad application, Radio.com including radio.com addresses for all their stations. Even acknowledging the greater utility of iPhone apps to more people at the moment, it still made a lot of other station sites look less plugged-in this weekend.
Written Mar. 18, 2010 in Content + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Last Friday, at the RAIN Summit North at Canadian Music Week, I was listening to a VP at Slacker talk about being sold out -- which means about four units an hour -- and thinking that he'd never be able to sell 12-14 minutes an hour. Then I realized that he'll never have to. I came away thinking that the notion of what constitutes an acceptable amount of commercials to sit through is going to change dramatically as FM music radio migrates its brands and products to other platforms -- just as it has changed a number of times in muisc radio's 55 year history. The Ross On Radio column I wrote about it may well be the most important thing I've ever written. Whether it will be the most influential, however, depends on whether broadcasters can stomach the enormity of what I'm suggesting.
Written Feb. 22, 2010 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 2 Comments
Over the last few weeks, I've been discussing the radio stations that have, thus far, gotten a "button" on the iPhone that I've been using over the past month or two as the world's most sophisticated transistor radio. This week, in time for Country Radio Seminar, it's Country radio's turn.
The same caveats apply here as to my Top 40 and Urban buttons. The choices reflect the ease with which I found stations through various streaming apps. If you're here, it doesn't mean I've had a chance to listen yet. If you're not here, it doesn't mean I don't like your station. It's more of a reflection on how easy your station is to set as a "favorite" in some cases. At least one station that would be on the list, KKGO (Go Country 105) Los Angeles doesn't have a working link in my stream aggregator app of preference; (the app's issue, not the station's fault).
Here are my Mainstream and Classic Country bookmarks, so far:
CFQX (QX104) Winnipeg
CHNK (Hank FM) Winnipeg
CISN Edmonton, Alb.
CIWM (NCI-FM) Winnipeg--the native Canadian/Country hybrid
CJJR (JR93.7) Vancouver, B.C.
CJXL (XL96) Moncton, N.B.
CKNX Wingham, Ont., (one of the few terrestrial Country outlets included in the Tun3R app, but oddly enough also a station that can occasionally be heard in Northern N.J.)
CKRY (Country 105) Calgary, Alb.
GotRadio.com Classic Country
KBEQ (Q104) Kansas City
KBWF (the Wolf) San Francisco
KEEY (K102) Minneapolis
KKNG Oklahoma City
KKUS (104.1 The Ranch) Tyler, Texas
KKWF (the Wolf) Seattle
KMPS-HD-2 Seattle (Classic Country)
KNCI Sacramento, Calif.
KOLZ Cheyenne, Wyo.
KPLX (The Wolf) Dallas
KSOP-FM Salt Lake City (but disappointed that the Classic Country AM doesn't stream)
KSUX Sioux City, Iowa
KTST (Twister Country) Oklahoma City
KUPL Portland, Ore.
KVET Austin, Texas
KWYY Casper, Wyo.
KXXY Oklahoma City
Pandora Contemporary Country (their own channel, as well as Mainstream and Attitude Country channels of my own creation)
RadioIO Classic Country
WBCT (B93) Grand Rapids, Mich.
WDRM Huntsville, Ala.
WIHY (I64) Milton, W Va.--syndicated Classic Country
WIRK West Palm Beach, Fla.
WLHK (Hank FM) Indianapolis
WOGI (Froggy 94.9) Pittsburgh
WOKO Burlington, Vt.
WQIK Jacksonville, Fla.
WQYK Tampa, Fla.
WUSN (US99) Chicago
WUUQ (Q97.3) Chattanooga, Tenn.
WWLG (the Legend) Atlanta
WWQM (Q106) Madison, Wis.
WYNK Baton Rouge, La.
Written Feb. 2, 2010 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 2 Comments
I'm sharing the stations that I've bookmarked now that I'm finally streaming mobile audio. Here's the R&B/Hip-Hop list. Ground rules are the same as Friday's Top 40 list -- no New York stations (they're on my car presets), and who I've chosen isn't necessarily a reflection of my favorites as much as the stations that were easiest to grab from the various aggregators, and stations that filled a need that wasn't necessarily satisfied by a local.
KBFM (Wild 104) McAllen/Brownsville, Texas
KFZX (Z105.9) Lafayette, La.
KHHT (Hot 92.3) Los Angeles
KHYL (V101.5) Sacramento, Calif.
KKDA-FM (K104) Dallas (and wish that KKDA-AM was available)
KMEL San Francisco
KRJO (OI' Skool 1680) Monroe, La.
Radio IO Classic R&B
Skyrock 96.0 Paris
WBHJ (95.7 Jamz) Birmingham, Ala.
WBTP (95.7 The Beat) Tampa, Fla.
WDKX Rochester, N.Y.
WERQ (92Q) Baltimore
WGVN (Groovin' 1580) Lexington, Ky.
WHHL (Hot 104.1) St. Louis
WIKS (Kiss 102) Greenville, N.C.
WJBT (93.3 The Beat) Jacksonville, Fla.
WJHM (102 Jamz) Orlando, Fla.
WJMH (102 Jamz) Greensboro, N.C.
WKKV (V100) Milwaukee
WPEG (Power 98) Charlotte, N.C.
WPGC Washington, D.C.
WPWX (Power 92) Chicago
WQUE (Q93) New Orleans
WRBO (Soul Classics 103.5) Memphis
WUSL (Power 99) Philadelphia
WVEE (V103) Atlanta
WWHT (Hot 107.9) Syracuse, N.Y., (Top 40 but effectively the market's R&B/Hip-Hop station)
WZMX (Hot 93.7) Hartford, Conn.
Written Jan. 29, 2010 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
As long as there's been The Infinite Dial, I've resisted the temptation to choose the stations that would comprise my ultimate radio dial. There were just too many potential landmines and sins of omission. Too many choices between what I would listen to and what I thought, in the abstract, I should listen to. In other words, it would be hard to choose between the perceived "best in category" and a station that filled a hole on my local dial.
But now that I have an iPhone (just in time, I realize, for the rest of the world to start talking about the iPad or at least the Nexus One), the stations that I chose as my "presets" are less of an abstraction. There are, of course, a boatload of them, far more than I've actually listened to in my month of iPhone ownership. And enough that even just listing them one format at a time, I risk making many of you glaze over. But the list is shared here to show you both the plethora of choices that your own listeners face and some of the biases that go in to choosing them.
Because so much of Top 40 here is owned by a handful of groups, it was easy to load up on Clear Channel stations in iHeart Radio or Entercom stations in Flycast or CBS Radio stations. There was definitely a lot of "oh, yeah, I should listen to them" at play here. The smaller guys can take some comfort in knowing they were really top of mind for me to search them out in my WunderRadio app. You'll also see a ton of Canadian stations here (again, I was looking for what I couldn't get from stations between New York and Philly).
But here's the Mainstream CHR list -- spread out across five aggregators (which is another reason why I certainly haven't listened to all of these equally) since last month. If your station isn't here, it doesn't mean I don't like it. (It also doesn't mean that I might not have listened on my desktop. And there are stations bookmarked on my desktop that I somehow never got around to here.) It just means that a station wasn't yanked off the shelf during my initial shopping spree of going through all my new apps for stations to bookmark. And not every inclusion consttutes an endorsement -- some are there because I needed to keep up with a market. But, for today, here's the list:
.977TheHits -- Figured it was time to check them out and they were, of course, easy to find/bookmark because of how most aggregators list them.
BBC Radio 1
Capital FM London
CFBT (the Beat) Vancouver
CFUL (Amp 90.3) Calgary
CHBN (the Bounce) Edmonton
CIHT (Hot 89.9) Ottawa
CJCH (the Bounce) Halifax, N.S.
CKMM (Hot 103) Winnipeg
Clear Channel's "Hit Nation" (essentially the Premium Choice Top 40 feed)
Fun Radio Paris
Goom Radio Just Hits
HKGFM.com's Top 40 format
KBFM (Wild 104) McAllen/Brownsville, Texas
KHKS (Kiss 106.1) Dallas
KIIS Los Angeles
KJLT (The Breeze) Tyler, Texas
KLSX (97.1 Amp Radio) Los Angeles
KLUC Las Vegas
KMVQ (Movin' 99.7) San Francisco
KPTT (95.7 The Party) Denver
Krone Hit Radio Austria
KZHT Salt Lake City
Mix Megapol Malmo, Sweden
Nova 96.9 Sydney, Australia
Pandora -- my Top 40 channel which was created 18 months ago and thus will forever be known as "I Kissed A Girl" radio!
WAKS (Kiss FM) Cleveland
WBZW (B94) Pittsburgh -- they hadn't yet announced a pending format change
WDCG (G105) Raleigh, N.C.
WDJQ (Q92) Canton, Ohio
WEZB (B97) New Orleans
WFBC-FM (B93.7) Greenville, S.C.
WIFC Wausau, Wis
WKFS (Kiss 107) Cincinnati
WKQI (Channel 95-5) Detroit
WKSE (Kiss 98.5) Buffalo, N.Y.
WMEG San Juan, P.R.
WSPK (K104.7) Poughkeepsee, N.Y.
WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) Boston
WVMV (98.7 Amp Radio) Detroit
WWHT (Hot 107.9) Syracuse, N.Y.
Written Jan. 10, 2010 in Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 10 Comments
The inexorable march of Pandora and other streaming services to auto dashboards has some pundits speculating that we've seen the end of "The DJ." ReadWriteWeb, for instance, reacted to Pioneer's new Pandora-enabled dashboard radio as more than just the death of Satellite radio, but the end of professionally curated music, period.
That online streaming radio will stick a fork in satellite-delivered radio is beyond debate. The survival of Sirius XM (especially post-Howard) is almost entirely dependent on their untethering themselves from those pricey birds in the sky, and getting their cost of doing business down to the level of their competition--which ranges from Pandora to Spotify and on down to some guy with a server in his garage.
The death of "the DJ," or to put it more broadly, professionally curated music, is another story entirely. While terrestrial broadcasters are, in fact, killing off DJ's left and right either through downsizing or simply eliminating live and local airshifts, the role of curation has never been more important, especially with the skull-drillingly vast array of music-as-commodity services available to music fans.
One thing the Internet has done has been to give artists themselves the ability to serve as curators to their communities. Spent anytime on the celebrity playlist section on the iTunes Music Store? I have, and I can tell you that it has driven hundreds of dollars of my music purchases.
Curators are important. I've written before here of my friend Chris MacDonald's venture Indiefeed, a wonderful "single-serve" podcast in various genres that showcases a single song per podcast as a music discovery service. Chris knows full well the value of curation, and goes beyond simply backselling artist and title to tell you why you should care about a song--its influences, backstory and place. With thousands of online streams doing little more than serve as faceless jukeboxes, adding value to both the music AND the experience is the only way to escape becoming a commodity. "Branding" is more than just a few audio jingles, and I suspect that even current streaming king Pandora will figure this out as the next generation of music discovery services starts to eat into their market share.
The insidious belief that has crept into the hearts and minds of many terrestrial radio executives is that professionally-programmed playlists are demonstrably superior to what the jukebox services can offer. This may or may not be true in various cases, but one thing is for sure--listeners will never grasp that distinction unless it is meaningful, and they are aware of it. New startups like Songza are certainly aware of the value of a professionally curated experience, and they are selling the fact that real humans choose their curated song lists. The only difference between what Songza is doing and what terrestrial radio stations are doing online is in their recognition of the value of playlists.
Playlists matter. Edison and other research companies have done scores of studies showing that finding out what has been played (or will be played) is one of the top three things listeners look for on radio station websites. Playlists are content. Furthermore, the word itself has immense power. One thing that Apple and iTunes have done in the 21st century is turn the word "Playlist" from radio industry wonkery to today's "mixtape." If I publish a list of the last 20 songs I heard on Pandora, that list may or may not have some meaning for some people. But if a recognized arbiter of taste, a curator, posts such a list--it instantly adds value not only to the individual songs, but to the selection and flow of those songs. Selector can never do this, as my super-smart Twitter pal Tom Barnes reminds me. Jocks do this--jocks that have built credibility and value as musical curators.
Music radio doesn't have to march its way into a commoditized future if broadcast leadership recognizes that even though the individual songs are commodities, the playlist is original, locally-owned content--and it has value directly proportionate to the equity the station has built in its music-focused personalities. You might be amazed at how much time visitors to your station's home page spend with super-sticky content like my friend Jeffrey Specter's TuneGenie. Jeff certainly knows--he sees the impressions, length of visit statistics and search queries for his online playlist discovery service. I've seen some of his aggregated data, and I can assure you that adding playlist discovery to a radio station's otherwise moribund homepage can have immense value. What Jeff has discovered is that not only is playlist discovery extraordinarily sticky content, it is also social content.
Services like TuneGenie are one of the keys to unlocking the value of the playlist as original content, but curation is the rest of the equation. Though sites like Mashable and ReadWriteWeb are fond of prognosticating the death of today's broadcast radio industry at the hands of web streamers, there is another possible future--a future in which radio stations and online-only streamers alike achieve technological parity in the distribution of their product, but differentiate themselves though the value they create in their music brand. Sorry, "Jack," but liners and drops won't do it in the 21st century. As Charlton Heston teaches us, it's people.
Written Jan. 6, 2010 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
I first saw a Pure Sensia radio on a trip to a client in the UK. While we have seen some kinds of versions of an Internet radio for at least a decade, this is the first I have seen to elegantly combine both 'Internet Radio' in any form with the touch-screen functionality of today's mobile phones and to leverage other Internet assets. With so many homes now having WiFi, this is an example of a well-thought-out radio that would truly make someone say: "Wow cool what's that" if they saw it in your living room.
The biggest problem in the short term is the price tag -- at $349 it is unlikely to find many customers, no matter how nice looking it is. That said, radio people should check it out for a vision of where our medium could go if those on the programming side started to also consider the hardware that is used to consume radio.
One can access the press release on the Pure Sensia here
Written Jan. 6, 2010 in Internet Radio with 13 Comments
Bridge Ratings just released some data relevant to Pandora fans that purports to show evidence that the popular online music service is showing signs of weakness. The study examined Pandora users of various stripes and segmented them by their tenure with the service, as follows:
The study concludes that "over time...the satisfaction level is affected by 'fatigue or boredom'" and that "the longer consumers use Pandora, fatigue and/or tedium sets in as users become accustomed to the programming 'style' of Pandora."
I worry about studies like this, because they tempt the broadcaster to lean back and say "look, see--Pandora's a fad." Nothing could be further from the truth, as Clear Channel, CBS and other webcasters can attest, since Pandora is cleaning their clocks right now online.
First of all, we don't really have a benchmark for these numbers. How would overall satisfaction look for your station over a three year period? Do you think it might show declines as the "halo" effects wear off? Of course it would. The only way these numbers have meaning is if we can see a comparison of "satisfaction over time" between terrestrial radio (or webcasts of terrestrial radio) and Pandora--you might find that Pandora's "eroding" satisfaction levels are actually better than you think. Or not--you can't tell from this data.
But the more sinister bias of this conclusion is that the longer you expose a body of listeners to Pandora, the more "bored" or dissatisfied they are likely to become. Unfortunately, that assumes facts not in evidence with this study. What we do see is that longtime listeners report greater levels of dissatisfaction with the service than do new listeners. Some of that, as noted, is certainly the halo effect of a new service. But it might also be that the people who have been listening to Pandora for three years or more are simply different people than Pandora's newest fans. Early adopters are also early rejecters (I know--I am one!) As Pandora becomes more and more mainstream, it's attracting more middle-of-the-bell-curve listeners, who will accept or reject the service using different criteria than Pandora's early fans. That isn't speculation--we see this very clearly in our tracking of Satellite radio satisfaction over time, and I have little reason to doubt that Pandora's user base is undergoing a similar shift.
There's nothing wrong with asking several hundred Pandora listeners how satisfied they are with the service, and with asking them how long they've been Pandora listeners. Those are perfectly legitimate data points to report. Where studies like this get into trouble, however, is in reporting some kind of longitudinal effect with a one-time data snapshot. The assumption made in this study's conclusion, which I've seen parroted all over the Interwebs, is that the longer you listen to Pandora, the more likely you are to migrate from "highly satisfied" to lower levels of satisfaction. But the only way to really prove that is to ask the same people the same question over time.
Remember--you could just as easily read this data to show that Pandora has recently uncovered new users that love its service even more than its early adopters did.
Written Nov. 9, 2009 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
Last week I attended the Internet Summit in Raleigh and heard something remarkable. John Kosner, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of ESPN Digital Media, was interviewed about some of the changes and decisions made in the process of creating the Internet's dominant cross-platform sports brand. He revealed that about a year ago they did some focus groups (remember those?) on their home page, and learned that their home page was too cluttered, too difficult to navigate and had far too much going on. As a result, they redesigned their home page to fit three principles: Easy to find, Easy to use, and Easy on the eyes.
As a direct result of this redesign, revenues for the site increased 35%.
That's 35%. In a very, very tough year.
Design matters. It isn't about making a pretty website. It's about removing the barriers on your site to what, exactly, you want your visitors to do when they get there. It's a subject I've addressed many times in this space, but nothing beats evidence from the cash register. The vast majority of radio station websites seem to want us to do everything at once, instead of welcoming visitors with something clean and inviting, then sorting out why they came and how we can help them.
Most of radio's digital initiatives have, to date, centered around driving people back to station home pages--but what exactly awaits them when they get there? If you could get your site visitors to do one thing when they landed on your home page, what would it be? How could you address that one thing in a redesign of your site?
To quote Steve Martin, if I could get two wishes this holiday season, the first would be for the stuff about world peace and the kids, but the second would be for the industry to stop building flashy, blinky eyeball bleeders like this, and imagine what design could be like if we first focused on them, not us.
Written Oct. 30, 2009 in HD Radio + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 1 Comment
Good to see CBS continuing to roll out its local stations as HD multicasts in other markets, including bringing Alternative KROQ to San Diego and Hot AC KSCF (Sophie 103.7) to Los Angeles. It's a strategy that we've been endorsing for more than two years. Great local brands are better, even in other markets, than a hastily assembled local product or a white-label generic with local stagers.
That said . . .
Sophie, for those who will now be able to hear it, fills a need in a market that never got a direct replacement for KYSR (Star 98.7) when that station segued from Modern AC to Alternative. So does bringing WFAN New York to expatriate or wintering sports fans in Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach.
KROQ, on the other hand, will be going against two local Alternative stations of relatively similar stripe. It will be interesting to see how that station's charisma stacks up against the also-world-famous XETRA-FM (91X) and KBZT on their own turf. And there are still CBS markets with no alternative station where KROQ would be welcome.
CBS, by the way, has done a great job of promoting its new Last FM Discover channel, which appears both on-line and on HD-2. To listen to any CBS station on-line (or view its Website) over the last few weeks has been to hear about Last FM Discover--another commendable alternative to the HD throwaways.
Written Oct. 21, 2009 in Internet Radio + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 5 Comments
I'm proud to work with Absolute Radio in the UK. Since taking over Virgin Radio in the UK just one year ago, the team at Absolute Radio, led by COO Clive Dickens, has launched an incredible array of digital initiatives which put to shame the efforts of most integrated, consolidated radio operators around the world.
Allow me to list just some of the things they are doing. And think about them in the context of providing unique, non-commodity experiences in exchange for signing up for a master Absolute VIP membership. This squarely puts Absolute in the database game with a whole host of revenue (and relationship) opportunities that may or may not have anything to do with "ratings."
- www.comparemyradio.com is a cross-station search engine that combs through the "now playing" metadata on all UK stations and returns information on what the most popular songs are and what the most played artists on each station are. It allows you to enter an artist or song, see how often it is played on various UK stations, so that you can pick a station that best suits your taste. The engine is "egalitarian" in that it includes both Absolute Radio stations and their competitors, and certainly has a user benefit -- but the really clever bit is that Absolute is capturing all of that search and click-through behavior, instead of their competitors getting it. Learn more from James Cridland's blog post.
- www.songofthedecade.com is a user-generated content site that allows visitors to vote for their favorite song from the past decade and contribute notes about the music. It's a unique joint venture with Spotify and Shortlist and the especially clever bit is that it captures email addresses in an entirely contextual and appropriate manner to drive Absolute VIP membership.
- www.dabbl.co.uk is a completely user-controlled radio experience that broadcasts online and on DAB. Again, it drives Absolute VIP membership by requiring sign-ups to vote for songs, with the added hook that all the songs are special live concert versions from the Absolute archives. Unique content, unique experience. Essentially, they have built their own version of the "Listener Driven Radio" or "Jelli" packages that are being syndicated, with the added benefit of unique content that simply cannot be matched.
- www.onegoldensquare.com/labs. They have developed their own internal development group called One Golden Square Labs. They likely have as many Web and Mobile developers for their one radio station as any American group employs. As with Google Labs, they allow users to see what they are up to, allowing users to act and feel like "insiders" while they experiment with the various new toys OGS is developing.
- Of course, they have a free iPhone app called the iAmp for live streaming, but they also offer a paid app (for about 99 cents) called LiveAmp which offers a richer gateway to live festivals, gigs and concerts by aggregating live videos of bands, interviews, photos of various festivals and even twitter feeds that mention musical acts. A calendar of upcoming shows is also integrated. Listeners can also stream the Absolute stations, but this app really aims to be the "home page" for the UK concertgoer. The iAmp Android app is also up and running with support for Nokia & Blackberry on the way.
- They have developed their own dynamic Podcast channel on the iTunes music store. This helps facilitate even more downloads and they are making podcasting a profitable business, while many American companies are still struggling to figure it all out. Absolute has over 750,000 downloads per month of their unique, non-music content, and it is growing at a fast clip. The new iTunes channel will likely accelerate downloads even more.
- They have 'open' playlist meetings for listeners and advertisers, humanizing the company with behind-the-scenes views of the stations. Tom Webster wrote about this over the summer, and it is an idea Absolute have truly taken to heart.
It's worth mentioning that virtually almost all of these efforts are profitable, or at least paid for. Most podcasts go out with a spot attached. Every site is ad supported. Partnerships abound.
These are just the efforts that have already gone public. A variety of other new approaches to relationship building and digital assets are in the pipeline.
Is Absolute Radio the most innovative radio station in the world? They are certainly the most innovative I've come across. Have other nominees for such a title? What are your nominees for the most innovative radio station in the world? Let us know in the comments!
Written Oct. 16, 2009 in Internet Radio + Social Networking with 2 Comments
Many people reading this know the hard way that it is genetically impossible to stop being a radio person just because you're not on the air at that moment or worse, not working.
So it should come as no surprise that John Lander, longtime morning host at WBMX (then-Mix 98.5) Boston and KKBQ (93Q) Houston is still doing a morning show . . . .on his Facebook page.
Looking at Lander's Facebook posts for the last three weeks, a handful are snapshots from his life, but there's also a lot of topical material and one-liners. And today, there's impossible trivia: "65% of women say theyhave to do this once per week, even though they don't want to."
I'm a big fan of John Lander as a morning man and a programmer. So I hope someone lets him do this on the radio again in the near future. But as we see smaller percentages of the audience using radio in the morning, it does make one wonder. If an increasing number of people are getting their services from the Internet -- news, sports, weather, entertainment news -- what would happen if the other rituals of the morning show could be codified into a few Tweets or Facebook postings?
Written Oct. 1, 2009 in Internet Radio + Podcasting + Terrestrial Radio with 10 Comments
Last week I attended the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia. Certainly, attendance was not what it used to be, but numbers alone don't tell the whole story. What was really missing, was you. You, the over-worked promotions director, sales manager, program director and/or air talent looking for an edge--a spark for an idea, a tip from a colleague, or even just a mental sorbet to help you reconnect and rediscover your passion for the medium.
You weren't there because you couldn't afford it, or your station wouldn't pay for you to go. You weren't there because you are spread across 5 stations, and couldn't leave the station in a crucial ratings month. You weren't there because there weren't enough sessions (or interesting enough sessions) for your particular discipline.
Next year, the NAB Radio Show is going to be in DC--an expensive city to visit. You probably won't be there, either, for various reasons, but maybe I'm wrong about that. You might be at The Conclave, or CRS--still fantastic events--but you won't be at R&R, or The Gavin or any of a number of "big events" that have faded out of existence.
Here's where you should be. Radio needs its own version of Podcamp. I've attended several Podcamp events (geared towards new media content producers) and they are refreshingly, fantastically user-oriented meetups with a low barrier to entry and a vibrant, democratic atmosphere. Though these events are regional, they are open to all (I've attended events like this across the country) and are entirely content-driven. Podcamps are "unconferences:" events without trade show booths, tchotchkes and T-Shirts, very low registration fees (sometimes free, in fact) and designed to have multiple local presences rather than one "national" event in order to encourage as much participation as possible.
The six "rules" of Podcamp (which govern whether or not you can use the term "Podcamp" in your own event) are integral to the spirit of these events, and a "RadioCamp" would do well to incorporate them:
1. All attendees must be treated equally. Everyone is a rockstar.
2. All content created must be released under a Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
3. All attendees must be allowed to participate. (subject to limitations of physical space, of course)
4. All sessions must obey the Law of 2 Feet - if you're not getting what you want out of the session, you can and should walk out and do something else. It's not like you have to get your money's worth!
5. The event must be new-media focused - blogging, podcasting, video on the net.
6. The financials of a PodCamp must be fully disclosed in an open ledger, except for any donor/sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous.
"RadioCamp" events could be held in multiple cities, encouraging radio employees of all stripes to come out and share what they have learned with their peers, and participate in the narrative of radio's future. Rule #1, above, is sacrosanct. Sessions are not comprised of windbags like me "presenting," or sales pitches, but rather sessions led by you, sharing what you have learned and asking questions of your fellow participants--sessions are co-created by leader and audience, and 45-minute PowerPoints are forbidden. ALL sessions are accepted, space permitting, and the law of two feet rules the day. Not getting what you hoped from a session? Get up and move to the next one without stigma.
Also take note of Rule 2, above--ALL content must be released under Creative Commons. Podcamps (and, hopefully, RadioCamps) are not walled gardens of information, restricted to attendees--they are the seed events for the dissemination of ideas. Flash photography is not only permitted, it's encouraged--along with videos, podcasts and blog coverage. Fred Jacobs detailed his mixed feelings about not allowing the content at the recent Jacobs Summit to be recorded, but if the cost barriers to such events can be all but eliminated, people will come even if all the content is later available. Besides, the value of RadioCamp wouldn't be in videos of presentations, it would be in participatory dialogue across all disciplines. What a great way to remove the ridiculous church-and-state barrier between programming and sales by providing both a low-cost, regional opportunity for both to share and connect!
What's more, a "RadioCamp" would be a great way for local new media content producers to meet and engage with their broadcast bretheren. Y'all have lots to teach each other, and since they aren't going to the NAB, this is a great way for you to trade experiences and network with other passionate creators of online audio and video.
RadioCamps all across the US would be organized by you (some advice can be found here), not the "suits," and would be designed to break even through a combination of discounted space (universities are good places to go), modest fees (think 25-50 bucks, or free if you can swing it) and sponsorships. You know who should sponsor these? Clear Channel, Cumulus, Citadel, CBS, et al. In light of the intense debates yet to come about localism, it would be a valiant gesture by these companies to support local radio efforts in an era when the vast percentage of "local" content comprises traffic and weather drops. Sponsoring a regional RadioCamp would cost a company--or a cluster--less than sending a few suits to a national conference, and could provide a collegial atmosphere for all employees to share, learn and reengage.
So, hopefully I've planted a seed. I love PodCamps, BarCamps and all of the many varieties of "unconference" I've been able to attend over the years, and would love to see that local, democratic spirit spread across the US for the benefit of the radio community. In fact, though I hope this article has planted a seed, I'll do more than that--I'll start locally myself. Who's up for a RadioCamp Raleigh/Atlanta?
Written Sep. 18, 2009 in Content + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Interesting article in the Los Angeles Times on non-comm KCRW and its fortunes in the PPM-era, which weren't that hard to predict in a world where hip brands don't always achieve PPM success and block programming has its issues as well. But the article also allows some interesting questions to be raised: Does KCRW's success as an international brand transcend petty ratings concerns in one market? Does its donor base? And if it's consistent 24/7 music you want, KCRW is now offering that, too.
Written Sep. 9, 2009 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Well, it's 090909, and The Beatles will be everywhere, thanks in part to today's release of the latest iteration of Rock Band and the remastered box set. I suspect you may have heard a little something about this. If you are like me, you can't help but be caught up in a little "Beatlemania" today." Fortuitously, the enterprising Kurt Hanson and his staff at AccuRadio have cooked up a number of special channels and features on their new Beatles Plus page. While writing this, I caught the remastered "All You Need Is Love" immediately followed by Molly Hatchet's cover of "Yesterday," which I didn't even know existed (sheltered life.) Kudos to Kurt, Paul, Michael and the AccuRadio team for striking while the iron is hot and providing a cool way to get your Beatles fix.
Written Sep. 9, 2009 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
A few weeks ago, we took a first listen to Kenny Chesney's No Shoes Radio. Since then, we've gotten at least two pieces of e-mail from them -- two more than we've gotten from some terrestrial stations' frequent listener clubs. Today's e-mail was offering a chance to win free Costa Del Sol sunglasses. The e-mail questionnaire that went with registration asked for e-mail, male/female, and cellphone. But it also asked two other questions:
* Are you a college student?
* Do you fish?
Written Sep. 8, 2009 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
Okay, two notes about the apparent legislation, passed a year or so ago, that every radio station homepage must be dominated by five rotating panels, thus ensuring that a station's major promotion may not be evident until the listener has spent at least a minute on the site.
1) If you are going to have five rotating panels, please make sure that you have five rotating panels' worth of stuff worth talking about, unlike the smaller player in a medium-sized market who I encountered this afternoon basically rotating five generic station billboards. Nothing screams "we have nothing going on at our station" like having the panels when you don't need them.
2) The rotating panels now contain most of the station concert announcements. Perhaps that's why when you Google "radio station concert," your top matches include New York's public radio WNYC, Greece's Orange 93.2, an article on the flooded WBCT (B93) Grand Rapids, Mich., concert, Christian KCMS (Spirit 105.3) Seattle, and the long-defunct KZLA Los Angeles.
Written Aug. 14, 2009 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
No Shoes Radio, the Kenny Chesney channel which launched Aug. 6, starts out with a few big things going for it. It's built around Country's No. 1 image artist of recent years. In Jon Anthony, it has a General Manager/Program Director with ample experience in both mainstream Country radio and on new platforms. It's the instant brand-driven franchise that many have always expected to thrive on the Web.
The music on No Shoes radio is about 60% music from Chesney, including live/alternate versions of his hits, with the balance coming from the most mass-appeal acts that represent the gateway to the more obscure Bonaroo/Jam Band world. What you won't hear is a lot of contemporary mainstream Country, effectively keeping Chesney out of potentially thorny direct competition with the format that supports him.
In its first days, No Shoes Radio was, according to press reports, broadcasting live Chesney concerts from his current tour as well as interviews with opening acts Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert, as well as an interview with producer Buddy Cannon. When monitored today in middays, it was continuous music and imaging, including a lot of fan drop-ins. And there's still not much happening on the homepage yet.
But Anthony notes that initial plans for live broadcasts from only a tour stops have been expanded to Webcasts from every city, beginning with Detroit next week. "We'll be broadcasting from early in the day from Hooters locations (one of our sponsors), then doing live stuff from either out near the venue gates or backstage (or both) later in the day." There will also be a live Chesney show from the Hard Rock NYC and maybe another show to follow. "And then after the tour stops, a few live cuts from the islands!"
And the musical franchise is undeniable: the sort of concept that probably couldn't live on the AM/FM dial in most individual markets, but could muster a respectable worldwide audience. It's almost the mainland version of the Hawaiian/reggae formats that do so well in that state, with a lot of the same utility as Smooth Jazz or a Chillout format -- if not the same music.
Here's No Shoes Radio at 2:15 p.m. today:
Michael Buble, "Sway"
Kenny Chesney, "Back Where I Come From"
311, "Love Song"
Kenny Chesney, "Everywhere We Go"
Steve Miller Band, "Jet Airliner (Acoustic)"
Kenny Chesney, "The Life"
Dave Matthews Band, "The Space Between"
Kenny Chesney, "Summertime"
Kenny Chesney, "Like Me"
Sarah McLachlan, "Blackbird"
Kenny Chesney, "Guitars, Tiki Bars, and a Whole Lotta Love"
Kenny Chesney, "Touchdown Tennessee"
The Band, "Up On Cripple Creek"
Kenny Chesney, "Better As A Memory"
Kenny Chesney & Willie Nelson, "That Lucky Old Sun"
Charlie Robison, "El Centro Place"
Kenny Chesney, "A Lot of Things DIfferent"
Bob Dylan, "Like A Rolling Stone"
Kenny Chesney, "Marina Del Ray"
Keith Urban, "Wichita Lineman"
Written Aug. 12, 2009 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 4 Comments
UK-based Absolute Radio (who we're proud to work with) is teaming up with 20th Century Fox and Spotify to help promote an upcoming movie using a co-branded microsite where listeners can upload playlists of their favorite romantic (or breakup) songs. This is a win for all involved, and not just because it represents another online revenue success story for a radio client. If you haven't yet heard of Spotify (which has yet to launch in the US,) you soon will--as Jennifer Lane notes, they are well-funded and well-placed to occupy a potentially gigantic spot in the online music space.
Spotify's premise is to provide listeners with on-demand streaming of individual songs and playlists--essentially, to be able to listen to pretty much any song you want, whenever you want it. As broadband becomes essentially the next FM, technology has finally reduced the friction in this space to nil, and Spotify's overall user/listener experience is fantastic. Though you can't yet use Spotify in the States until their licensing is sorted out, where there's a will, there's a way.
Setting aside Fox and ShortList (who are also part of this promotion,) the collaboration between Spotify and Absolute is not only beneficial for both parties, it is a glimpse into how music radio--online and off--can continue to remain relevant in a world where ubiquitous, free music is a commodity. Certainly Spotify gets another promotional crack at a mainstream audience (this is their second big movie sponsorship) as they continue to position themselves abroad as a potentially dominant player in online music. Absolute, on the other hand, benefits from the association with Spotify and exposes their personalities (DJ's Christian O'Connell, Geoff Lloyd and Jo Russell will be involved) to Spotify's user base. The movie itself ('(500) Days Of Summer') is likely to be a big hit as well, which doesn't hurt. But what really excites me about this collaboration is the emphasis on the playlist--sharing, swapping, creating and adding value to user-generated playlists AND radio station-developed content.
We've got nearly 10 years' worth of research (beginning with Edison's groundbreaking Web Content Study from back in 2000) that clearly states what listeners are looking for from a radio station website. The number one answer, then as now: playlists. Listeners want to know the artist and title of not only what just played, but what has been played over the past hour, day or week. The playlist is the real 'content' of a music station--the carefully balanced, crafted and selected sequence of songs designed to fit a mood or fulfill a brand promise. And radio does this sort of thing very well.
Spotify allows listeners to create and share playlists, which puts it in the enviable position of being the next 'mixtape' for a generation of music fans. But Spotify has the same problem so many other online music sites have (which I wrote about elsewhere): when free music online is a ubiquitous commodity, it is essentially valueless on its own. Spotify, like Pandora, Imeem, Last.FM and others, has built a novel way to truck wheat. Unless that commodity is packaged in such a way as to add more than the intrinsic value of a clump of songs (that is to say, zero value) then they will not be able to command the premium advertising and subscription rates they will need to recoup their investment and become a going concern.
The answer is to add value to the playlist and package it in a way that is truly meaningful to a listener. There are two ways to do this--add context, and add curation. The Absolute/Spotify collaboration does both, by allowing listeners to share stories associated with their playlists AND by having the Absolute DJ's submit their own hand-crafted lists of the best relationship songs. One great song after another is simply not enough to stand out as a distinct offering--but having a talented personality like Absolute's Christian O'Connell give you a well-designed playlist, and the meaningful story behind it--well, that's been the stuff of compelling music radio for almost 50 years.
So, on the one hand, Absolute gets to link itself to another rising star in the online space, but on the other, gets the opportunity to demonstrate the real value of its offering, skill and personalities to become a real differentiator for their sponsors, for Spotify, and most importantly themselves.
Written Aug. 12, 2009 in Content + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
The entertainment-industry-based All-News format at KFWB Los Angeles lasted all of four months before the station announced a pending switch to a more talk-driven lineup, hastened apparently by the availability of Dr. Laura. Even before the change was announced, however, Variety's Brian Lowry slagged the station's entertainment coverage as skin deep, at best, in a story called "Why Exactly Would Hollywood Listen To KFWB?"
Lowry's not exactly an impartial observer, of course. KFWB was, in theory, a direct competitor to Variety, which has the same issues as all print publications these days. Variety's once-massive Cannes issue is only about as thick with advertising as a regular issue used to be, while a regular issue is a lot thinner these days. Like other print publications, it has moved from reporting news to recap and analysis. Only about a week ago did it devote a front cover to radio's performance royalty issues, with content that would be mostly familiar to anybody who was already following that story. KFWB, if potent, would have been a threat.
That said, it was also our early take on the format that it wasn't yet rich in scoop, particularly in a world where entertainment news (if not industry news) is everywhere. Like the equally short-lived Blink 102.7 incarnation of WNEW New York, it was a more than valid idea that required too much heavy lifting, particularly when there's established talk content available elsewhere. And any station that doesn't already have an all-News infrastructure, as KFWB did, is really going to have a hard time doing this format.
But this format certainly seems like something that should exist on-line. If the smartphone is going to be the new car radio, it will certainly happen in the entertainment industry sooner -- assuming the heavies aren't too busy making deals on that phone. So is it time for Variety's own entertainment "radio" format?
Written Aug. 5, 2009 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
Here's something I haven't checked up on in a while -- what do you get when you search for "Internet Radio"?
Type the words "internet radio" into Google and the winner is Pandora (it comes up first) followed by Live365, Shoutcast, Yahoo, then AOL Radio. Rounding out the first page is Slacker, then Jango, then Radio-Locator, Sirius, and finally Windows Media Guide. Sponsored links seem to be taken by public radio stations (!) and NPR. Hmmm...what do they know that commercial radio seems not to know?
Adding the word "Stations" to the search only changes things a little -- radiotower.com and radio paradise join the front page.
Even more interesting is to narrow the search to a city. I picked Los Angeles. Type "internet radio los angeles" into Google and this interesting site comes out on top (note that it is just a pointer site that doesn't point to any commercial stations.) Kudos to market stalwart KABC-AM, which is the only commercial player to make the front page -- in the bottom slot. Of course KABC is beaten out by several public radio stations -- who just seem to have the "SEO" (search engine optimization) thing worked out so much better than anyone in commercial radio can seem to do.
Finally, typing "Internet Radio" into the updated Bing search engine from Microsoft shows no connection to commercial radio, if one excepts AOL radio being 'Powered by CBS Radio". Bing takes the search off into other interesting directions, including reviews of actual 'internet radios'. It is worth checking out the differences.
A point made many times on this blog - no one is going to listen your online station if they can't find your stream. And no one is going to find your stream by accident unless Google or Bing finds it. Contact me if you would like more information on what you have to do to get your station higher in Google and Bing searches.
Written Jul. 24, 2009 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
I was on the Website for an Active Rock station in a small midwest market this morning. Suddenly, the banner ad changed and there was an ad for a Latin music concert. At first I thought it was a local show in that market --which has a considerable Hispanic population, and where there used to be a Latin station in this same cluster. Then I realized it was for a New York area show, co-sponsored by Univision's WQBU and WADO.
Individually targeted ads are a fact of life on the Web, of course. Sometimes they can get a little creepy (e.g., sending a condolence note on Gmail and having an ad for a florist materialize). But even if you're used to customized ads, seeing a New York-targeted ad on a station site 2,000 miles away is still a violation of expectations. (If I wanted a New York experience, I would have gone to a local station, right?) And, like the florist ad, it's a more overt reminder that you are being directly targeted.
Written Jul. 22, 2009 in Content + Internet Radio + Social Networking with 2 Comments
It's not quite as much of a bug-a-boo of mine as bad PSAs, but I've often found stations' on-line experiences to be diminished by those stations that have not yet found a way to keep their internal jock notes from showing up in the "now playing" area of their streaming media player. While I personally enjoy knowing that I'm hearing "slow to fast jingle 7" between the songs, it's a little like spotting the boom hanging down at the top of a movie frame. It gives the impression of a station not entirely in control of its content. And I just know that one day I'm going to see some jock note like, "Only take female contest winners" make it to the Web.
So I have to commend Hot AC/Classic Hits-hybrid KRXY (Roxy 94.5) Olympia, Wash., a favorite station of mine which is streaming again after the best part of a decade. Roxy did something so simple that I'm surprised that I haven't seen it anywhere else. When they played their lunchtime "speedy CD" song, the "now playing" display both showed the correct answer and gave the winner's name and town.
So if a station has somebody (likely the jock) making sure the correct winner name gets posted on the Web, what else could stations do in real time with the media player? We're already training our jocks to provide a steady stream of Tweets and Facebook postings through their shift. And we know that listeners appreciate the "now playing" window. And we're trying to teach listeners to watch the player during our streaming stopsets to click through to advertisers.
So why not provide extra real-time content? Song and contest teasers? More facts about the music? An apology for the lame PSA now playing on the Webstream? (Sorry.) Plugs for other cool things on the Website. Many listeners have something better to do with their time than watch the media player at work. Then again, many clearly don't. And like those Tweets or Facebook postings, it's a place for the kind of humor that some (but not all) of us miss hearing on the air.
Written Jul. 10, 2009 in Content + Internet Radio with 1 Comment
Amidst the many Michael Jackson-related conversations of recent weeks, it was suggested to me that Jackson's '80s superstardom was as much a reflection on Michael as a phenomenal performer and media personality as the records themselves, some of which just seemed ordinary now. And I'll give you that for a few of them. If "Human Nature" had been by, say, James Ingram, it would be as long gone from the radio as, well, "Baby Come To Me" or most of the other MOR R&B ballads of that era. Similarly, if "She's Trouble" had made the cut for "Thriller," as hoped, it might still be on Jammin' Oldies stations today. Instead, it's an obscure MJ sound-alike, the kickoff single from the second album by Musical Youth ("Pass The Dutchie"), a band that you probably never knew had a second album.
But in many other instances, the magic was in the music. The Jackson 5 are widely acknowledged as the last triumph of the Motown studio machine and Jackson's later production mentors are Quincy Jones and Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff. These are guys who had many serendipitous moments, but never did anything by accident. But what exactly is special about the songs? For that, we turned to our musicologist friends at Pandora. Here's how they characterize the songs that played on our Michael Jackson Radio station. And certain formulas definitely emerge.
* "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough": "Disco influences, flat out funky grooves, subtle use of vocal harmony, repetitive melodic phrasing, extensive vamping."
* "The Way You Make Me Feel": "Heavy melodic ornamentation, call and answer vocal harmony (antiphony), repetitive melodic phrasing, extensive vamping, busy horn section."
*"Rock With You," a song that we were told "exemplifies the style of Michael Jackson": "Disco grooves, subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, call and answer vocal harmonies, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation."
* "Dirty Diana": "Pop-rock qualities, mild rhythmic syncopation, repetitive melodic phrasing, extensive vamping, demanding instrumental part wrting."
* "ABC" by the Jackson 5: "Classic soul qualities, flat out funky grooves, call and answer vocal harmony, acoustic rhyth piano, intricate melodic phrasing."
* "Wanna Be Starting Something": Pop-rock qualities, electronica influences, R&B influences, gospel influences, disco influences."
* "Torture" by the Jacksons, which got heavy airplay during the Jacksonmania of 1984, but wasn't an enduring hit: "Repetitive melodic phrasing, extensive vamping, intricate melodic phrasing, clear focus on recording studio production, synthetic sonority."
*"Thriller": "Disco influences, flat out funky grooves, repetitive melodic phrasing, extensive vamping, demanding instrumental part writing."
* "Bad": "Heavy melodic ornamentation, call and answer vocal harmony, repetitive melodic phrasing, extensive vamping, clear focus on recording studio production."
You would think, by the way, that as a thinly veiled rewrite of "Thriller" that the "Bad" description would be almost the same, but it only shares two elements (repetitive melodic phrasing and that darn vamping) that also characterize a lot of the songs.
What you see here is a mix of studio precision ("demanding instrumental part writing," "clear focus on recording studio production"), songwriter calculation ("repetitive melodic phrasing") and holdover elements from the classic soul era that was fading as the J5's star rose. That "vamping" that the musicologists find in so many MJ/J5 hits was one of Michael's many tributes to James Brown, who so effectively and repeatedly riffed on certain elements that it's no surprise that one of his biggest records is called "Doin' It To Death." But Jackson codified that sound for the pop audience that knew only a few of Brown's many R&B hits.
One can in no way say that Jackson's success was all about the music, any more than the end of his hit streak was just because he wasn't doing his best work anymore. But the music was certainly the calling card. It was the phenomenal radio success of "Billie Jean" that forced MTV to show that video where the sidewalk lights up. The moonwalking of the Motown 25th anniversary special was just rocket fuel at that point.
Written Jun. 16, 2009 in Internet Radio + Social Networking + Technology with 6 Comments
Earlier today, Norway-based Opera released a preview version of Opera Unite, which incorporates innovative new technology into the latest version of their eponymous web browser software. After playing around with it a bit today I've come away quite impressed--especially by its potential as a interface to media.
Opera Unite basically connects browsers to browsers without using client-server technology. In other words, if I want to access media on one computer from another, as long as they are both running Opera Unite they are connected without any intermediary or third-party server. While these sorts of connections have been possible before, they haven't been built into the browser, and haven't been very easy to use. The promise of Opera Unite is that, one day very soon, my parents could fire up their browser and look at new pictures of their grandson on my machine without needing IT support or using yet another login at yet another third-party file/photo sharing site.
For the purposes of this space, the real paradigm shift lies with Opera Unite's media technology, which lets me play music from my home computer on my Macbook Pro using only a web browser--and also lets my friends do the same. OK, that's not revolutionary--but that isn't the end of the vision. Imagine, as Opera's Lawrence Eng has, that I could play a song on my browser, and all my friends could hear it at the same time while browsing the web. Then imagine that Opera Unite Jukebox, as Eng paints it, allows me to put 10 songs into a "queue," and 9 of my friends to do the same. What we've just created is a true, participatory radio station--the ultimate manifestation of bringing your CDs over to a friend's house and having a listening party. Throw in the ability to vote for/rank songs and comment, and you have the radio station of tomorrow.
The trick here for broadcasters of today is not to "beat" this--you can't beat personalized radio--it's to join this. The best way to join is to be one of those 9 friends. As I've written in this space before, social networking connects people with other people, not stations or brands. If you are a music station, the time is now to brand or re-brand your air talent as credible arbiters of musical taste. The fleeting, short-term rewards of the PPM jukebox aside, you cannot out-jukebox the Internet. It's time to find the voices in your community that are knowledgeable and influential on music and give them a platform--regardless of their "jock skills"--and reclaim radio's place as an important platform for music discovery. These voices don't necessarily have to be local--my first "arbiter of taste" was Rock Over London's Graham Dene--but they have to be real people with the freedom to take chances and open the mic again.
Today, when I want to learn about new electronic music, I ask my friend Mike. When I want to learn about new Indie rock, I connect with my friend Chris MacDonald at IndieFeed. These two have earned their place on my Opera Unite Jukebox because I trust them to steer me to the good stuff. Music broadcasters need to stop worrying about the short-term vagaries of PPM and start finding the folks like Mike and Chris in their market who can speak authoritatively about a genre and make informed recommendations to an audience the likes of which no algorithm or database has yet to touch. For music broadcasting to survive, it can't continue to "install formats." Radio has to fundamentally rethink how it connects with listeners, and how it can serve as the intermediary between listeners and advertisers. People will never connect with jukeboxes.
Written Jun. 11, 2009 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
The heavily publicized revival of a terrestrial brand on the Internet yesterday was CBS' on-line relaunch of alternative WHFS Washington, D.C. But smaller market brands continue to return on the Web as well. As they should: some heritage smaler market stations kept their purchase on the market's affections for much longer than their big city counterparts.
The latest to return is KKRD-IR Wichita, Kan., a '90s and now Hot AC using the heritage calls eventually swapped out by Clear Channel in favor of KZCH. Kansas.com reports that the station is the brainchild of Matt Johnson, described there as the owner of a local karaoke service. So not only does the new KKRD-IR have pro-sounding jingles, drops and weather (but no jocks in the stretch I heard), it also has sponsors -- four bars and restaurants in the stopset I heard.
While the test of a station like this is often maintaining it, it's a well-realized effort so far. Here's an hour of the station starting at 10:45 a.m. today:
David Cook, "Come Back To Me"
Expose, "I'll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me"
Theory of a Deadman, "Not Meant To Be"
Wallflowers, "One Headline"
Gavin Rossdale, "Love Remains the Same"
Kevin Rudolph, "Let It Rock"
Rob Thomas, "Her Diamonds"
Selena, "I Could Fall In Love"
All-American Rejects, "The WInd Blows"
Pink, "Who Knew"
Billy Joel, "The River of Dreams"
Kelly Clarkson, "My Life Would Suck Without You"
Coldplay, "Life In Technicolor II"
Daughtry, "Feels Like The First Time"
Jason Mraz, "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)"
Dave Matthews Band, "Funny The Way It Is"
The Fray, "You Found Me"
Sister Hazel, "All For You"
Written May. 26, 2009 in Content + Internet Radio with 1 Comment
More than a year ago, we used the HD-2/Webradio launch of CBS' "new" WNEW-FM as an occasion to ask what other "throwback stations" our readers might enjoy. The more than 50 suggestions were mostly legendary major-market stations -- WLS and WCFL Chicago, WRKO and WBCN Boston, WFIL Philadelphia, KVIL Dallas, KDAY Los Angeles -- with a few cult faves like Long Island's WLIR thrown in. Only a few medium-market stations made it through, mostly big-signal AMs like WLAC Nashville, KAAY Little Rock, Ark., WTIX New Orleans, and WAPE Jacksonville, Fla.
But somebody has been carrying the torch for WKZQ Myrtle Beach, S.C., in its '70s and '80s incarnation. Thus the recent launch of QRockRadio.com, a broad-playlist '70s/'80s Classic Hits outlet meant to recall the station (now a Modern Rock outlet) in that era. Unlike a lot of the Internet radio stations of like intent, "Q-Rock Radio" has been hosted (on the two occasions we listened), has jingles, and is doing a more fully realized job than many of trying to sound like a real station that just happens to be on-line.
I've listened to Q-Rock twice now. (Market veteran The Freakin' Deacon is on the air as I speak and sending shout-outs to Newport News, Va., which had its own "Q-Rock" [WQRK] in the '70s.) At times, it sounds like one of those radio reunion weekends with everybody still getting their bearings again. Then again, so did WCBS-FM New York for its first few weeks back on the air. It's a project of definite merit. And for the many mourners of the seemingly unrelated KKSF San Francisco, it's proof that no heritage station's legacy need languish indefinitely on The Infinite Dial.
Here's Q-Rock at 11:40 this morning:
James Brown, "Living In America"
O'Jays, "I Love Music"
Abba, "Dancing Queen"
Michael Jackson, "Human Nature"
Badfinger, "Baby Blue"
Blues Image, "Ride Captain RIde"
Archie Bell & Drells, "Tighten Up"
Culture Club, "Karma Chameleon"
Grand Funk Railroad, "Bad Time"
Madonna, "Who's That Girl"
Bee Gees, "Jive Talkin'"
Olivia Newton-John, "Physical"
Molly Hatchet, "Dreams I'll Never See"
Joni Mitchell, "Help Me"
Barry Manilow, "It's A Miracle"
Written Apr. 22, 2009 in Content + Internet Radio with 4 Comments
I just got back from speaking at the RAIN Internet Radio Summit in Las Vegas, and have to say that Kurt, Paul and Jennifer really did a great job putting together an exciting, content-rich program on the future of online radio. Highlights for me included David Goodman's update on all of the digital irons CBS has in the fire right now (and the enormous amount of content they are serving) and Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy's inspirational talk on entrepreneurship and seeing opportunities.
I was there to open the day with my usual bucket o' numbers, in this case some very good news for webcasters in the form of significantly increased weekly usage numbers for online radio as well as some eye opening numbers on social networking (you can see for yourself--download the complete Edison/Arbitron Infinite Dial 2009 Report here.) For the most part, the day was a celebration of how far online radio has come, and a compelling glimpse of where it can (and must) go in the future, capped off by Kurt Hanson's rapid fire, Pecha Kucha take on the state of the industry.
As I reflected on the summit during my long flight back to Tarheel country, I was struck most by a question one attendee asked at the end of the day that received some remarkably inadequate responses from the panel that fielded it. The question sounds innocent enough: "What are your companies doing to create new content suitable for digital formats?" The answers, however, generally danced around web site features designed to allow listeners to interact with each other, learn more about artists/songs, and other applications that are really just metadata, not original content.
Radio, and especially music radio, have to take this question a lot more seriously in the near term if the industry is to have a digital future. It is not enough to simply package up metadata and call it online content--a lot of other non-radio websites already beat you to it. This is serious. There are a quadrillion sites that suck data from an API and spit it back out again--but there aren't that many sites creating the unique, original web content that this metadata wraps around. Radio has to be in the content creation business, not the "value-added metadata" business. Repurposing on-air content is a start, but is only step one out of a hundred. As Pandora's Joe Kennedy succinctly put it during the summit, online radio is a unicast, one-to-one format, not a broadcast medium. Repurposing broadcast content is table stakes, but to raise the ante radio needs to get serious about creating new, original web content that they own (and don't have to pay SoundExchange for). This means audio content, yes--but also video content and...my favorite...text content (which is the ONLY way radio can compete in the local search game).
Original content designed from the ground up for a unicast medium will be radio's strategic moat in the future. Metadata content can be mimicked and even radically improved by a guy in a garage. Radio has to think bigger about its online future--we should and must create tools that allow listeners the ability to share, comment on and remix content, but so can the rest of the world. The key is to make the original stuff first, then give those tools away to others. Only then will radio own its future.
Written Apr. 17, 2009 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
According to the newly released Edison Research/Arbitron study, "The Infinite Dial 2009: Radio's Digital Platforms," the percentage of respondents saying that they listened to online radio in the last week has increased from 13% to 17% -- approximately 42 million listeners -- over the last year. That's the biggest jump since 2006 when that number went 8% - 12%.
If one had to venture a guess as to why online radio would post its biggest gain over the last 12 months, you would have to include:
* The buzz that the iPhone and its attendant apps created -- even beyond those respondents who actually own an iPhone -- on Pandora and other online radio;
* The online rado initiatives by Clear Channel, CBS and others -- e.g., Clear Channel using outdoor advertising to promote its iHeartRadio. 32% of respondents said that they discovered the station they listen to most on-line from hearing it talked about on the air (followed by 28% friends' recommendations);
* The relatively stable availability of station streams in 2008, at least before Renda stations and WBEB (B101) Philadelphia pulled their streams. There weren't a lot of major radio brands that weren't streaming last year.
* The dominance of broadband (82% of respondents now have it);
* Perhaps, the explosion in the streaming video audience -- 18% to 27% last year.
Broadcasters can take just a moment to feel good about the 13-17% jump last year. The now-constant crossplugs for a station's stream and Web content are easy to parody, but they're paying off more than the high-annoyance/low-yield HDRadio spots. Okay, that moment is now up. And now we've got to ask...
* How can radio streams match the excitement about streaming video, and further ride that rising tide, if that is what indeed happened?
* With peer recommendations as the No. 2 way stations are discovered, is it time to bring back an old favorite contest -- "tell a friend"?
* Would the relatively low "discovered the stream through an Internet search engine" be higher if stations were doing a better job of SEO and working their stations to stream aggregators?
Written Apr. 17, 2009 in Internet Radio + Social Networking with 0 Comments
...is not enough. Certainly, many broadcasters should already know this, but one of the slides we presented in yesterday's Infinite Dial presentation underlines this observation pretty clearly:
What this slide shows us is the percentage of Americans who own/use each listed device or platform who say that this device/platform has had a "big impact" on their lives (4 or 5 on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being "no impact.") The big, obvious takeaway here is the 47% of mobile phone owners who say that these devices have had a big impact on their lives--more than twice as high as the similar measurement for AM/FM radio users, iPod users or satellite radio users. It is worth focusing on the bottom of this chart, though, and there is a lesson here for terrestrial broadcasters streaming their content AND for pure-play internet broadcasters--make content that matters.
Today, flexibility, control, and personalization are just part of the cost of doing business. Merely having an engine that plays "one great song after another" does not erect a strategic moat around your business plan, nor does it protect you from being one bad song away from losing audience. True, there are some online contenders out there that have a strategic advantage by dint of a markedly superior interface, or a noticeably superior personalization or discovery engine, but most online radio of the music variety consists of stream after stream of jukeboxes--if one goes away tomorrow, there are a thousand to replace it.
Content producers online need to make media that matters in order to nudge this score up--and it is important to nudge this score up, because it will be in the recognition of online radio's importance to the lives of consumers that will lead to successful monetization strategies and effective brands. If there is anything that social media has shown us, it's that people connect with people. And if you are producing online radio of any kind, you cannot forget that. One of my favorite focus group questions to ask in a media project is the "epitaph question" -- if (station/brand) went away tomorrow, what would you miss most about it? It's personality and passion that provide the easy answers for respondents here--if they struggle to answer, then you won't be missed when you go.
Written Apr. 15, 2009 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Then you need to be in two places (luckily, not at once!) First, join Arbitron's Bill Rose and I tomorrow (April 16th) at 2 PM for the world premiere webcast of "The Infinite Dial 2009 - Radio's Digital Future." Bill and I will be presenting highlights from our 17th (!) joint Internet and Multimedia Research Series with some fresh findings about streaming, podcasting, social networking and mobile content. You can sign up for this free webcast on Arbitron's site here.
Second, if you are at all involved in streaming or webcasting, then you really need to be at this year's Internet Radio Summit in Vegas (co-located with the NAB.) I'll be leading off the agenda right after founder Kurt Hanson's opening remarks with some additional new data and insight on webcasting that you won't want to miss, and the rest of the day gets even better with presentations from David Goodman, Ando Media's Robert Maccini and some of today's leading webcasters. Want to meet up after the event? Hit me on Twitter--love to see you there!
Written Mar. 17, 2009 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
With the publicity about the U.S. launch of Goom Radio under Rob Williams and Tim Herbst, here's a quick listen to one of its hosted/well-produced French channels, "Just Hits" in what would have been late afternoon local time on Tuesday.
T.I. & Justin Timberlake, "Dead & Gone"
Busta Rhymes, "World Go Round"
Taylor Swift, "Love Story"
Lucy Pearl, "Don't Mess With My Man"
The Fray, "You Found Me"
The Killers, "Human"
Sheryfa Luna, "Ce Quils Aiment" (rhythmic pop along the lines of a Shontelle)
Jonas Brothers, "S.O.S."
Written Mar. 5, 2009 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
With the news that ABC will let the 1973-flashback series "Life On Mars" finish its 17-episode run, but not commission any new episodes, you might want to check out the show's Website for its very clever promotional idea, 1973 Radio. It's not quite the 1973 radio I grew up with -- the one with screaming DJs, shotgun jingles, and one bubblegum quasi-novelty after another ("Smokin' In The Boys' Room," "Little Willy," "Spiders and Snakes," etc.). It's jockless, and even if your tastes ran to the progressive FM side of music in 1973, it's still more like a music supervisor's idealized version of the year -- the 1973 flashback that the cast of "Scrubs" might have experienced. And how could any attempt to portray the '70s nightmare version of New York not include "Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose" and "Playground In My Mind"? But it's still a good listen. Here's a half hour from this morning:
Kinks, "Money Talk"
Montrose, "Make It Last"
J.J. Cale, "Crazy Mama"
Byrds, "Goin' Back"
Bob Marley, "Keep On Movin'"
T-Rex, "Telegram Sam"
Elton John, "Tiny Dancer"
Joe Walsh, "Rocky Mountain Way"
Sam & Dave, "I Thank You" (not quite sure how this '60s R&B classic woke up in '73 either)
Stevie Wonder, "Higher Ground"
Rolling Stones, "Let It Loose"
Written Feb. 13, 2009 in Internet Radio + Mobile Media + Social Networking with 0 Comments
This is pretty cool: Twisten.FM. If you have used Twitter for any length of time, you know that while the constant river of 'tweets' can be entertaining (and distracting), the real power of Twitter comes from unlocking its search capabilities (search.twitter.com). The ability to search for keywords and phrases important to you, your station and your listeners--and then to subscribe to those search results--is a fantastically powerful way to tap into the zeitgeist of the ever-growing community of Twitter users and to stay on top of trends that haven't even happened yet.
Twisten.FM leverages the power of Twitter search by honing search results only to what people are listening to. By aggregating results from some of the many services that post what you are listening to on Twitter, Twisten provides a real-time dashboard of what your friends and followers are listening to. The service allows you to play the songs being 'tweeted,' tag them as 'favorites' and even send them to someone else.
For now, Twisten is simply a very-well executed scrolling playlist of what your friends are listening to. However, Twisten was developed by Grooveshark, a social music community with a number of compelling features for sharing and listening to music, and I think Twisten's real future lies in its potential to create "friend radio" networks--just as Pandora or Slacker allow you to create custom stations by adding your favorite artists, I can see a day when Twisten allows users to create streaming radio stations by adding their favorite Twitterers--the folks on Twitter who have earned their place with a given tribe as an arbiter of musical taste--and creating a little more space between those little white earbuds for shared experience.
Are you on Twitter yet? You should be! Follow me at webby2001, and tell us what you are listening to. I'll be listening, and so will others...
Written Feb. 4, 2009 in Content + Internet Radio with 18 Comments
This blog and many others have consistently made an issue of the fact that many radio station streams sound bad because of the need to cover up spots. (For anyone reading who doesn't know -- the ad agencies have forbidden radio stations to play their spots over the stream because AFTRA, the talent union, wants significantly higher fees for such use...so the response has been simply to not play them).
What concerns me is that I get the sense that 'Radio' here in the USA has decided to just forget about this issue. A check with a leading trade publication shows no stories in ages about efforts to resolve this issue.
Well...let me see if I can get this started again as an issue. Hey! Radio listening is evolving and changing. We should be platform neutral! We should not be setting up a system where some spots are on our over-the-air signal and entirely different spots run on the streams. Advertisers should be delivered ALL listeners to our stations, regardless of the platform.
Can we revisit this issue? Right now what we have seems to be bad for the advertisers (who aren't reaching radio's total audience), bad for the listeners (where even in the best cases the ad insertion is often clunky), and bad for the stations (who aren't achieving their full leverage against consumers.) On TOP of all that, I struggle to understand how this is good for AFTRA talent, who aren't seeing ANY of their expected gold-mine from Internet usage.
Does anyone agree? Isn't this still something we want resolved?
Written Feb. 3, 2009 in Content + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Let me say right off that I really appreciate that Clear Channel's "iHeartRadio" tuner often includes lyric information along with artist and title of the song now playing. It's been nice to know what artists were saying -- sometimes after 30 years of suspense. But as anybody who remembers when lyrics were printed on radio station surveys can tell you, not all lyrics are meant to be printed, and no matter what format you listen to, the tuner usually ends up providing some extra added amusement.
Here now, a sample from this morning's listening to Rhythmic AC WISX (My 106.1) Philadelphia and the opening lyrics that displayed on the player, beginning with Johnny Kemp's "Just Get Paid," the beginning of which, I now know, is:
"Oh yeah, oh, oh yeah
Feels good, feels good,
A few minutes later, Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" played. The lyrics displayed on the tuner were:
"Oh yeah, oh";
And Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music":
"Hey do it now
"Tom's Diner" by DNA & Suzanne Vega didn't show lyrics, so there's no way to tell how much of that song's opening "do do do do"s would have printed. But I did click to the My 106.1 Website to see the opening blurbs for the following, some of which are truncated as shown:
Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"
"All the single ladies
All the single ladies
All the single ladies
All the single ladies
All the si..."
Chris Brown's "Forever" opens with the producer's "1-2-3-4" tag, but for some reason it just read as " *** *** *** 4" here.
Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations"
"Yeah, can you feel it baby?
I can too."
Toni Braxton's "Un-Break My Heart"
"Lala Lala La Lala
Hah Aaa Aaaa
Aah aaa aaa oh"
And, finally, Amber's "This Is Your Night":
"Dah dah dah dah dah ditita ta tay
Dah dah dah dah dah ditita ta tay
Dah dah dah dah dah ditita ta ..."
Written Jan. 30, 2009 in Internet Radio + Podcasting with 0 Comments
Some interesting comments this afternoon from "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons, the star of ESPN.com. In the course of a long pre-Super Bowl chat, Simmons is asked why he's been doing more podcasts and writing fewer columns in recent weeks. His response, in part:
"I love doing the podcasts and feel like I'm on the ground floor of a medium that is really starting to take off. It's like radio on demand and I think it's going to kill satellite radio in two years. I really do. It's also a huge threat to real radio in my opinion, especially when people can get Internet in their cars and can just cue podcasts up within three clicks.
"It's astonishing to me that nobody has written a long piece about podcasts yet. This is exactly the same as what happened with sportswriting in the late-'90s where nobody was taking the Internet seriously and suddenly within seven years there were a million sports blogs, mainstream sites were crushing newspapers and newspapers were hemorrhaging money. We are headed that way with podcasts.
"I just think radio is going to become much more niche-oriented over these next 10 years -- people don't see it yet. Christian Slater in 'Pump Up The Volume' is going to look like a genius."
Okay, that might not be what all those new ESPN Radio affiliates we've read so much about lately want to hear. Then again, if they were smart, those stations would be playing Simmons' podcast.
Written Jan. 29, 2009 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
You don't hear much about large-market broadcasters pulling their radio station streams these days, but Pittsburgh Radio & TV Online reports that two of Renda Broadcasting's local stations, Adult Standards WJAS and AC WSHH, have done just that. Clicking WJAS' "listen live" link gets you a notice that "due to escalating royalty fees," the streams have been discontinued since the first of the year.
Renda also owns stations in Jacksonville and Fort Myers, Fla., and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla. Clicking the Listen Live link at WWGR Fort Myers gets you a similar note. At KHTT Tulsa and KOMA Oklahoma City, stations that were streaming within the last year, there is no longer a readily apparent Listen Live button.
Renda's move should be a reminder that the music royalty and AFTRA issues that held streaming back for so long, and until relatively recently, are hardly resolved. And even with their trepidation about split ratings credit for on-line listening, broadcasters besieged by other issues seem to have just given up on fixing the AFTRA issue, and would rather run a separate stopset for the Web.
By the way, if you think that problem -- on-line stopset content -- is resolved, you should know that I've been monitoring a top 10 market today and on the first two stations I heard, there were problems with the Web stops, both involving major group-owned stations. On one, the Web-only content periodically stopped in the middle, was interrupted by bits of fill music, then resumed; conversely, there was also a Web-only song that played for about 45 seconds and was truncated by a promo. On the other, I heard the on-air spot and the Web-only substitute play simultaneously, twice. Later, I punched over to that station's sister in an even larger market and heard the same problem.
Written Jan. 13, 2009 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
So I've been really enjoying having CBS/AOL Radio on my AOL Instant Messenger. It has certainly increased the time I spend with various CBS stations to have their full list a click away without having to open even their own easy-to-use player.
I was listening to the player. I clicked off. I made a business phone call and it was suddenly interrupted by a loud ad for eSurance. I muted the sound.
A few hours later, I turned the volume back on and here came the ad again, playing out of nowhere, on the CBS player that I'd long stopped using. (I could tell because there was an ad displaying as well.) So I clicked off the CBS player.
A half hour later, it played again. This time I had to close AOL IM altogether.
Okay, times are hard and advertisers are precious. I'm already used to that roll-over ad on my AOL IM that seems to play if your cursor is anywhere in a six block radius. But when our goal is to make it as easy as possible for listeners to turn the radio on, why would we allow anything that discourages at work listening. Or, in this case, even having your IM open?
Written Jan. 12, 2009 in Internet Radio + Technology with 11 Comments
I was in the mood for a little Prog Rock over the weekend, so I dialed up Pandora to build a station around Yes. I did not list any songs on purpose, in order to keep it broad and see what the Pandoramator would come up with. Here was the first hour it gave me:
- Long Distance Runaround - Yes
- Spirit of Radio - Rush
- Welcome To The Machine - Pink Floyd
- The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - Genesis
- Circus of Heaven - Yes
- In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel (tried to skip, couldn't)
- Survival - Yes
- Sheep - Pink Floyd
- Strawberry Fields Forever - Beatles
- Turn It On Again - Genesis
So, a pretty good mix--I wanted to skip "In Your Eyes," but had used up the number of skips allowed by Pandora's license and had to suffer through. Still, it was mostly true to my (largely unstated) desire to hear a little prog rock. "Circus of Heaven" is not my favorite Yes song by any stretch, but Strawberry Fields actually sounded pretty cool in this mix.
On a lark, I tried the same exercise with Slacker Premium Radio (which, apples to oranges, does allow unlimited skipping of unwanted tracks,) once again only providing the group (Yes) and letting the computer do the rest. Here was Slacker's Prog Rock offering:
- It/Watcher of the Skies - Genesis
- Glad - Traffic
- Memory Lain, Hugh/Headloss - Caravan
- Sheep - Pink Floyd
- Question - Moody Blues
- From the Beginning - ELP
- Teacher - Jethro Tull
- Save Some Time For Thee - Family
- Script For A Jester's Tear - Marillion
- Owner of a Loney Heart - Yes
While the lone Yes track Slacker delivered was a bit of a clunker (or, at least, not quite the 'prog rock' I was hoping for,) I found this hour to be fascinating--some familiar songs from familiar artists (the ELP, Jethro Tull and Moody Blues tracks), some lost classics ("Glad"), a brilliantly welcome live version of "It/Watcher of the Skies" and a very, very deep track from Caravan. Certainly, 20 songs is too small a sample size, so I'll repeat this exercise a few times this week before drawing any broader conclusions. For slaking my questionable jones for Prog Rock yesterday, however, I found the Slacker hour a bit more interesting and varied, and certainly a bit more on point--albeit a good deal less familiar than the Pandora offering.
In fairness, I could have tweaked either playlist slightly by deleting songs, adding artists and so on to give the Pandora and Slacker algorithms a bit more of a clue to the mood I was in. Slacker guessed a bit more correctly what I wanted to hear, but with only one group as input, I'll chalk that up to a random walk for now. Still, the key to mass acceptance and adoption of services like Pandora and Slacker will be how they work "out of the box" with little, if any, input by mainstream listeners. With that criteria in mind, the Pandora offering was far and away more compelling, featuring more tracks by my core artist, more hit singles, and more familiarity in general.
So, that said, what has your experience been with both services? Let's have a face-off here in the comments! Post your sample hours (10 tracks) from each along with your "liner notes" and make your case! I can't wait to see what you come up with.
Written Jan. 8, 2009 in Internet Radio + Satellite + Technology with 1 Comment
...is on your Mac, thanks to the user interface geniuses at Rogue Amoeba. I wrote earlier about Radioshift, which is the best online radio listening/timeshifting app I've seen to date, and now they've put a similar stamp on tuning in XM/Sirius streams online with their new app Pulsar. Highly recommended!
Written Jan. 7, 2009 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
I have considerable appreciation for Jake Sigal, the inventor of the ION USB turntable, which has provided me with many happy hours of dubbing obscure vinyl to MP3. In the same way that articles written during Consumer Electronics Show/Macworld week often end with, "Never bet against Steve Jobs," I would take any of Sigal's new products seriously. But I am bemused by one of his planned product announcements for CES: the Abbee Commercial Free FM Radio, which, according to WWJ Detroit, "removes all of the commercials and DJ talk for hours of uninterrupted music."
On one hand, there's a backhanded compliment here. Like the MSN Radio stations of a few years ago that replicated the playlists of mainstream commercial stations, there's something flattering in the belief that your station's music mix would best all other options even out of context. That said, there are a lot of ways to get commercial-free music now. (And Sigal's other new launch for this week is a Wi-Fi Internet radio.) It also makes you wonder if Sigal has heard the post-PPM era's stripped-down radio stations. There may still be 12 minutes of commercials to remove every hour, but more and more stations are pre-removing the DJ talk for your convenience already.
Written Dec. 12, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
If there were such a thing as an "R&B Americana" format -- and of course there should be -- it would sound like Al Bell Presents, the new format billed as "American Soul Music" and heard on TheRadio.com and at the website of the same name. It's a collaboration between veteran trade journalist Reed Bunzel and the music industry veteran best known for overseeing Stax in the '70s and making a surprise comeback with Tag Team ("Whoomp! [There It Is]") and Duice ("Dazzey Dukes") in the '90s. The just announced site features video from the '70s film "Wattstax" and promises new music from former Stax mainstays The Dramatics. Here's an hour of "Al Bell Presents" as heard last night:
Barry White, "What Am I Gonna Do With You"
Smokey Robinson & Miracles, "Deck The Halls/Bring A Torch"
Solomon Burke & Emmylou Harris, "We're Gonna Hold On"
Me'shell Ndegocello, "Water" (The "Pick Hit of the Week")
Joe Turner, "Shake Rattle & Roll"
Ray Lamontagne, "You Are The Best Thing"
Martha Reeves & Vandellas, "Honey Chile"
Muddy Waters, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl"
James Brown, "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag"
Jean Knight, "Do Me"
Diana Ross & Supremes, "Silver Bells"
Written Dec. 7, 2008 in HD Radio + Internet Radio with 2 Comments
Last summer, WFUV New York announced a forthcoming HD multicast channel, helmed by 30 Under 30 honoree Rich McLaughlin, that would be more alternative/indie rock focused than the non-commercial outlet's existing Triple-A format. WFUV's "The Alternate Side" launched earlier this month on HD-3 and a few days ago at thealternateside.org.
In recent months, several toes have been stuck into New York's indie rock scene. Active WXRK (K-Rock) has its HD/on-line K-Rock 2. Triple-A WRXP has had an indie component as well; a recent station show featured the Ting-Tings, Duke Spirit, Airborne Toxic Event, and Mike Doughty. But the competition is also KEXP Seattle, which is using WNYE as a local outpost, and L.A.'s KCRW, which has a local following as well.
One nice touch is that WFUV-HD-3 is hosted. While being a college station whose HD-1 station is staffed by some well-known professional names does give you a built-in base of potential DJs, that still sets them apart from a lot of their multicast competition.
Here's WFUV-HD-3 at 3 p.m. on Saturday:
Ben Folds & Regina Spektor, "You Don't Know Me"
The Ting-Tings, "Shut Up And Let Me Go"
Okkervil River, "Lost Coastlines"
Groupo Fantasma, "Arooz Con Frijoles"
Chicha Libre, "El Barrachito"
Radiohead, "House Of Cards"
Ween, "Your Party"
Michael Franti & Spearhead, "Say Hey (I Love You)"
Thievery Corporation, "Sound The Alarm"
Eagles of Death Metal, "Wannabe In L.A."
Hercules & Love Affair, "Blind"
TV On The Radio, "Crying"
Written Oct. 30, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio with 1 Comment
Here's one. JobRadio.fm has an interesting genealogy, descended from a job hunting Website and then a podcast that grew out of that. While there are a dismaying number of broadcasters right now who could use its advice, there's also a lot here for HR personnel and managers.
Written Oct. 13, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
One of the previously discussed frustrations of the holiday format's rise is that as its hits became apparent over the years, a lot of the R&B holiday music I grew up with disappeared. So when Bonneville's WMVN St. Louis, flipped to Christmas music as a lead-in to a format change, I dutifully threw them on this morning. But I also decided to find an all-R&B Christmas format to listen to, which turned out to be AOL's R&B Holiday channel. Interesting to note that the latter wasn't that different from the AC holiday format as we've come to know it over the last decade: an emphasis on standards with just a few contemporary things (and, as you'd expect, a little more from R&B Gospel acts). Not so surprising -- it's hard to get away from the holiday hits -- but I was still hoping to hear "Santa's Rap" by Treacherous Three show up.
Here's AOL's R&B Holiday channel as heard today:
Kimberly Locke, "The Christmas Song"
Mariah Carey, "Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child"
Emotions, "What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas"
Kirk Franklin, "Thank You For Your Child"
Luther Vandross, "My Favorite Things"
Donny Hathaway, "This Christmas"
Vanessa Williams, "I'll Be Home For Christmas"
Boyz II Men, "Let It Snow"
Peabo Bryson, "What Child Is This"
Jackson 5, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
Yolanda Adams, "Born This Day"
Take 6, "Oh! He is Christmas"
Gladys Knight & Pips, "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
And, for purposes of comparison, here's WMVN at 11:35 local time:
Michael Buble, "The Christmas Song"
Gene Autry, "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Neil Diamond, "Silent Night"
Pat Benatar, "Christmas In America"
Andy Williams, "Happy Holidays/It's The Holiday Season"
Celine Dion, "O Holy Night"
Kenny Loggins, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
Tony Bennett, "White Christmas"
John Lennon, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
Carpenters, "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
Written Oct. 8, 2008 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
It's no secret that Pandora has pulled in a lot of new listeners since it unveiled its iPhone application. On Monday's Edison/BlogTalkRadio panel/webcast, Pandora's Tim Westergren said that 70% of those hearing Pandora on their iPhones were new listeners. While the differences between Pandora and conventional terrestrial stations undoubtedly resonate for some of those new listeners, others are clearly there because of Pandora's very prominent location in the new shopping center. CBS Radio's iTunes application is typical of its aggressive approach to new platforms. Entercom has made its stations available through Flycast. But a lot of broadcasters are undoubtedly unspoken for on this new outpost of the Infinite Dial.
So it's worth mentioning another new iPhone application that gives most streaming broadcasters their own kiosk in the mall as well. It's the WunderRadio application from WeatherUnderground (the weather site, not the other guys who have been in the news lately) in conjunction with radio directory/stream aggregator RadioTime.com.
Written Oct. 7, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
A few months ago, longtime CFNY (Edge 102.1) Toronto PD Alan Cross transferred to senior PD of owner Corus Entertainment's Splice Interactive Media. Yesterday, the Canadian group broadcaster unveiled its new music discovery Website, ExploreMusic. The Website is tied to a half-hour daily syndicated rock radio show hosted by Cross. As radio looks for ways to hold on to the music recommendation franchise, Explore promises "real people with real passion and real opinions about music," instead of "predictive algorithms" and "musical robots." Cross also notes that retailer HMV has signed on as a national sponsor for a year while iTunes is an official music partner.
Written Oct. 2, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Many webcasters have said that the music royalty rates set by the Copyright Royalty Board are so high that they will be forced offline.
With that in mind, the Webcaster Settlement Act was introduced to allow webcasters to continue to negotiate new royalty agreements with copyright owners for the years 2006-2015. Written and submitted to the House and Senate for approval, it passed both at the end of September and now goes on to President Bush for ratification.
What do industry leaders and analysts have to say on the issue?
Join us on Monday, October 6th at NOON Eastern (9AM PST) for an interactive panel discussion where you'll hear perspectives on the issue from:
- Tim Westergren, Chief Strategy Officer and Founder of Pandora
- Kurt Hanson, CEO of AccuRadio
- Alan Levy, CEO, BlogTalkRadio
- David Oxenford, Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP
The discussion will be moderated by Tom Webster, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing for Edison Media Research and will be streamed LIVE on EdisonResearch.com and BlogTalkRadio.com.
To listen live on Monday, October 6th at 12pm Eastern, 9am Pacific, visit: http://www.edisonresearch.com/webcasts.php or http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edisonresearch. To call into the show LIVE, call (347) 205-9090.
Please save the time, and join us on Monday for answers to all of your webcasting questions from the industry's leaders. If you have questions for the panel, be sure to call them in, or send them along to me anytime at email@example.com. See you Monday!
Written Aug. 21, 2008 in Internet Radio with 10 Comments
Today's PC Magazine has an article about Pandora's recent public musings about its demise, should they in fact have to pay the licensing fees set by the Copyright Royalty Board. This news, along with the recent shuttering of Muxtape, is meant to serve as a harbinger of doom for the Internet radio industry, and indeed the title of the PC Magazine article is "The Internet Radio Death Watch."
The article makes the point that Pandora is the canary in the coal mine--if they can't make it in Internet radio, who can? (I might argue that my little canary died well before 2008, but it's not exactly a race worth winning!) Internet radio proponents, of course, place the blame on the greedy RIAA, while those on the other side claim that Internet radio needs a business model. If you are a traditional radio broadcaster reading this, it is tempting to sit back as an observer and either lament the troubles of Internet radio or roll your eyes and say I told you so. Unfortunately, you don't have the luxury of merely observing this battle.
What the current battle between Internet broadcasters and copyright-holders represents is simply a pricing disparity--a disagreement about what recorded music is "worth." Perhaps the two parties will run some more numbers and come up with an economic model that fairly represents the economic interests of both parties, and maybe that model makes some sense on paper.
What such a model would fail to take into account, however, is a third input: the value that the listener places on digital music. This input is more troublesome, in that it is clearly a moving target, and it's moving south. Previous licensing and pricing models allowed for the fact that "free" music had some element of scarcity--you could only hear the new Madonna song (for free) on the radio, so all of the other elements could be modeled successfully.
Today, free music is not a scarce good, but an economic commodity. This is why placing a value on a "play" by one of the hundreds of thousands of Internet radio outlets is not the same thing as placing a value on a play by an FM station circa 1980. With so many cows out there, the price of milk has to drop.
The central challenge of music radio on the Internet is to try and come up with the real value of moving an economic commodity online that is based upon not just the value of the good, but the price consumers are willing to pay for that good, which is asymptotically approaching zero. Merely providing the commodity is not enough to create value--value must be created in other ways if consumers are to be expect to pay a cost, either with their wallets or their attention.
All of which brings me back to those of you observing this from broadcast radio, and thinking about Pandora as the canary. Where are your businesses headed right now? Hopefully to the Internet. That makes you an Internet broadcaster, and that puts you squarely in the same mine that might just claim Pandora and a host of other online-only properties. If they can't solve this, all broadcasters in the online music space are going to start suffocating.
Written Aug. 20, 2008 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
It's a recent rule of station Website design, but it has become almost as well-entrenched as the apparent rule that music stations must show their image artists at the top right of the homepage: With so many different things to sell on their homepage, many stations have gone to those rotating panels of 4-5 items, thus ensuring that their major contests will be harder to Google and won't be easily found even when listeners are on the site.
The alternative -- five or six big panels stacked on each other -- isn't much better.
So good for the folks at Christian CHR network Air 1 for finding another design that allows multiple items to be seen at the same time and still saves space (although I don't know if it solves the Google problem).
Written Aug. 15, 2008 in Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
A few of radio's more prominent streaming holdouts have become available (relatively) recently and rate a mention this week:
* KKDA-FM (K104) and Urban AC sister KRNB Dallas -- K104 was a streaming pioneer in the late '90s, but has been missing for many years. It is always thought of as one of the best-oiled machines in the R&B/Hip-Hop (or any) format. KRNB started as a soft Urban AC but has gone to a hyper-current (for that format) approach and come into its own recently with the addition of Paul Harvey. KRNB is also streaming a Gospel channel. Still missing, however, is R&B Oldies KKDA-AM (Soul 73), a national treasure where you can hear "You've Got To Earn It" by the Staple Singers into "Think" by Jimmy McCracklin with R&B legend Millie Jackson hosting afternoons.
* KBPA (Bob FM) Austin, Texas - One of the format's most durable Classic Hits/Hot AC hybrids. They didn't stream in the format's period of greatest national attention when they were often the format leader, so it's good that they've remained stronger than many of their counterparts.
* WGTZ (92.9 Fly FM) Dayton, Ohio - The former top 40 Z93 is one of the most recent entrants into the format. They differ from some of the others because they also have a notable '60s oldies component (meaning Dave Clark Five into the Clash, which makes perfect sense to some of us). It's not streaming yet, but it's now teasing a stream on the Website as coming soon.
Written Aug. 14, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
It's not surprising that WBEB (B101) Philadelphia was the first station Webstream to show up in its own market's PPM (with an 0.5 weekly cume rating). In a world where many stations are still struggling to pull their streaming experience together, B101 is both relatively seamless (with mostly songs where the spots would be) and -- to my non-engineer's ear -- actually sounds good online. By contrast, I've heard another Philadelphia station where the Web-only stopsets don't line up with what's on the air, so that the music is interrupted, and not even by spots, but by PSAs.
Written Jul. 16, 2008 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
This shouldn't be remarkable, but it is.
I went to the Website of non-commercial Triple-A WFUV New York today, and front-and-center on the home page is this announcement:
"Due to a change in streaming service, your saved stream links may need refreshing." And then the "listen live" link takes you to a choice of four streams for multiple audio players.
In 11 years of heavy listening to Internet radio, I have never encountered such an announcement. Or, for that matter, an acknowledgement that you might want to or be able to save the stream link to your own player.
The station's goal is usually to force you to us their own embedded player -- lest you miss their pre-roll or don't log in to the frequent listener club. So you're left to see if you can figure out the stream on your own, enter it into your player, and then repeat the process three months later when the station changes the address of its audio again. And one well-known streaming audio provider recently announced that it was going to try and clamp down on any stream aggregator that allowed people to get directly to its station feeds.
I haven't been a regular WFUV listener, but they get points for transparency and being user-friendly. I've just bookmarked them. And I don't even mind that there's a (brief) pre-roll even on the stream I bookmarked..
Written Jul. 9, 2008 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
It's interesting that when longtime WOR New York VP/GM Bob Bruno left that station after many years, his next project wasn't Talk radio, but instead was a throwback to a much earlier era of that radio station -- the MOR music that had pretty well disappeared from full-service AM stations like WOR or the old WNEW-AM by the late '80s/early '90s.
Bruno's newly developed "The Best Of Everything" format, heard online here, is a mix of Adult Standards, pre-Beatles Oldies, '60s MOR and '70s AC. (In that regard, it's similar to Long Island's WNYH-AM, although without that station's bizarre depth and eclecticism). Presented with just drops here, it's not quite a re-creation of the full-service AM experience, but the music is.
Here's a recent hour of the format:
Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes, "Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer"
Dooley Wilson, "As Time Goes By"
The Capris, "There's A Moon Out Tonight"
Shirley Bassey, "Grande Grande Grande"
Jim Croce, "I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song"
Nat King Cole, "Penthouse Serenade"
Lena Horne, "They Didn't Believe Me"
Johnny Rivers, "Swaying To The Music (Slow Dancing)"
Andy Williams, "Moon River"
Ace, "How Long"
John Denver, "Follow Me"
Della Reese, "Don't You Know"
Johnny Mathis, "What Will Mary Say"
Boz Scaggs, "Heart Of Mine"
Ames Brothers, "Melody D'Amour"
Lou Christie, "Beyond The Blue Horizon"
Written Jul. 7, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Written Jul. 2, 2008 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
At this point, it's not very hard to find European Oldies offerings on the Infinite Dial. Most of the major broadcasters are offering some sort of Gold channel, many of them with a typically broad sense of what that means. (European Oldies radio began as a '50s through '80s format and had never narrowed by the time U.S. Oldies radio opened up again.)
But Irish broadcaster RTE's Gold channel deserves a special mention. I've been listening for 45 minutes now, and on a few occasions, it has bounded between Classic Rock and MOR/standards. Trainwrecks are barely worth mentioning in this day and age, but some of these are still doozies, and likely on purpose, starting with songs 3/4.
Here's the station at 5 p.m. today local time:
James Brown, "Get Up Offa That Thing"
Rolling Stones, "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
Nat King Cole, "Smile"
Golden Earring, "Radar Love"
Cat Stevens, "Peace Train"
ZZ Top, "La Grange"
Petula Clark, "My Friend the Sea" (Rod McKuen-penned early '60s MOR, another jolt)
Jimi Hendrix, "Voodoo Chile" (and another)
Bee Gees, "World"
Lou Rawls, "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing"
Marvin Gaye, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"
David Bowie, "Sound And Vision"
Elvis Presley, "That's All Right (Mama)"
Linda Ronstadt, "It's So Easy"
Michael Jackson, "Got To Be There"
Pink Floyd, "Comfortably Numb" (gearing up for a big finish here....)
Andy Williams, "Stranger On The Shore"
Joe Walsh, "Rocky Mountain Way"
Queen, "Flash's Theme (AKA Flash)"
Yes, "Owner Of A Lonely Heart"
Four Seasons, "Down The Hall"
Written Jul. 1, 2008 in Internet Radio + Mobile Media with 0 Comments
When every radio station stream is available on the WiMax car radio of the (not too distant) future, broadcasters will have even more challenges than they have now, including:
* Having a reason to exist among thousands of similarly named, similarly programmed radio stations;
* Being found among thousands of radio stations, and, most important . . .
* Making sure that their station is actually represented. See this week's Ross On Radio, "Taking Control of the Infinite Dial."
Written Jun. 20, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
Nearly eighteen months ago, as stations were finally starting to fill the stopsets on their Webstream with something more than PSAs and bad incidental music, we looked at five Atlanta radio stations and how they were handling Web-stops. So how is Atlanta radio doing now? We listen to seven local stations in this week's Ross On Radio. And we have some excellent comments already.
Written Jun. 18, 2008 in Content + HD Radio + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 1 Comment
There wasn't much written when Clear Channels WXRA Lexington, Ky., switched from Latin to R&B Oldies last month -- it's a format that doesn't get much press, particularly in a small market. But the new WGVN (Groovin' 1580) is particularly interesting, not only because there aren't a lot of full-fledged terrestrial R&B Oldies stations, but also because this one is a Clear Channel Format Lab offering making its way from the broadcaster's HD-2 multicast stations to a terrestrial outlet.
Groovin' 1580 uses the same "old school hits from the '80s, '70s, and '60s" imager as the Format Lab's "The Groove," currently running on the HD-2 multicast channels at WWSW Pittsburgh, KOHT Tucson, Ariz., KALZ Fresno, Calif., and WMKS Greensboro, N.C. (The only time the two formats diverged when we heard both this afternoon was when WGVN was running spots; it also runs Tom Joyner in mornings.)
What's most interesting here is hearing the format in a different context. In between the format mainstays, Groovin' 1580 has been offering up a few songs that wouldn't be so unusual on a Web-only R&B Oldies station. But when was the last time you heard a terrestrial station play "So" by War? "Higher Plane" by Kool & the Gang? "Cissy Strut" by the Meters? "We Got The Funk" by Positive Force (outside New York, anyway)?
Here's an hour or so of the format, taken from WGVN, at 12:45 this afternoon:
KC & the Sunshine Band, "Keep It Comin' Love"
Commodores, "Machine Gun"
Isley Brothers, "Fight The Power"
Maze, "Joy And Pain"
Bootsy's Rubber Band, "Bootzilla"
Aretha Franklin, "Freeway Of Love"
Taylor Dayne, "Tell It To My Heart"
Van McCoy, "The Hustle"
Patti Labelle, "New Attitude"
James Brown, "Night Train"
Rose Royce, "Car Wash"
Archie Bell & Drells, "Tighten Up"
Wild Cherry, "Play That Funky Music"
Debbie Deb, "Look Out Weekend"
Erick Sermon, Keith Murray, Redman"Rapper's Delight"
Ready For The World, "Oh Sheila"
Barrett Strong, "Money (That's What I Want)"
Barry White, "What Am I Gonna Do With You"
Written Jun. 13, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
A few interesting odds-and-ends heard in this week's listening:
* More "Sex And The City" -- It's become a lot less ubiquitous on the radio since the movie actually opened and all the promotional tie-ins went away. (I never did hear any station getting paid spots for all their troubles.) But there's still no escaping it: I was listening to a station in the Ukraine this morning and there was the theme song (playing as a bed under what seemed to be an entertainment report).
* The new AOL Radio/CBS Radio tuner sent me punching among the AOL stations for the first time in a while, and I settled on one that billed itself as "New Pop First." And in between some genuinely new records, I heard "SOS" by the Jonas Brothers, "How Far We've Come" by Matchbox Twenty, Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" and a handful of other songs that had already run their course. To which I can only say that at a time when we're hearing that identifying, say, "Handlebars" by Flobots as "new music" on a Top 40 station would be considered lame by the 15-year-old music junkie who knew it months ago, the bar for any "new music" station is pretty high these days. The good news is that there is certainly a need for this now and it's a great thing to have on a tuner that also contains mainstream commercial stations. But it's a big promise to deliver on. And perhaps a franchise that could support much more than a jockless Internet channel.
* WEBX (the Source) Champaign, Ill., is the flagship of the new gold-based Alternative format from Jack Taddeo and Dan Binder. As you might expect, the hour I heard was more pop-flavored than some of its counterparts. Here's the station from last Monday:
Police, "Spirits In The Material World"
Tonic, "If You Could Only See"
Billy Idol, "Dancing With Myself"
Alice In Chains, "Would?"
Matchbox Twenty, "Push"
Stephen "Tin-Tin" Duffy, "Kiss Me"
Blur, "Song 2"
Depeche Mode, "Just Can't Get Enough"
Replacements, "Merry Go Round"
Blink-182, "All The Small Things"
* Oldie Of The Week: I usually go for an obscure one, but there was no denying "Do Ya" by ELO, especially since I've heard it three times in the last eight days in various places, probably the most I've heard it since April, 1977.
Written Jun. 11, 2008 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
Interesting thread today at Radio-Info.com that started off as a Philadelphia-area reader asking readers what other out-of-market "rimshot" signals they liked, but that quickly spread into a discussion of Internet radio choices as well as a discussion of tabletop Internet radios (such as the Roku Soundbridge). So curious what your most streamed out-of-market choices are? (Also curious to hear feedback on the Soundbridge or any other standalone Internet radios, and how easy it is to find terrestrial stations in their program guides.) You've already seen my recent (waaay) out-of-market favorite.
Written Jun. 10, 2008 in HD Radio + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
AOL unveiled its new player today that incorporates the streams of CBS Radio's terrestrial and online/HD2 stations. The design will be familiar to anybody who has streamed a CBS station recently -- an oversized version of CBS' Play.It player. You can see it here.
Meanwhile, I recently had an industry buddy pass along the link for CBS' previously reported on AllNumberOneRadio.com, suggesting that the service is finally finding a constituency of chart/music junkies. For those following it, AllNumberOneRadio, whose broad gold mix includes a lot of forgotten '90s rhythmic music, is now playing its No.1 song (Lil Wayne's "Lollipop") only every other hour.
Written Jun. 3, 2008 in Internet Radio with 2 Comments
So with gold-based Alternative growing in the U.S., what would it sound like in the U.K., where a lot more punk, new wave and Britpop crossed to the mainstream than it did here? For now, you can hear the answer at NME Radio, the long-running British music publication's on-line/satellite TV/digital station that began its initial mostly-jockless "test" programming yesterday. (The official launch is June 24.)
NME Radio, which has gotten a lot of ink in the U.K., will have a full airstaff and long-form programming based on the magazine. During this sneak preview, it's also promising a daily show featuring Ricky Gervais that can also be streamed from the NME site. While a recent press story on NME Radio places it on the "cutting-edge of new music," the station heard here was about 80-85% gold with a few stretches that could have been the just-sold Virgin Radio.
This was NME radio today at 4:30 local time. U.K. chart positions, where applicable, are included for a sense of how familiar this music might be to a British listener:
EMF, "Unbelievable" (No. 1, 1990)
Bob Marley & Wailers, "Waiting In Vain" (No. 27, 1977)
The Doves, "Catch the Sun" (No. 32, 2000)
Kraftwerk, "The Model" (sounds electic, but a No. 1 UK hit in 1981)
The Charlatans, "Weirdo" (No. 19, 1992)
The Ruts, "Staring At The Rude Boys" (No. 22 punk single from 1980)
New Order, "Blue Monday" (1983, charted several times, as high as No. 3 eventually)
Supergrass, "Caught By The Fuzz" (No. 43, 1984)
Blondie, "Hanging On The Telephone" (No. 5, 1978)
R.E.M., "Fall On Me" (never charted U.K., meaning it actually did better here)
The Wombats, "Kill The Director" (current British teen-punk hitmakers with No. 35 single from last year)
The Who, "My Generation" (No. 2, 1965)
Human League, "Don't You Want Me" (No. 1, 1981 in the UK)
Talking Heads, "Psycho Killer" (didn't chart in the UK)
Ting-Tings, "That's Not My Name" (No. 1, this year)
Rolling Stones, "Gimme Shelter" (never a single)
Muse, "Supermassive Black Hole" (No. 4, 2006)
Depeche Mode, "Personal Jesus" (No. 13, 1989)
Faithless, "God Is A DJ" (No. 6, 1998)
Written Jun. 2, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio with 1 Comment
A major change that is about to occur on the Infinite Dial was announced late on Friday. Virgin Radio, one of the UK's few national commercial radio brands and one of the most streamed radio stations in the world, was sold to a combination of the Times of India company and Absolute Radio.
What makes this so intruiging is that what is being sold is 'Everything But The Name.' The content and programming are all going to the new owner, but the name and, importantly, the URL, are being kept by Richard Branson's group.
Already the Times of London has commented to the effect that only a fool would buy the assets without the name. But what's in a name? Would American men watch ESPN any less if all the same programs and presenters remained but by some decree it was forced to change its name? Would all of Oprah's fans abandon her if she were to marry and take the surname of her new spouse? While not denying the confusion that would need to be confronted and overcome, clearly the loyalty is to the content, not the name. We at Edison have researched this question and an overwhelming majority say that a name-change would not change their listening.
In fact, there is a possible opportunity, in that if handled correctly there is a chance to re-introduce consumers to this station through the name change. Several years ago, Saga in Milwaukee entirely revitalized what was then "Lazer" by re-imaging as "The Hog".
The bigger challenge is the change of the URL. Virgin has had tremendous success with its stream. It's one thing to tune to a radio frequency (or television channel) and all-of-a-sudden have a different name on the same programming. It's yet another thing to have a bookmark to a stream and have new programming show up. The new owners will have to engage in particularly create approaches to keep the stream-only listening.
Written May. 27, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Written May. 22, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
How do you get 766 streaming radio stations on one player?
You can see Clear Channel's answer to that challenge at its new portal, currently in Beta, IHeartMusic.com, where CC follows Citadel and CBS in allowing streamies to punch from one station to another.
Unlike the Citadel and recent CBS players, choosing a different radio station takes you away from the player to a list of available station streams, Websites and playlists. That full list is 77 screens, although you can easily sort by format or location. Still, the Top 40 list alone is nine screens. That's a lot of choice and right now there's no additional guidance on which Kiss is which, or whether somebody casually scrolling through the Classic Hits pages might want the older skewing WOKY Milwaukee or its newer leaning and very different sister WRIT. (To be fair, you don't get that now from Citadel or CBS--but it's not quite the same dizzying array of choice to make your way through.)
Right now, the link to "browse 750+ radio stations" is only available on CC's new generation players, the ones rolled out mostly in larger markets that also tie into the stations' social networking site. If you go from Urban WGCI Chicago to, say, Top 40 WKSI Winchester, Va., you'll have to take yourself back to the program guide to switch stations again after that. The site does prominently feature eRockster.com, CC's recent national Indie Rock rollout.
Written May. 22, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Long before there was "American Idol" (or the U.K.'s "Pop Idol"), there was Eurovision, the annual song contest that occasionally spurs a Euroclassic like Abba's "Waterloo," but more often yields the likes of "What's Another Year" by Johnny Logan. But to listen to European radio in late May is to be reminded anew how much excitement it still generates, as evidenced by Website of Lantern FM, where you can either watch their DJs sing "Waterloo" or see local businesses attempt the same.
Written May. 14, 2008 in HD Radio + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
We're big fans of the power of No. 1 at Edison Media Research. The concept of the No. 1 song, so potent for so many years, has been downplayed by radio over the years, even as America became more chart conscious in other ways. So we were eager to check out Biill Gamble's NumberOneRadio.com, the new Internet station that is being carried on the HD-2 channel of KXKL (Kool 105) Denver, but, like many of the new CBS Radio channels, is clearly designed as a national offering.
NumberOneRadio is billed as No. 1 songs from the '60s through today. While there's an AC feel and an apparent emphasis on the late '80s and '90s music that falls through the cracks at a lot of other formats, the scope is broad (as the segment below demonstrates). The station is also playing the current No. 1 song once an hour -- a variant on what Top 40 sisters KKHH (Hot 95.7) Houston and WBZW (B94) Pittsburgh are doing. The jockless station is also running promos asking listeners to be the first to contact the station from their hometown, wherever that may be.
Here's an hour of NumberOneRadio.com at 7:30 this morning:
Savage Garden, "Truly Madly Deeply"
Leona Lewis, "Bleeding Love"
Prince, "When Doves Cry"
Bobbie Gentry, "Ode To Bilie Joe"
Janet, "All For You"
U2, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories, "Stay (I Missed You)"
Jan Hammer, "Miami Vice Theme"
Enrique Iglesias, "Be With You"
Rod Stewart, "Do You Think I'm Sexy"
Sinead O'Connor, "Nothing Compares 2 U"
Paula Abdul, "Straight Up"
George McCrae, "Rock Your Baby"
Mariah Carey, "I Don't Wanna Cry"
Written May. 13, 2008 in Internet Radio with 3 Comments
Billboard's report yesterday that Clear Channel was looking at some sort of tie-in with Pandora.com -- the music recommendation-driven Webcaster -- makes a lot of sense. CBS already has its deals with Last.fm and, presumably for those looking for a less involved experience, the recently announced Play.It. And with ongoing speculation about its place in a world with increased royalties, Pandora is certainly a viable brand that some terrestrial broadcaster should take advantage of. (You could also see some less interactive version being one of the things that might actually drive listeners to an HD-2 channel.)
The Pandora report came on the same day that Last.fm announced a partnership with Lollapalooza for a Lolla Radio section. That followed, by a few weeks, the announcement of Clear Channel's eRockster.com, which used Coachella for its launch two weeks ago. With the two majors looking to lock in the major festivals, it's only a matter of time before Last.fm and eRockster's avatars come to virtual blows in the parking lot.
In the meantime, a possible Pandora/Clear Channel deal raises a few questions:
With the two major groups locking down two of the major Webcasters, what are other broadcasters doing along similar lines?
What implications do these or other Webcaster tie-ups have for broadcasters' HD-2 multicast channels, particularly in light of recent years' proof that it's not as easy to create this type of content as broadcasters thought?
Is there a way to use Pandora or Last.fm to reinforce radio's strong, but eroding authority in the music discovery area? "Here's a new song that you helped us discover through Pandora.com" has potential cachet on the air. "Here's a song that tested well in a similar market" does not.
Written May. 8, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio with 3 Comments
Every now and then, I caution broadcasters about those breaknotes that sync directly to the "now playing" display on your Website or streaming audio player and often give more information about the internal workings of the station than you might wish listeners to have.
Here's a new one from a very successful station in a top 75 market:
Under the "Artist" field: "Voice Tracker";
Under the "Title" field: "Live Jock."
In other words, there was a live jock on at the time (and it certainly sounded that way), but there were obviously provisions for when there weren't that included letting everybody know about it -- which is a little more oversharing than merely showing listeners that you are playing "Music Image Promo #7."
Have any programmers/Website managers noticed this on their own stations? Is this an easy fix? Or is it one of those onerous things that PDs are aware of, but live with because it's not an easy fix.
Written May. 2, 2008 in Internet Radio with 20 Comments
When Radio IO announced their launch of an Internet radio station based on American Idol, I was certainly intrigued. My family has enjoyed the show together since the first season, and it seems like the best performances from the show combined with the best tracks from their subsequent albums might really make for an interesting online station.
Unfortunately, that's not what Radio IO is programming. Here's their definition:
"In addition to American Idol and its many international versions, RadioIO Idols plays songs recorded by contestants from other top TV talent competitions, such as Pop Idol, Pop Stars and The X Factor (UK); Australia, Germany and Canada's Pop Stars; America's Got Talent, The Next Great American Band, Nashville Star, Rock Star Supernova and more."
While 12 of the 19 songs I listened to during a stretch today were from American Idol, as you can see the other seven were from shows I never watched (Making the Band etc.) and international shows, which I would call "interesting but not worth it".
Other things became apparent during my trial. Some former Idols lost on that show for a reason. Sorry, Jessica Sierra but I really don't want to hear from you again.
The programming could use some genre coding ...look through the list of songs below and you will see a Bucky-Carrie-Brad-Josh-Miranda Country sweep. While I liked that, how many other people would? But amazingly, despite that clump, the whole sound is really genre-jumping, nearly to the point of distraction. To go from John Stevens doing Lounge, to Danity Kane dance, to Bro'Sis Dance, into five Country songs in a row - well it shows that even when you are inside a niche you can still be too broad.
Here's a sample of IO Idols from this morning:
Jordin Sparks, "Young and In Love" (American Idol Season 6)
Clay Aiken, "Invisible" (American Idol Season 2)
John Stevens, "This Love" (American Idol Season 2)
Danity Kane, "Pretty Boy" (Making the Band)
Bro'Sis, "You Better Not Come Home" (German Pop Stars)
Bucky Covington, "Hometown" (American Idol Season 5)
Carrie Underwood, "So Small" (American Idol Season 4)
Brad Cotter, "Blue Collar Nights (Nashville Star Season 2)
Josh Gracin, "Telluride" (American Idol Season 2)
Miranda Lambert, "Famous in a Small Town" (Nashville Star Season 1)
Brooke White, "You Must Love Me" (American Idol Season 7)
Will Young, "Don't Let Me Down" (Pop Idol UK)
American Idol Season 4 Finalists, "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother"
Darius, "I'm Not Buying" (Pop Idol UK)
Taylor Hicks, "Levon/Trouble" (American Idol Season 5)
Jessica Sierra, "Every Reason" (American Idol Season 4)
Michael Johns, "Light My Fire" (American Idol Season 7)
Ruben Studdard, "After the Candles Burn (American Idol Season 2)
Leona Lewis, "Yesterday" (X Factor UK)
Written May. 2, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
As long as we're on the subject of ampradio.com and a national younger-skewed music channel, it's worth a mention of Busradio.com, the Boston-based service that offers three channels of audio for school buses and is now streaming what appears to be the oldest-targeted of the three versions online. While parts of the station sounded voice-tracked, there was a real afternoon drive team handling such topics as letting your best friend tag along on a date. There's also the "win a free concert for your school" promotion (with Boys Like Girls, in this case). In other words, it's much more of a "real" radio station than the great bulk of what I'm uncovering on the Web or HD-2 multicast channels.
Here's BusRadio.com just before 4 p.m. ET yesterday:
Jesse McCartney, "Leavin'"
Sum 41, "With Me"
Taylor Swift, "Our Song"
Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown, "No Air"
Colbie Caillat, "Bubbly"
Teyana Taylor, "Google Me"
Panic at the Disco, "Nine in the Afternoon"
Ciara, "1, 2 Step"
Natasha Bedingfield, "These Words"
Creed, "One Last Breath"
Mario, "Crying Out For Me"
Fall Out Boy & John Mayer, "Beat It"
Timbaland & Onerepublic, "Apologize"
Sara Bareilles, "Love Song"
Written Apr. 28, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Officially launched at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival this weekend with a simulcast on KAJR (Jack FM) Palm Springs, Calif., eRockster is Clear Channel's bid at a national "indie rock" channel with a social networking component, pitting it in various ways against CBS's LastFM, Bonneville's iChannel.fm, Greater Media's Radio You, and others.
Here's erockster.com as heard on KAJR at 7:40 local time this morning, mostly unhosted but with various artist drops:
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Maps"
Beach Boys, "California Girls"
Tegan & Sara, "Burn Your Life"
Michael Jackson, "Billie Jean"
Bright Eyes, "Old Soul Song"
Ambulance LTD, "Yoga Means Union"
Sex Pistols, "Anarchy In The U.K."
Broken Social Scene, "Windsurfing Nation"
Grand Master Flash & Furious Five, "The Message (Part I)"
Blind Melon, "Tones Of Home"
Sly & Family Stone, "Family Affair"
Chemical Brothers, "The Salmon Dance"
Johnny Cash, "I Walk The Line"
In many ways, eRockster.com plays as a cross between KDLE (Indie 103.1) Los Angeles and Clear Channel's own WRFF (Radio 104.5) Philadelphia and that station's other adult modern bretheren, with the latter's emphasis on library. If, three years ago, you were one of those people who liked to point out that Bob- and Jack-FM were not your iPod on shuffle, this may well be.
That said, no matter how much credibility the Sex Pistols and Pixies/Breeders may have maintained over the years, if you're playing three in a row from them, you're not exactly the voice of the disenfranchised 19-year-old. This is a good-looking, well-thought out effort, worthy of a major broadcaster in a way that many of the HD-2 afterthoughts are not, but there's still a hole for somebody to fill.
And for that hole approached from another angle, see ampradio.com below:
Written Apr. 15, 2008 in Internet Radio with 42 Comments
Okay, WNEW-FM New York is back as an HD-2/Internet radio station. So which legendary stations should be next?
Some obvious and not-so-obvious suggestions to serve as the thought-starter for your list. This assumes, of course, that there are the resources and talent available needed to do it right. (Hey, it's a fantasy...)
* "Boss Radio" KHJ Los Angeles as it sounded in 1966;
* R&B WOL Washington, D.C.--the WPGC of its time--as it sounded in 1967;
* John Lander's KKBQ (79Q) Houston in its first six months as an AM Top 40 before moving to FM;
* Rick Carroll's KROQ Los Angeles circa 1982-83;
* Ed Salamon's WHN New York, with its 1977 "country for New York" aesthetic applied to today's Country;
* "The Big 8" CKLW Detroit in two versions: current and classic. (Sister station CKWW is picking up some of the latter's mantle);
* Mike Joseph's "Hot Hits" WCAU-FM Philadelphia, either with today's Hot Hits or early '80s hits (but definitely with the jingles that didn't make it to CBS' new version in Houston).
I could go on a while with this, but it's your turn.
Written Apr. 14, 2008 in HD Radio + Internet Radio with 2 Comments
So it looks like CBS Radio wasn't willing to give the legacy of heritage rocker WNEW-FM New York to Emmis and the WRXP people after all. Since its February launch, WRXP has been pretty overtly trying to answer the question, "What would WNEW-FM have sounded like if it had carried on through today?" Now, CBS is trying to answer that question itself with the launch of WNEW.com as a Website and as the HD-2 channel on the station's former frequency, 102.7, now the home of AC WWFS.
Programmed by WXRT Chicago's Norm Winer (who has also put in an appearance or two as "Norm" in the last hour), the station will be tied in to CBS's Last FM and will also use listeners as "staff" to introduce segments. (There is no mention in the station release of how it will be tied into CBS' new AOL Radio initiative.) On its first moning, Winer and the "staff" were taking turns setting up live performances and interviews from the station's archives, including one of the late Scott Muni, WNEW's longtime PD and best known staffer, and Aerosmith.
Here's what makes sense about the WNEW move: While the need to buy a HD Radio or stream Triple-A has been reduced for New Yorkers in recent months, it's still a well-loved brand and one with national potential on The Infinite Dial (if more for expatriate New Yorkers than others).
The flipside to going after the WNEW legacy, of course, is that even unscoped airchecks of the station from 1978 would have a hard time living up to its most fervent listeners' memories of the station. The other problem is that those fervent listeners are remembering the station from its most specialized era. The most successful WNEW-FM from a ratings standpoint was the late '80s/early '90s version that was a typically conservative response to the rise of Classic Rock. And if there's any station that demands that you bring back some of the former staffers in actuality, and not just in actualities, it's this one. And many of those personalities are now working elsewhere.
But it's an intriguing idea and one that made my co-workers look up from their desks this morning. And here's hoping that Winer receives the resources a station like this would need to work on an ongoing basis.
Here is an hour of WNEW.com at 10:20 this morning:
Elvis Costello, "Less Than Zero (Live)"
Peter Gabriel, "Solsbury Hill (Live)"
Wallflowers, "One Headlight"
Aerosmith, "Love In An Elevator" (preceded by an interview clip with Scott Muni)
The Band, "Up On Cripple Creek (Live)"
Beatles, "She Said She Said"
Bob Marley & Wailers, "Could You Be Loved"
Goo Goo Dolls, "Slide"
White Stripes, "My Doorbell"
Snow Patrol, "Chasing Cars"
Stevie Wonder, "Living For The City"
Led Zeppelin, "Trampled Under Foot"
U2, "I Will Follow"
Soul Asylum, "Black Gold"
Written Mar. 31, 2008 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
Country stations outside North America are always an odd bunch with an almost anthropological approach to the format. They are often older in focus and closer to Americana than the mainstream Country format as practiced on any major-market station here. But it was still amusing to discover France's Music Box 92.8, which bills itself as "La Radio Country Rock." Besides the perfect irony of hearing the Dixie Chicks' "Travelin' Soldier" for the first time on the radio in five years on a French country station, there were other amusing touches, including the odd rockabilly version of the Guess Who/Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over."
Here's Music Box just after 6 p.m. local time today:
Dixie Chicks, "Traveling Soldier"
Hal Ketchum, "She's Something"
Steve & Heather, "Right Now" (odd cover of the Mary Chapin Carpenter song)
Beatles, "Michelle" (staged as "here's a flashback from the '60s")
Vince Gill, "What You Give Away"
Jesse Garon, "Je Crois En La Vie"
Little Big Town, "Good As Gone"
Kevin Wood, "Hello Love"
Gene Vincent, "Rocky Road Blues" (also with a flashback stager, but a little less out there than "Michelle")
Written Mar. 25, 2008 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
It's not often that I learn about an Internet radio station in one market from a consumer press story in a newspaper in another market 15 hours away, but HitsvilleRadio.com, a Detroit-based Classic R&B station featuring the market's veteran artists and jocks is a concept that lends itself to national attention like this recent New York Daily News story.
I'm listening to former WJLB/WQBH personality Claude Young, and just as I thought he was only playing the Motown/classic soul hits that you'd hear anywhere, it started to get a little interesting around Jackie Ross. This is the station early this morning:
Temptations, "I Wish It Would Rain"
Junior Walker & All-Stars, "Road Runner"
McFadden & Whitehead, "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now"
Four Tops, "Shake Me Wake Me (When It's Over)"
Jackie Ross, "Selfish One"
Fantastic Four, "You Gave Me Something (And Everything's Alright)"
Dells, "Stay In My Corner"
San Remo Strings, "Hungry For Love"
Marvelettes, "Beachwood 4-5789"
Temptations, "(I Know) I'm Losing You"
Temptations, "All I Need"
Written Feb. 28, 2008 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
While the full Website for new Triple-A WRXP, "New York's Rock Experience," hasn't yet been unveiled, the station has made a stream available within the industry. Go to the station's Website and click the headphones.
Written Feb. 25, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 4 Comments
A lot has been written here about the mess that many stations make of the on-line streamed versions of their stopsets. Some stations are doing a better job of selling local spots to parallel the national ones that would create an AFTRA issue. Others are still giving the audience 4 to 6 minutes of dire-sounding PSAs, bad incidental music, repeating morning show promos, fill songs, or some combination thereof.
In recent weeks, I've been spending more time than usual with Internet-only radio, and I've had the following moment of clarity (which I admittedly could have had a year earlier if I didn't do most of my on-line listening to terrestrial).
Almost every major on-line service offers a premium subscription level with no stopsets -- even though their stopsets are much shorter than most terrestrial stations. Terrestrial stations that at least do the work to fill their stopsets with actual songs are effectively giving the listeners that for free.
So while the best scenario would be to actually resolve the AFTRA issue (and the accompanying Arbitron issue of separately tallied stream listing), and the second best would be to sell more Web-only spots, stations that can't do that have a pretty clear mandate. It's time to fill those breaks up with songs, not fill music or McGruff the Crime Dog (the undisputed king of streaming PSAs) and to tell your stream listeners that they're getting commercial-free music without paying extra for it.
Written Feb. 20, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
I've started to make my way through some of the 32 new Radio IO channels announced last month, beginning with '90s Pop. And even with the freestyle/early '90s rhythmic battle now taking place in New York, any listen to undiluted '90s for more than a few minutes brings one quickly to grips with just how lost most of that music is. (Songs from the '90s are also a topic of ongoing consternation for radio -- they're still the music of somebody's life, but a negative for everybody else.) So here's the station at 3:30 yesterday afternoon. How long has it been since you've heard more than one or two of these on the radio?
'N Sync, "I Want You Back"
Seal, "A Prayer for the Dying"
Human League, "Tell Me When"
Backstreet Boys, "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"
Color Me Badd, "Slow Motion"
Ini Kamoze, "Here Comes The Hotstepper"
Jamiroquai, "Virtual Insanity"
Ace Of Base, "All That She Wants"
Billy Joel, "The River of Dreams"
Aerosmith, "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing"
Michael Jackson, "Childhood"
Jewel, "You Were Meant For Me"
Written Feb. 12, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 12 Comments
When word began circulating last fall that WNYZ-LP New York, the LP-TV station that broadcasts audio on 87.7 FM, was switching from Russian pop to some form of Top 40 with Star & Buc Wild as the morning show, it was immediately clear that they would need to do two things:
1) Find the format that will make people seek out a frequency that is not even on every radio dial and doesn't have any existing traffic (except for Russian pop fans).
2) Sound "big-time" enough to be taken seriously and simultaneously underground enough to take advantage of the odd "TV on the Radio" nature of the station. There is certainly an audience out there for whom broadcasting at 87.7 FM gives you some extra points for not being radio-as-usual.
Being some form of Top 40 instantly eliminated some of the things that would draw people to a left-field frequency in New York: an all-Caribbean format; a harder-core rap format than what's being played on the two mainstream Urbans, or some sort of younger-targeted/indie rock-driven format (in which case you could play the group TV on the Radio).
That left playing current dance music -- which hasn't been heard much in the market since WKTU segued to Rhythmic AC a year ago, although it still maintains some presence on WHTZ (Z100). And that was indeed the format that the new Pulse 87 unveiled yesterday under new PD Joel Salkowitz, who was doing a similar format on his "Original Hot 97" Website.
As heard in its first two days, the new Pulse 87 is about 40% freestyle and lost '80s/early '90s dance of the sort that would have been on the original WQHT (Hot 97) New York, (okay, Hot 103.5 actually), about 20% current pure dance product, and 40% dance remixes of current pop and R&B hits. (As Billboard's Silvio Pietroluongo pointed out, what's not there yet is some of the dance music from the last two years or so that the market never got to hear--something which was a big part of the current WKTU when it launched in 1996).
It's not a bad time to be launching a dance music station. With recent hits from Cascada, Enur, Bob Sinclair, and even Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music," you have a better chance of finding enough hits to represent dance music in a research cluster or a TV spot. And we can set aside the issue of whether Rihanna or even Enur represents "real" dance music: there's a lot of danceable R&B and pop right now and regardless of how listeners view it, it still helps them accept the music that comes from the dance community (as opposed to Timbaland or the Neptunes).
As for that other question, of how an LPTV pushes its way into the market with the big guys, adding Salkowitz to the mix added some extra credibility. On its first day (sweepers only, no moring show yet), Pulse certainly sounded slick enough in the opening stage, with one misstep: sending listeners to the Website for audio, even though there's not yet a Listen Live link at this writing.
And streaming will be key for the station. I was told that the signal would be surprisingly good on the station and it was -- I can hear it at my home in Northern New Jersey, about 30 miles from the city, although it's sometimes spotty. It dies out about 10 miles to the west, about 20 - 30 miles short of where other NYC FMs start to fall apart. And here in Somerville, what you get on 87.7 is the audio from Philadelphia's TV 6. But it's a comparable signal to, say, KNGY (Energy 92.7) San Francisco -- a well-respected station that hovers just under a 1-share at most times, and which many market observers think would do better with a better signal.
There's been some speculation among dance and radio fans in the last day about how and if WKTU would react. Yesterday and this morning, it felt like the station was doubling down on freestyle/late '80s (a monitor this morning shows Samantha Fox, Lisa-Lisa & Cult Jam, and George Lamond in close proximity) -- music that has always been on the station but felt like it was appearing with greater frequency today. As for current dance product, it's likely to be there only if the combination of Z100 and Pulse 87 is able to create some more records of the magnitude of Enur.
Here's WNYZ from around 5 p.m. yesterday. All non-dance songs are represented by dance mixes:
Ida Corr vs. Fedde LeGrand, "Let Me Think About It"
Ne-Yo, "Because Of You"
Justin Timberlake, "Until the End of Time"
Corona, "The Rhythm of the Night"
Mary J. Blige, "Just Fine"
Nelly Furtado, "Promiscuous"
Sandee, "You're The One"
Santana f/Chad Kroeger, "Into the Night"
Erika Jayne, "Stars"
Cascada, "What Hurts the Most"
Filo & Peri, "Anthem"
Hillary Duff, "Stranger"
DJ Antoine, "This Time"
Flo Rida, "Low"
India, "The Lover Who Rocks You All Night"
Sean Kingston, "Take You There"
Jo Jo, "Too Little, Too Late"
Ne-Yo, "Sexy Love"
Samantha Fox, "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)"
Meanwhile, if you're looking for another dance choice, one of the other great brands in New York dance radio is now represented by an on-line radio station as well. Longtime A&R person John Parker, now of Robbins Entertainment, is paying tribute to B91, the Brooklyn non-comm that started dance music on its journey to Hot 97 in the late '80s. Check out his station here.
Written Feb. 4, 2008 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 1 Comment
If that Star Registry thing isn't going over as well on Valentine's Day anymore for you, Triple-A WMVY Cape Cod, Mass., is offering the chance to give a personalized music channel. "Music fans design the playlist from our special love songs collection, we customize the player with their names, give it its own URL, show them how to access the player on blogs, sites or e-mail, and make it available to the world for a month," writes the station's Gary Guthrie. The player is available for a minimum donation of $50 to the station's Friends of MVY organization.
Written Jan. 28, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Growing up as a record collector, there was one readily available consumer publication specializing in obscure '50s and '60s records (and what they were worth as collectables) and that was Goldmine. Two decades later, Goldmine -- like Oldies radio -- has evolved away from the '50s and '60s to the Classic Rock era and beyond. The lead story on its Website invites debate about the greatest Southern Rock album of all time. You have to scroll down a little to get to the older stuff.
Now, Goldmine has ventured into Web radio with the launch of Goldmine Radio, which editor Peter Lindblad describes as "the pefect avenue for [the serious record collector] to listen to their favorites without compromising the condition of their vinyl collection." (It's a little too late for much of my vinyl, unfortunately.) Down the line, he promises "interviews with artists, collectors, auction houses, music industry players, and more."
For now, it's mostly uninterrupted music with very occasional spots for Goldmine itself. The era is late '70s through today. The music is somewhere between Classic Rock, Triple-A and Americana in texture, although that's where the overlap ends with surprisingly little punk and no R&B -- at least in the segments I've heard. There have also been a number of seemingly featured artists, represented by multiple songs, albeit they're never identified as such: Carlene Carter, Billy Hancock, jazz singer Sheila Landis, Popium, the Confusions, Brian Setzer, and Donnie Iris among them.
If the promise here is discovery, Goldmine Radio certainly delivers. I never knew that Eric Carmen ever cut a disco song. (It's hidden on a 1978 album where I knew only the singles.) In fact, in my listening, I've encountered only two songs I actually knew and a few others that I had heard of but never heard. And I've actually identified a few songs I want to buy as a result of my listening. (Although, given the obscurity level, only about 65% of what I've heard is available on the iTunes Music Store.)
The challenge for Goldmine Radio is that almost every Webstream available now--save the few in major portals that cover mainstream formats -- is a record collectors' Webstream. And each is programmed by its own Jack Black and John Cusack characters from "High Infidelity," who now have a better outlet for their personal tastes than merely railing at anybody unlucky enough to ask for "I Just Called To Say I Love You."
That said, I'm looking forward to hearing the more produced version of Goldmine Radio. I'm also hoping they do well enough to spin off a Goldmine Oldies stream. (There are more places to hear obscure '50s and '60s oldies these days, too, but the brand name would still have some sway for me.) I'm still waiting for somebody to do the channel with a rock critic/music collectors' sensibility, but not necessarily the obscurity level.
Here's Goldmine Radio last night around 10:30 ET:
Haircut One Hundred, "Lemon Firebrigade" (1982)
Popium, "Suits My Soul" (2004)
Sheila Landis, "I Don't Speak Your Language" (2001)
Brian Setzer, "Haunted River" (1986)
Donnie Iris, "Sweet Merilee" (1981)
Lou Ann Barton, "Sudden Stop" (1982)
Eric Carmen, "Haven't We Come A Long Way" (1978, the aforementioned disco song)
Carlene Carter, "You Are The One" (1990)
Billy Hancock, "The Universal Soldier" (2005)
Dr. Hook, "I'm A Lamb" (1977)
The Confusions, "Trampoline" (2002)
Sheila Landis, "Summertime" (2001)
Brian Setzer, "So Young, So Bad, So What" (1988)
Written Jan. 25, 2008 in Internet Radio with 2 Comments
As Cumulus' WNNX (99X) Atlanta ran promos in its final days, promising to return after its terrestrial format changes as "the first visual radio station," it was intriguing to contemplate the possibilities. Was this going to be the station that CBS honcho Dan Mason often talks about in interviews--radio reimagined as TV?
Perhaps in the long run. On the day that 99X relinquished its frequency to Top 40 sister WWWQ (Q100), 99X.com was a good-looking site, but the visual element, so far, is a series of rotating promos, many emphasizing clips from the station's ample "Live X" performances, as well as station events. The good news is that the stream starts immediately--after a promo explaining the site--something we're in favor of. The bad news is that if you click anywhere else on the site, it takes you away from the stream, instead of opening a second browser. Videos, the site notes, are "coming soon." There's also only a brief mention in the opening promo of 99X's availability in HD-2.
Musically, 99X.com is actually a little more conservative than the station it replaced -- as if you were launching a new terrestrial station in cume-building mode. But I did hear one 99X signature record, Spacehog's "In The Meantime," this afternoon.
Here's 99X.com at 12:15 p.m. today:
Soundgarden, "Black Hole Sun"
Rise Against, "The Good Left Undone"
Jimmy Eat World, "The Sweetness"
Live, "Lightning Crashes"
Finger Eleven, "Paralyzer"
Stone Temple Pilots, "Plush"
White Stripes, "You Don't Know What Love Is"
Killers, "Read My Mind"
Lenny Kravitz,Are You Gonna Go My Way"
Nirvana,About A Girl"
Evanescence, "Call Me When You're Sober"
Written Jan. 23, 2008 in Internet Radio with 6 Comments
It was an intriguing announcement yesterday from the Beasley/Fort Myers, Fla., combo. Classic Rock WRXK's HD-2 channel had flipped to a combination of "Southern Rock, Blues, Americana, Roots Music and Real Country" as "Haney's Big House 96.1 HD2," tied in to the station's morning co-host. Country/Rock hybrids aren't uncommon in HD multicast world, but I'm eager to listen to this one when it starts streaming.
Beasley streams some, but not all, of its multicast channels. Same goes for Bonneville and CBS. Many of the Citadel channels don't seem to be streaming. Regardless of owner, the HD-2 multicasts are even hard to find mentioned on their HD-1 station's Websites, even when the two formats are complimentary. (Most of the Clear Channel HD-2 stations are streaming, but you can generally find a similar format at its Format Lab site when they're not.)
At this moment, when there are a lot more people listening on-line than on HD radios, the logic of streaming your multicast station far outweighs the only reason not to do it--the fiscal one: Even a modest investment in a station that few listeners can hear is a wasted one. The bulk of the listening to HD-2 multicast stations will likely be done in the future on a wireless broadband radio, so why not start building the brand today? And the notion of a handheld or in-car device that lets me listen to every multicast channel is a lot more compelling to me than just having to make due with the handful from my market.
Beasley/Fort Myers, in particular, seems to have put a lot of creativity into their HD-2s. Top 40 WXKB has a reggae channel. Modern Rock WJBX (99X) has an "emo channel." None, as best as I can tell, stream. And I'd be interested in hearing all of them.
And then I got curious about who else would be worth hearing if they streamed. I made it halfway down the HD Radio Alliance list of multicast stations and came up with two dozen that I would listen to, if they were streaming which, to the best of my knowledge, these stations aren't. (If they were, the listen live link was elusive.) They include:
* KMVQ San Francisco's Top 40 "Northern California's Hit Music Channel";
* WVEE (V103) Atlanta's "Neo-Soul" channel (although WHUR-2 D.C. serves a similar need);
* WKRQ (Q102) Cincinnati's "interactive" Top 40 channel;
* KPLX (the Wolf) Dallas' top 40 Vibe 99.5;
* KVIL Dallas' female singer-songwriter format;
* WLHK (Hank FM) Indianapolis' Americana sister station, "Bubba FM."
* The forthcoming Black Talk format at WMGL Charleston, S.C., and the Classic Country channel at WIVK Knoxville, Tenn. (Classic Country is, of course, amply available on HD-2 and the Web, but you've gotta wonder what WIVK's would sound like.)
Written Jan. 21, 2008 in Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 4 Comments
As is the case whenever we cover major format changes, the impending departure of WNNX (99X) Atlanta from its terrestrial frequency has brought forth a lot of comments from listeners, many of them seemingly from outside our industry, and many of them ending with that common last line of angry listener e-mails, "From now on, I'm going to listen to satellite rado and/or my iPod."
In the world of The Infinite Dial, of course, there are lots of other replacements for 99X. Which leads me to pose this question for readers: What currently extant terrestrial Alternative stations would a former 99X listener enjoy? While it's hard to replace a legend -- particularly one that is already looming larger in listeners' minds before it even goes away, there are still plenty of choices for a long-time 99X listener, who misses some of the music that the station made famous, still cares about new Alternative rock, and has sensibilities that lean toward the pop/singer-songwriter/true alternative side, not the harder side of the format.
That description covers probably 40-45% of the format these days, including two of the longest running success-stories, KROQ Los Angeles and KXRK (X96) Salt Lake City. Both have become slightly more adult over the last year in a way that might appeal to a 99X person, and X96, like 99X, prides itself on having a thinking person's morning show. You might also steer a former 99X person to:
* The new crop of stations on the cusp of Modern Rock and Modern AC. And lest this become one more plug for WRFF (Radio 104.5) Philly, any of the Clear Channel hybrids have similar appeal, including WDVI Rochester, N.Y., or KJMY Salt Lake City. So, for that matter, would its Hot AC WMAX Grand Rapids, Mich., where the top 5 most played oldies are from the Bodeans, Shawn Mullins, Black Crowes, Nine Days, and Toad the Wet Sprocket.
There's also the radio station that kept me on the terrestrial dial for Modern Rock when WXRK (K-Rock) New York went all-Talk for a year, WHTG (G-Rock) Monmouth/Ocean, N.J. Even after being tightened up by a new PD, it's still aggressive with both currents and gold and still has some "what will they play next" aspect to it.
Okay, this is a very partial list -- that's where you come in.
Written Jan. 18, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio with 6 Comments
A friend of mine mentioned to me that his mother has been listening Imus via the Internet since his return to radio on WABC. She had been a fan of his on MSNBC, but does not have RFD-TV on her cable system (and she is not in a current Imus radio market).
Intriguingly, he said she is not really enjoying the experience, not because of any changes in Imus, but "because of the endless commercials for the other WABC personalities in the breaks."
This blog and plenty of others have made the point that the listener experience of Internet Radio from over-the-air brands is being hurt by what we are covering the spots with. It always helps to get this kind of evidence. People are listening on the streams, and yet we are tolerating negative experiences that we would simply never tolerate on our over-the-air signals.
Written Jan. 14, 2008 in Content + Internet Radio with 50 Comments
As Cumulus' WNNX (99X) Atlanta heads into its final weeks as a terrestrial radio station, it's important to remember how influential the station was a decade ago. Launched in late '92 on the former WAPW (Power 99), 99X was built by Top 40 people (Brian Philips, Leslie Fram, Sean Demery), and was, for that reason, one of the easiest Modern Rockers for industryites outside the format to follow or relate to. And in the mid-to-late '90s, 99X was one of the reasons that the Southeast was dominated by stations that tilted to the modern AC side, whether they were Alternative reporters (WRAX Birmingham, WAVF Charleston, S.C.) or nominal CHR stations (WAPE Jacksonville, Fla., WDCG [G105] Raleigh, N.C., WYOY Jackson, Miss.). Indeed, the song I most associate with 99X in that era is Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason," one of those songs that fit nowhere until it got played everywhere.
So with the news that 99X would be relinquishing its frequency to Top 40 sister WWWQ (Q100), it was nice to be able to get in at least one more listen to 99X as a terrestrial station. (There are several promos an hour for the station's online/HD-2 successor which, the ads promise, will be "the first visual radio station.") To Cumulus' credit, it doesn't sound like a radio station that's going away next week. It's still a very listenable radio station, but the old 99X mystique has been gone for a while -- worm down by the series of direction changes since the early part of the decade that many Alternative stations have gone through.
In some ways, Modern Rock's earliest success stories, particularly the ones evolved from pop stations, were the stations that had the most problems when Alternative and Modern rock smashed together in the early '00s. Stations like 99X and the former WPLY (Y100) Philadelphia were among the last to harden and could never entirely satisfy either the rockers or the "true alternative" people again. When 99X went to adult modern in 2004, it seemed to go narrow just as WBZY (the Buzz) came along to siphon off the rockers.
Things ultimately weren't any easier for Y100 or the more recently departed WAVF and WRAX. WKQX (Q101) Chicago -- another station with similar origins and challenges -- is still among us, but recently moved back toward the harder side of the format. The irony, of course, is that WPLY's departure helped set the stage for WRFF (Radio 104.5) and a resurgence of Adult Modern. But with a few exceptions, most notably KNRK Portland, Ore., it has been easier to do that format with a blank slate (e.g., WSWD Cincinnati) than a set of heritage calls.
But just as WPLY left Philadelphia with a hole for WRFF to cover multiple positions, there's now a hole in Atlanta for somebody to come in and play the Greatest Hits of 99X, whether it's a new Modern AC, a new mass-appeal Alternative, or WZGC (92.9 Dave FM) moving a little more toward the center. Whatever the station and format's recent travails, 99X will leave its musical footprint in the market -- whether that's felt in format changes a month from now or 18 months from now.
Here's 99X this morning at 11 a.m.:
Beastie Boys, "Sure Shot"
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Scar Tissue"
Weezer, "Buddy Holly"
Foo Fighters, "Long Run To Ruin"
Nine Inch Nails, "Head Like A Hole"
Paramore, "Crush Crush Crush"
AFI, "Love Like Winter"
Bob Marley & Wailers, "One Love/People Get Ready"
Linkin Park, "In The End"
Oasis, "Champagne Supernova"
Written Jan. 7, 2008 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Before XM and Sirius, HD-2 multicast channels, or even "Real Oldies" stations on AM, there was Richard Kaufman, a/k/a "Ricky the K." and his one-man crusade to bring back pre-Drake '60s-style radio. When I first interviewed Kaufman for R&R in the mid-'80s, he envisioned his wide-playlist, throwback Oldies format on a satellite network (of what would have then been the SMN or Transtar variety). Later, he brought it to the Saturday night Oldies show on KOMA Oklahoma City, then began offering his "Solid Gold Time Machine" on the Internet as a subscription service, which still exists. Now, Kaufman is looking to promote himself with a series of Internet videos, the first of which can be seen here.
Written Dec. 19, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Okay, I finally managed to hear the U.K.'s KMFM Ashford, one of the few international stations doing all Christmas over-the-air, as opposed to on a DAB channel or Web-only station. The 45 minutes I've heard so far are more like an American AC station's Christmas in terms of vintage and texture, but still considerably more eclectic than our holiday formats. Here's the station just before 7 p.m. tonight:
Britney Spears, "Santa Can You Hear Me"
Westlife, "White Christmas"
Vanessa Williams, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
Ashanti, "We Wish You A Merry Christmas"
Beach Boys, "The Bells Of Christmas"
Tony Bennett, "My Favorite Things"
Pretenders, "2000 Miles"
Stevie Wonder, "The Christmas Song"
Paul McCartney & the Frog Chorus, "We All Stand Together" (1984 childrens novelty)
Andy Williams, "Happy Holiday (Medley)"
Bruce Springsteen, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
Pogues & Kirsty MacColl, "Fairytale Of New York"
Melanie Thornton, "Wonderful Dream (Christmas Is Coming)"
Written Dec. 19, 2007 in Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 5 Comments
In the course of yesterday's posting about WRKS (Kiss FM) New York, I realized how weird it was to be writing in this day and age about stations that don't stream. During 2007, most of the major-market and large-group holdouts finally became available on the Web. If I moved out of range of New York radio tomorrow, I'd lose Kiss and its Emmis sisters -- at least for now -- and the oddball Oldies/Standards mix on Long Island's WNYH. And that's it.
That got me thinking about what I'd like on The Infinite Dial that still isn't streaming. And it's a gratifyingly short list. I haven't been able to listen to any of the British stations that are running an all-Christmas format (with some Web-only exceptions, as previously noted). I haven't been able to check out some of the intriguing looking HD-2 multicast channels. I wasn't able to write about Adult Standards WNMX Charlotte, N.C., when I was at NAB because they neither streamed nor were audible in my downtown hotel room. And I never got to hear Saul Levine's Southern California Classic Country AM, which promised to be as iconoclastic as any of his other stations.
It's not like I don't already have more radio than I can possibly get around to listening to. But in a pefect on-demand world who else would be streaming?
* Adult Top 40 WBMX (Mix 98.5) Boston;
* The English/Spanish-language CHR hybrid on KSSE (Super Estrella) Los Angeles, and Bob Perry's American "Radio Digital" Spanish-language CHR clients;
* KRXY Olympia, Wash., the unusual Adult Top 40 that was my P1 station for several months from 3,000 miles away when it did stream around the early part of this decade.
And after that, the list gets even more eclectic. And a lot of the list above is likely to appear on the Web sometime during 2008. But you definitely take for granted having so much radio available: I went looking for KEGL (the Eagle) Dallas in its first day back as a Rock station yesterday and was surprised to find it not yet there.
So what's your list? What station would you listen to right now if it was streaming?
Written Dec. 13, 2007 in Internet Radio with 2 Comments
As hard as it's been to find pre-Beatles Oldies on the radio, it's also been hard to find Classic Soul--at least during the week. The handful of terrestrial R&B Oldies stations available on the Web in recent years have either disappeared or segued to Urban AC. So I was more than willing to click through when I got the e-mail invite from Soul-Patrol.com's Bob Davis for the Classic R&B channel that he was now programming at RadioIO.com.
In his e-mail, Davis promises to find the "sweet spot" for both "hardcore and casual" R&B Oldies fans with a "deep and wide" playlist that was 1,500 songs (as of a month ago). Referring to the New York radio dial of the late '60s, he describes it as a combination of R&B WWRL and WBLS, Oldies WCBS-FM, Top 40 WABC, and Jazz WRVR, but you could as easily think of it as the crossover hits from the Jammin' Oldies format, the Urban AC Oldies that are known only to those who grew up with R&B radio, the R&B titles from a "Real Oldies" station, and then a healthy dose of collectables on top of it.
Here's Radio IO's Classic R&B channel at 3:30 today:
Ad Libs, "The Boy From New York City"
Bob Marley & Wailers, "No Woman, No Cry"
Santana, "Oye Como Va"
Miracles, "Love Machine"
Bo Diddley, "Road Runner"
Dionne Warwick, "Alfie"
B.T. Express, "Give It What You Got"
Marvin Gaye, "Got To Give It Up"
Isley Brothers, "Fight The Power"
Angela Bofill, "This Time I'll Be Sweeter"
Isaac Hayes, "It's Heaven To Me"
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, "Going To A Go-Go"
Billy Preston, "Nothing From Nothing"
McFadden & Whitehead, "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now"
Ruth Brown, "5-10-15 Hours"
Dusty Springfield, "Wishin' & Hopin'"
Bill Doggett, "Honky Tonk, Pt. 2"
Luther Ingram, "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right"
Written Dec. 12, 2007 in Internet Radio with 4 Comments
I've been looking forward to hearing the all-Christmas format spread to the U.K., just out of curiosity about hearing the format in a parallel universe, particularly one that has historically had a lot of Christmas hits of its own. The commercial all-Christmas stations (Real Radio's digital format and the KMFM group) are either not streaming or blocked outside the U.K. But Internet broadcaster Play Radio UK can be heard here, and the segment I heard late this evening is indeed a very different take on Christmas.
(Play Radio UK's stream didn't have song and artist information, BTW. So it took a lot of surfing the British iTunes music store to figure out what some of these songs were. There was also one instrumental I couldn't place that would be two songs from the bottom. But you'll get the idea.)
Here's the station around 10:45 p.m. tonight local time.
Whitney Houston, "Do You Hear What I Hear"
Britney Spears, "Santa, Can You Hear Me?"
Wizzard, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday"
Pogues, "Fairytale Of New York"
Frank Sinatra, "Hark The Herald Angels Sing"
Bob Seger, "The Little Drummer Boy"
Chris Hill, "Bionic Santa" (a 1976 Dickie Goodman-type novelty record using '70s hits)
Jethro Tull, "Ring Out Solstice Bells"
St. Paul's Cathedral Choir, "We Three Kings"
Whigfield, "Last Christmas" (Euro-disco diva who had the 1994 UK hit "Saturday Night")
Roxette, "It Must Have Been Love" (have no idea how this got here)
Slade, "Merry Christmas Everybody"
Bob Rivers Twisted Christmas, "Grabbe Yahbalz (Like Michael Jackson)"
Written Dec. 10, 2007 in Internet Radio with 2 Comments
The press release was intriguing, not the least of which was because it quoted Edison Media Research. It was from a portal called RadioTime.com, promoting a new application that "automatically detects a listener's location and displays all local AM/FM radio stations and programs. This Local Radio search engine makes it easy for people to browse and listen to local programming on their PCs or streamed to wireless Internet radio devices."
I'm always a little unnerved by Web applications that let me know they can pinpoint my exact location. But I did log on. And the program did immediately know that I was in Somerville, N.J., and gave me the list of available stations. That list was pretty comprehensive with locals and New York stations (about 45 miles away), less so with Philadelphia stations (had a few, although I can get 80% or so of the market in the car), had some not all of the Allentown FMs (most come in here), and didn't have the handful of Jersey Shore stations that I hear on a regular basis here. On AMs, it actually erred a little bit in the other direction with some stations that I can pull in, but wouldn't consider listenable.
The application did list most of the HD-2s that went with the New York stations although, in reality, few of them actually travel as far as Somerville. It listed our local WAWZ's HD-2 station, but not its HD-3.
Overall, I would have preferred that RadioTime had erred a little on listing some of the stations that rimshot my location. After all, the reason I might use the application instead of my desktop radio is for one of the Philly stations that just miss coming in here.
That said, most of the radio station streams that I clicked through to from RadioTime.com did launch quickly. In that regard, it rivals the fastest way I've found to punch back and forth across a given market, RadioSherpa.com. (And the latter only works with three markets so far.)
(BTW, there's no connection between us and RadioTime. The quotes were used by permission and came from this year's Infinite Dial study in partnership with Arbitron on AM/FM listening levels.)
Written Nov. 8, 2007 in HD Radio + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
You may not have heard much about legendary programmer Ron Jacobs since his much publicized salvos toward Randy Michaels in the early '00s. But for the last four months, he's been back in action as the programmer/host of what he describes as "my newest and final project," WhodaguyHawaii.com--a site/stream devoted to the "full spectrum of Hawaiian music from the turn of the 20th century to today."
As Jacobs notes, "Gazillions of people have honeymooned, served in military, attended school, vacationed, etc., here." And beyond those looking for an audio souvenir as the mainland weather gets colder, he also has an eye on all those HD-2 channels that broadcasters are looking to find content for.
At home, Hawaiian music has splintered into at least three formats since it first came to prominence on the FM dial nearly 20 years ago. The top-rated Hawaiian station, KINE, is No. 3 in the market (sometimes higher) and the younger leaning KCCN is No. 5. By comparison, the first of the market's Rhythmic Top 40s is No. 8 in the market.
The Hawaiian music I heard in my two stretches of Whoadguy listening tended toward the mellower, more traditional side. There's clearly a market for that; (if you stop at the airport gift shop looking for Hawaiian music to take home, it tends toward the traditional side, too, and it's also the music that has proven irresistable to TV music supervisors in recent years). I actually found myself wishing Jacobs would launch a second, more contemporary stream along the lines of the more rhythmic/reggae-flavored music that emerged in the '90s. But Jacobs' ambitions of being Hawaiian music HQ for a long-tail world certainly makes sense.
There was a side benefit of checking out Whodaguy this week. Jacobs links to the site of veteran TV comedy writer/broadcaster/play-by-play voice Ken Levine (aka "Beaver Cleaver" to '70s radio junkies). Levine's very funny account of the WGA picket line can be found here.
Written Nov. 6, 2007 in Internet Radio + Mobile Media with 0 Comments
New York's freeform legend WFMU thinks it is the first station to crack the iPhone streaming nut, and are now offering podcasts and a live radio stream over WiFi and AT&T's EDGE. I tried both the 128k stream on my WiFi network and the 32k EDGE stream (which isn't gonna pass for "radio" in my book for a while, but is better for talk formats).
In any case, it worked as advertised. It's good to know that later this week, as I travel to exotic Dubai, that I will be able to listen to WFMU wherever I am. For 10 bucks a second, anyway. WFMU used a solution from TVersity to get it done, and it is a neat little hack. If you are streaming and want (if nothing else) to monitor your station via your iPhone or iPod Touch, it might be worth a go.
Written Nov. 6, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
A month ago, I wrote about attempting to stream Triple-A KGSR Austin, Texas, and the elaborate sign-up that listeners were forced to go through -- providing 10 pieces of personal information -- before being allowed to listen to the station.
So it was nice to get this e-mail yesterday from KGSR market manager Scott Gillmore:
"I thought I'd let you know that we have freed the stream (as we have with our other Austin streaming signals). We had been experimenting on [N/T sister] KLBJ-AM's stream to see what the impact of no registration would be on our streaming numbers and on our database numbers. We were satisfied that we can more effectively grow both now by seperating them and offering seperate incentives for joining the database. Your blog made good points and factored in our decision too."
Written Nov. 5, 2007 in Content + Internet Radio with 2 Comments
I've heard it at least twice in the last week. A jockless station has one of those jaunty Jack-like stagers going into the stopset to announce that the station is going to play commercials and will be back soon. The only problem is that there are no actual commercials there. In the first case, the station was too new and the stager was followed by various times that morning by another song or a "now back to music" stager. In the second, the "more music next" stager was followed by another song (which, as it turned out, was the Internet stream fill song, which became clear when it was cut off halfway through a minute later by a PSA).
"Creating a stopset where none exists" has been a problem for stations for a long time--usually for stations that are too new to have a lot of commercials, or on their last legs. DJs in the '80s and '90s would dutifully end the 10-in-a-row sweep to go into the weather jingle and back to more music. But it becomes a different problem in an era of jockless stations and stations that use production to do what the jocks used to do. And it became exacerbated a few years ago when Bob- and Jack-FMs began calling attention to the stopsets in an effort to be cheeky and anti-radio.
As stations become better about replacing Internet stopsets with actual songs (as opposed to the same handful of endlessly repeated PSAs), we probably need to rethink what the stopset is and how to go into it. If as much of a fith of the audience is going to keep hearing music, why tell them that they're not? And in a PPM world where stations are (for better and worse) going for being unobtrusive, the stopset hardly seems to be the right place to break that policy. Beyond that, the whole calculated roguishness of calling attention to the stopset has become enough of a cliche over the last 3-4 years that it no longer establishes you as different.
Written Oct. 25, 2007 in Internet Radio + Satellite with 0 Comments
For all the attention that goes to the terrestrial vs. satellite battle, I was reminded anew of satellite's other rival this morning when I had occasion to check out Soft AC WJZQ (the Breeze) Traverse City, Mich., this morning. WJZQ streams through Live 365 and before my stream started, I heard a promo that asked something on the order of, "Why listen to a few hundred stations on satellite radio when Live 365's VIP service offers more than 10,000 stations with no commercials?"
The promo was a reminder that radio--satellite and terrestrial--is still competing not only with Internet radio, but subscription Internet radio services like Live 365 and Yahoo Radio that offer paid premium tiers of service. Whether it was Sirius and XM's intent to go after some of that business, or just establish their place on the forthcoming Infinite Dial of the wireless broadband era, their (relatively) recent emphasis on Internet listening has clearly been a shot across the bow, occasioning a shot back like this one.
Written Oct. 12, 2007 in Content + HD Radio + Internet Radio with 14 Comments
The call came from somebody outside the business who had found an old Ross On Radio column about the former WRLL (Real Oldies 1690) Chicago and its pre-Beatles format. When the 1690 frequency became the new home of News/Talk WVON, the old format remained on-line and he continued to listen. But now, he said, even that stream was starting to filter in some music from the mid-to-late '60s. What about all those other stations I wrote about at the time, back in 2003-'04 when many in the industry were hoping that pre-Beatles Oldies would allow every Adult Standards station in America to update?
Sorry, many of those stations are gone as well: no more WWKB Buffalo, N.Y., WSAI Cincinnati, WCOL Columbus, Ohio, or WKAP Allentown, Pa. Of those stations, only WKAP got significant ratings traction for a while. Others, like WOKY Milwaukee, quickly settled in a mix of eras not that different from the FM stations they replaced. (I just checked out WOKY and it was playing "Lyin' Eyes.")
WRLL's Web stream, by the way, still plays a lot of pre-Beatles music. When I flipped them on, they were going from Little Willie John to Eddie Cochran to the Flamingos. But there was also "Michelle" by the Beatles and "Sunny Afternoon" by the Kinks. And even on new Oldies AMs like WMTR Morristown, N.J., and CKWW (AM580) Detroit that play some pre-Beatles songs that you don't usually hear elsewhere, you're still going to hear late '60s and even early '70s. Only the '50s channels on Sirius and XM continue to concentrate primarily on pre-Beatles and, remember, even they are adding a little early '60s to their original '50s emphasis.
A lot of the pre-Beatles Oldies AMs were claimed by the rise of Air America and liberal talk. And when the rush to blow up Oldies FMs slowed down a little this year, there wasn't the same sense of opportunity that had existed a few years ago. My favorite station for obscure oldies, WNYH Long Island, N.Y., plays a broad mix that ranges from standards to '70s with a lot of deep pre-Beatles in between. But they don't stream yet.
So it's hard if you're a purist. But here are some stations that might be worth checking out:
* KXKL (Kool 105) Denver's "Kool 105 Classics" HD-2 channel: Kool 105 has made the same era move into the '70s as most of its counterparts. But their HD-2 station has picked up the slack; it went from the Flamingos into the Ronettes into Paul Anka when I turned it on this morning.
* The "Real Oldies" format at the Clear Channel Format Lab: It was created by the same people who gave us WRLL, WSAI, and many of the others. But it now contains mid-to-late '60s as well.
* WMID Atlantic City: Again, I heard Mitch Ryder's "Sock It To Me! Baby," which is never a problem for me, but I also heard the Angels into Johnny Mathis' little-heard "Small World." And they bill themselves as "broadcasting from the doo-wop capital of the world."
* WMTR - As previously mentioned, they've moved into the late '60s and early '70s now--not nearly as deep as they were a year ago when it was possible to hear a Royal Teens song other than "Short Shorts." But there's still a lot of pre-Beatles music on there. And it's still the station I go to when I have an urge to hear "Killer Joe" by the Rocky-Fellers.
* Suburban Detroit's WPON, which bills itself as "talk and rare Oldies."
* WSAI's successor, WDJO, which has some of the same staffers and plays a 50/50 mix of pre- and post-Beatles.
For what it's worth, I miss the pre-Beatles AMs, too. I started listening to pop music in 1967, so a lot of the late '50s and early '60s are lost on me--particularly the Connie Francis/Neil Sedaka/Paul Anka ballads. But WSAI--the best of the category, I thought--was a well-produced, well-executed radio station, the kind that could make me sit through a song I didn't like. (Besides, they were all two-minute songs!) There are doubtlessly Internet-only stations specializing in pre-Beatles. But I'd rather hear them in the context of a full-service radio station.
But please chime in with your suggestions on pre-Beatles Oldies and where to hear them by clicking the comments tab above.
Written Oct. 10, 2007 in Content + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Just for fun, I decided to see what you get when you enter certain search terms, as a consumer perhaps might do when looking for something to listen to, into Google.
So first I just typed in "Great Radio". The first link is the truly distinctive KEXP-FM in Seattle -- the University of Washington eclectic station. I had some real fun listening to that.
Then, I tried "Great Rock Radio." The first link was ChristianRock.net, not my taste, and they didn't make listening on line too easy by making me pick from an endless list of players, many of which required "plug-ins"...which sounds scary. The second link was RockRadioFM from the UK, which wouldn't let me get their stream...I assume because of my American IP address. The third link was for K-Rock in New York. The fourth station was Planet Rock, another digital station from the UK, which I could stream with no problem.
Next up: "Great Country Radio". Interestingly, the first link there was CMT's surprisingly robust radio offerings page. WYCD, CBS's station in Detroit, came second.
Lastly tonight I tried "Great Hip-Hop Radio." That took me the HipHop Express Radio Show , a podcast featuring "Mad Exclusives from Some of Today's Hottest Underground & Independent Artist (sic) in the Business."
I listened at least a little bit to everything I found (that would let me). Tons of fun. A great way to spend some time online. Traveling along the Infinite Dial is the modern equivalent of lying in bed in the early 1970s and listening to AM radio stations from around the country. But now the excitement is listening to "Great" radio, not simply being wowed by the fact that you could hear stations from New Orleans or Montreal.
Written Oct. 4, 2007 in Content + Internet Radio with 1 Comment
Okay, it's hardly news that many Rock radio Websites offer extensive displays of female pulchritude. But even by Active Rock standards, KYRK (the New 104.1) New Orleans Website stands out, not just for the sheer amount of the real estate given over to the babes, but also by the positioning statement that flashes across the animated header bar: "Hot Chicks, Rock Music." Pay particular attention to the order there. And if the new way of thinking is truly that the Website is the franchise that just happens to have a terrestrial radio station attached to it, does the format then become Maxim with music?
Well, it's hard to imagine how that would play out on the radio in this era of relative caution. So far, KYRK on-air is very mainstream. Musically, it's working the border between Active and Modern, like many Clear Channel rockers. And despite the raunchiness of the site (the "now playing..." display reads "...with ourselves" when the station is in spots), there wasn't any reflection of that content in the 45 minute or so stretch that I heard. In fact, the one crossplug for the Website that I heard was to stream the new Foo Fighters album.
Written Oct. 1, 2007 in Content + Internet Radio with 1 Comment
CBS Radio president/CEO Dan Mason's remarks at Friday's R&R luncheon have been covered elsewhere since then, but they still rated a quick mention. After three days that didn't often make one feel good about the radio business, it was a nice and much needed gracenote to leave with some unabashed enthusiasm about programming. More important, after walking away from the session, "The Bedroom Project" without the answer I wanted--did young listeners jump or were they pushed?--it was nice to hear somebody say outright, "Like it or not, we've been out of the 12-to-24 business for 30 years . . . so why should the industry be so shocked now?" Any resurgence in younger listening, Mason noted, would likely be on a different platform, e.g., younger listeners who will listen to all-news stations on the Web, but not on AM.
Written Sep. 24, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
If you are a Mac user, you are gonna want this: Radioshift: Radio on your schedule. I have been a fan of Rogue Amoeba's products for some time now (Audio Hijack is indispensable, and NiceCast is about the slickest way to stream audio from your client I have used to date). Radioshift, though, is a software-only solution to listen to whatever radio you want, whenever you want it. With a very comprehensive programming database of 50,000 programs and stations and an immediately intuitive interface, RA has another hit on their hands. If you don't have a Mac--go get one! This is the closest thing I've seen yet to approximate TiVo for radio.
Written Sep. 21, 2007 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 2 Comments
I clicked on "listen live" and was startled to see that in order to listen to KGSR one must join its frequent listener club, and give them ALL of the following information: First Name, Last Name, Email Address, Phone Number ( ! ), Street Address, City, State, Zipcode, Date of Birth, and Gender! Yes, in order to listen one MUST give 10 pieces of personal information -- and wince through the possibility of getting phone calls at home etc.
I suppose one could lie about all these things, but at minimum you have to put in your correct email address, because in order to listen one must THEN wait to get a confirming email with a password, and then go BACK to KGSR's site, enter that information, and then FINALLY have your opportunity to listen.
Now KGSR is a truly great radio station. But who is going to give them so much information for the privelege? It is as if they are trying to inhibit listening. And perhaps that is indeed the goal.
By comparison, one can go to Kurt Hanson's Accuradio, click on your station of choice and immediately listen. Go to Pandora, type in the name of your favorite artist, and you immediately hear a song by that artist.
If 'terrestrial' radio hopes to have any chance at all to compete on the Internet, doesn't it have to be immediately available? You turn on a regular radio and hear a station INSTANTANEOUSLY. I'd love to see the stats on how many people click on "Listen Live" on the KGSR site, get asked for all that info, and then click away.
Radio -- take your stations out behind the bars of building "frequent listener clubs." Instead, let me listen to your station and then compel me to join the club through offers and benefits that can't be resisted.
Written Sep. 20, 2007 in Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
I'd been meaning to check out WBEW (Vocalo 89.5) Michigan City, Ind., the new younger targeted, more diverse offering from Chicago Public Radio since its June 4 launch, but I'm getting around to it this afternoon as the result of a recent story in suburban Chicago's Daily Herald.
Targeted to "audiences that have not traditionally listened to public radio," in the words of a station spokesman, Vocalo is a mix of eclectic music and listener-generated content.
In the last half-hour or so, I've heard a mix of progressive hip-hop and R&B (Brother Ali's "Uncle Sam," Blackalicious' "Powers" and the maybe-not-so-progressive-anymore "Mighty O" by Outkast) and eclectic rock (The Replacements' "Take Me Down To The Hospital" and Bobby Conn's "[I'm Through With] My Ego"). Those have been interspersed with spoken-word bits from listeners on such topics as dreaming about Mr. Spock and watching a dog kill a squirrel. There's also been a break in which the host discussed the making of the Mr. Spock piece in a way meant to encourage listeners to submit their own pieces.
In intent, it's a next-generation NPR and there's no shortage of agreement on the need for such a thing. In practice, Vocalo alternately recalls a lot of things--the college radio of 30 years ago, the earliest days of progressive radio, and the almost-completely-lost-to-history black progressive radio of the '70s. It is also very reminiscent of the "Open Source Radio" experiment on CBS' KYOU San Francisco.
Check out Vocalo here, I would be interested in your thoughts.
Written Sep. 17, 2007 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
WHTZ (Z100) New York has given a lot of on-air real estate to the Z-Zone, one of a number of new social networking sites built around its radio stations, but it recently turned gave the Z-Zone another interesting piece of real-estate: space on the station's Webstream player.
On Z100's website, as well as those of sisters WIHT (Hot 99.5) Washington, D.C., and WKQI (Channel 95-5) Detroit, the "listen live" link now instead reads "listen live and chat." Hot 99.5's player is actually branded to its "Hot Spot" social networking site--making it essentially a chat tool that just happens to stream a radio station.
Bundling the chat and streaming features does a couple of interesting things. 1) It makes signing up easier and puts the Z-Zone, Hot Spot, and WKQI's "The Unit" in front of even those listeners who might not have had any use for MySpace, Facebook or other social networking sites; 2) It pushes anybody who's using the chat tool to actually listen to the radio station. Podcasting, social networking and other non-traditional applications are often thought of radio as following its listeners to their other media choices. So it's nice to think that the social network sites might be used for something as old-fashioned as driving listening.
Written Sep. 5, 2007 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
With WiFi being a central feature of the new iPod Touch, Apple had an interesting choice to make--one with ramifications for everyone reading this. Some pundits speculated that this would finally bring open wifi radio to a portable device, akin to the Sansa Connect's integration with Yahoo Music. Of course, the Sansa is a closed-loop system--you can only listen to Yahoo Radio, and purchase songs via subscription to Yahoo Unlimited, but it still represents a start--turning the mp3 player from a sealed box into a portal.
Apple could have opened up the iPod to Internet radio--but they didn't. And why should they? With little money being made--yet--in internet radio, they had little incentive to hitch their wagon to one of the leading streaming players when they continue to sit on the biggest cash cow (in the true Boston Consulting Group usage of the term) in the music industry--the iTunes music store. So instead of listening to your station on an iPod, owners of the iPod Touch and the iPhone will be back on the iTunes music store, as usual, tightening Apple's grip on consumer music.
There is one exception--an integration with Starbucks that allows iPod users surfing the WiFi in a Starbucks store to automagically click a button and buy the song currently playing in the coffee shop. Earth's largest music store joining forces with Earth's largest retailer (in terms of number of locations--take that, Subway!). One of the most magical elements of the Apple brand is its ability to always look like the underdog--but with this move, they are Goliath, not David. I'm with Rick Rubin on this one--music is a commodity now, plain and simple. And Apple is Archer Daniels Midland--Supermarket to the World. If you are a music station, it is more important than EVER to have begun executing a web strategy to build community around music and music discovery, which still play vital transactional roles in the great music machine. Radio used to be the sole arbiters of musical taste over the air, but has ceded that role to the Internet, as our most recent research has shown. But "the Internet" doesn't have to be someone else's web site--it could (and should) be yours. Cede nothing.
Written Aug. 23, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Today's Radio Business Report has a story on a rumored deal for streaming royalties that hinged on webcasters accepting the inclusion of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology on any webcast streams. Whether this rumor is true or not, the inclusion of a DRM wrapper on your stream is more than a "trade-off" or compromise--it is the poison pill that might just sink your streaming efforts for good.
DRM is bad. When I buy a video on iTunes Music Store, and want to watch it on the larger, brighter screen of my Zune, I can't--because of DRM. The same is true if I download a song from my (legally paid-for) Yahoo Unlimited music subscription and want to listen to it on my iPhone. I can't--because of DRM.
But DRM is more than just an inconvenience--it represents a return to the client/server decisions of the late 90s that hamstrung so many webcasters. When I was a partner in Chrysalis Media's streaming radio venture in the UK back in 1999, there were still all kinds of client issues with webcasting--do we broadcast in Realaudio, Windows Media or Quicktime? Do we need three servers to stream all three formats? What do listeners need to download/install, and how do we help them through that process? What about Mac listeners?
These became financial decisions, not decisions based upon the needs and wants of our listeners. Thankfully, those days seem to be behind us. Webcast audio works best when it is format-agnostic, a generic MP3 audio stream that can be read by any player, presenting as few barriers between your listeners and their content as possible. DRM-wrapped audio, on the other hand, will require your listeners to use one client for your audio stream, but maybe another for other stations they listen to. That is a real step back, in my opinion, and your listeners shouldn't have to go through Real to get your station--they should be able to listen to it on iTunes, over their browser, through a flash-based player--whatever.
Consumers are becoming more and more aware of DRM--hence the recent deals announced by Real/Rhapsody, Wal-Mart, and (to a very limited extent) Apple to sell DRM-free music. Mainstream consumers are just now bumping into the hard edges of DRM, and are beginning to understand that what they buy, they don't seem to own--and many don't cotton to that. I know I don't.
Accepting the poison pill of DRM is essentially treating their lack of a 21st century business model as your emergency. Your best hope is to spread your content as far and as wide as you can, without barriers and without making your listeners jump through hoops. Don't take the pill.
Written Aug. 14, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Kudos to the NAB for sending mock SoundExchange invoices to 13,000 member stations. I might have made those invoices even more explicit/specific to the stations that received them, but in any case this was a creative way to get this issue back on everyone's front burner where it belongs. (originally posted in Kurt Hanson's RAIN Newsletter)
Written Aug. 6, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
It's pretty standard for Europe's major broadcasters to offer a suite of Web-only brand extensions these days. There's typically an all-'80s station, a lounge or chillout format, an R&B/hip-hop format of some sort, an indie rock channel, and a Top 40 channel that is younger or newer than the more adult mix that usually constitutes Top 40 in Europe.
But Frankfurt's heritage Hot AC FFH has something unusual in its tier of Web-channels, a format it's billing as "FFH Jack FM." While the first announced international Jack FM client in Oxford, U.K., gears up for its launch later this year, it's interesting to hear it with German liners (but no apparent attempt to re-create the tenor of Jack-FM voice Howard Cogan) and the English-language slogan, "We play what we want."
The website copy for FFH Jack FM promises, "The craziest radio station of all times! At FFH Jack FM, we're playing Eminem after Simon & Garfunkel and Nirvana before Elton John. No rules, just good music. Happy 'radio-anarchie' [their spelling] rules, because we play what we want."
The irony, of course, is that it wasn't that long ago that a lot of European radio sounded like Bob- or Jack-FM. And in a smaller market, it's still quite possible to hear Abba and Fort Minor on the same station. Here's FFH Jack FM on Monday afternoon:
Abba, "Thank You For The Music"
Seed, "Aufstehn" (bilingualreggae pop)
Mario, "Let Me Love You" (not a song you'd hear on most U.S. versions of the format)
Church, "Under The Milky Way"
Fort Minor, "Believe Me"
Slade, "Far Far Away"
Billy Joel, "Leningrad"
Mika, "Grace Kelly"
Yes, "Owner Of A Lonely Heart"
Modjo, "Lady (Hear Me Tonight)"
Desireless, "Voyage Voyage" (bilingual Eurodisco)
Frank Zappa, "Bobby Brown" (early '80s Zappa song that became a hit in non-English speaking European countries where the R-rated lyrics weren't quite as widely understood)
Written Aug. 1, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
It's N/T powerhouse New Jersey 101.5 now, but I was a fan of WKXW Trenton, N.J., in the early '80s when it was Kicks 101-1/2, an unusual Adult CHR starring Philadelphia radio veteran Hy Lit and programmed by his son, Sam Lit. A couple of things made Kicks unusual: its heavily dayparted music meant that you could hear Hy playing "Goody Goody" by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers at lunchtime and "Danger" by the Motels at night. Then there were almost eerily intense stagers that sound unique more than 25 years later.
Kicks 101-1/2 was never a chart reporter to the trades in that era and, despite its initial success in the market, remained more or less off the industry's radar, unlike rival WPST. But a year or so ago, a Philadelphia PD and I got to talking; turned out that he had grown up with Kicks and its unusual imaging as well.
So if you're interested in hearing what the Lit family is up to now, check out hylitradio.com, which began with an Oldies channel. Now there's a second stream, HyLitRhythm.com, which can best be described as Jammin' Oldies in terms of texture and a Bob- or Jack-FM in terms of scope. (A recent half hour stretch ranged from Al Green to Klymaxx to two Trammps songs, neither of which was "Disco Inferno.") Best of all, the stagers recall Sam's work on Kix 101-1/2 and are very much worth hearing, particularly if you never heard the original station.
Written Jul. 31, 2007 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
I've always been a fan of CIDC (Z103.5), Toronto's unusual Top 40 station that combines the rhythmic (but not entirely so) lean of my American major-market CHRs with a healthy dose of new dance music. At this moment, for instance, Z103.5 is playing a Canadian techno dance version of the theme from "The Godfather."
And I know it's Canadian because Z103.5's "now playing" page helpfully tells me not only if a song is Canadian, but how exactly it qualifies under the convoluted "Can-Con" system to measure local contents. All four possible aspects of Danny D's "La Cosa Nostra (The Underworld)" qualify as Canadian--music, artist, production and lyrics (although in the case of this song, there are none, really). Finger Eleven's "Paralyzer," on the other hand, was apparently not produced in Canada and is only three parts "Can-Con."
I don't know if Z103.5's Webmaster was intending to post "MAPL" information for every song they play. My guess is that it's yet another example of the "break notes" from a station's log showing on the station's Website or audio player because that's where the "now playing" information is linked from. And even if that's not Z103.5's issue, it remains an glitch for many stations that stream.
Since the early '00s, I've seen stations that helpfully share a lot of their behind-the-scenes information with anybody with a Web player. The most common one is the names of the sweepers that run in between records (e.g., "linker No. 4"). But occasionally, I've seen more detailed information on where to frontsell records or how to execute contests. And one day, I fully expect to see something that listeners really aren't meant to see--instructions to a jock to make sure there's a female contest winner, for example.
Whenever I've reached out to a PD buddy to let them know that I can see their breaknotes on line, the answer is usually, "Yeah, I know, I've asked them to do something about that." And I actually enjoy knowing MAPL info for Canadian hits, so I hope Z103.5 doesn't change. But for anybody else who doesn't want to share all their log information with every listener and perhaps the competition, this might be a good time to revisit this issue with your IT person or music software vendor.
Written Jul. 14, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Business week reported yesterday the decision that really isn't a decision--SoundExchange will not (yet) collect all those royalty fees tomorrow. This doesn't mean they aren't due, of course, but it does signal at least a willingness to engage webcasters on a more constructive level.
As I mentioned in the BusinessWeek article, there are plenty of webcasters (notably Live365, which may have the most to lose) that were going to keep broadcasting no matter what. After the events of yesterday, others may choose to hang in there as well (which is why I was saddened to read in Jaye Albright's blog that TwangTownUSA has decided to go dark--hang in there, Twangers!)
Still, despite SoundExchange's "commitment" (i.e., not an "agreement" or "legally binding decision") to allow webcasters to keep streaming during this process, significant uncertainty still remains (Kurt Hanson puts the SaveNetRadio.org 'countdown clock' at "2 days and holding.") For my part, as someone who has been involved with streaming audio since the late 90's, I would almost like to see this go to court--not the circuit courts or panels of copyright judges where this issue has primarily been contended, but a good ole' civil suit (potentially with a jury full of music lovers). That might be the most riveting trial on Court TV since O.J.
Written Jul. 12, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Written Jun. 27, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Written Jun. 22, 2007 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
Internet Radio Broadcasters Call for Day of Silence on June 26: "Internet radio broadcasters have called for a Day of Silence to make a statement and raise awareness against the royalty rate increase that could put several Internet radio broadcasters out of business. The planned silence is to show what the stations will really sound like if the rate increase goes through. This is planned to take place next Tuesday"
(Via DIGG.)There is a lengthy list of notable webcasters who have already committed to this. For our readers who are streaming at terrestrial radio stations--will you be joining them? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments please--I'd love to hear from broadcasters about this.
Written Jun. 3, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Attention. In more ways than one. Of course, the radio industry is buzzing about this deal, though I think it has as much to do with CBS needing a venue for banner/site advertising to 12-29 year olds as it does anything to do with CBS radio, per se.
But this deal will garner attention from other, more unwelcome quarters as well. Unlike Pandora, AccuRadio and some other prominent hybrid playlist/stream services, Last.FM operates outside the U.S., for the moment, and we assume that they have their own deals negotiated with the record labels. Except, as James Cridland points out, maybe they don't. And they certainly don't in the U.S.
All of which now makes them a very big target come July 15th. When SoundExchange begins its retail enforcement in earnest, I don't think their first stop will be Radio Paradise. While I do believe something less draconian will eventually come out of this, the hard fact is that online radio is starting to make some people some money, and the labels know it. There's no such thing as a free lunch. CBS insists they are not going to gunk up Last.FM and monkey with what is a very fragile ecosystem of users (remember how Napster V1 vanished overnight?) But when increased rates go into effect (and in some form they will go into effect) CBS is going to have to monetize Last.FM in other ways.
Written May. 23, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
The odd thing about the SoundExchange controversy and the upcoming rate hike is that the labels have effectively chosen to subvert the entire system, and charge the wrong people for their inability to suss a new revenue model in the post-peer-to-peer world. Take my Sansa Wifi player, for instance--in order to get full usage out of this device, you need to subscribe to Yahoo Unlimited, which is a subscription-based all-you-can-eat music download service. For $14.95 a month, I can download unlimited (DRM-hobbled) songs and albums and listen to them on my PC, burn them to a disc, and move them to my Sansa to listen to wherever I choose. With the WiFi functionality and tight integration with Yahoo's Launchcast radio streams, I can listen to a song over a webcast stream, and with one click on my device have it downloaded to the Sansa in seconds, with no money changing hands whatsoever--it's part of my $14.95 subscription.
So consider this--I just listened to a song on Launch, clicked on it, and got it on my device for free. No friction. The new SoundExchange rates are designed to make someone pay for this, and that someone will be Launch/Yahoo for every person who hears the song on one of their streams. The subscription music model has done more to devalue and commodify music than the original Napster ever did, and now the webcasters who actually play and promote music in their streams have to bear the cost. Imagine if my doctor had to pay Wyeth for every sample of that pill that holds my stomach together he gives me, but I can refill it for free at the pharmacy. My doctor would be stupid to do that, wouldn't he?
Well, he would be--unless he jacked up my bill to compensate. With the subscription audio streaming market reaching maturity, there is really only one way to make mainstream America 'pay' more for listening to a webcast, and that is with advertising.
EDIT: For more on this, do check out Accuradio CEO Kurt Hanson's take on his new blog.
Written May. 16, 2007 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
Lance Venta posted a comment to my earlier post on Radio 104.5 that bears a quick revisit. He is right, of course, that viewed through the lens of PPM in Philadelphia, Radio 104.5 might not need a top-of-mind brand to be a cume magnet--by playing "one great song after another" and remaining jockless it might slip under the radar and "stealth" its way to a respectable share. Still, my points about its Internet brand are still valid.
The more sinister issue is this: if we react to passive measurement with passive branding, will we be adding further fuel to radio's relentless retreat from the passionate edges of the bell curve (as further explicated by Fred Jacobs, Mark Ramsey and other folks who care about the future of the medium) and concomitant 'ascent' to that curve's mediocre middle?
Written May. 16, 2007 in Content + Internet Radio + Marketing with 45 Comments
Clear Channel blew up Philadelphia's 'Rumba 104.5' today in favor of Adult Alternative outlet "Radio 104.5." I won't comment here on the product, which I will leave to my programming bretheren, but in an era where co-opetition with Internet properties is demanded, this brand is distinctly success-proof on the web. There are three reasons why this brand was just not fully baked to compete on the Infinite Dial:
- The brand is too generic--it means absolutely nothing in terms of attitude, behaviors or benefits (or if it supposed to say something in a kind of anti-branding way, I don't get it)
- 'Radio' as the integral brand identifier is not just non-descript, it constrains the ability of the brand to leave deeper footprints
- '104.5' is a meaningless Internet brand
A much better execution of this is DC's The Globe, which is a brand equipped to compete both on the air AND over the web, which is the right answer.
I have mixed feelings about calling Clear Channel out on this one, as I worked on that frequency for several years throughout the 90's, and it's been a tough nut to crack, from Star to The New Sound of Philadelphia, from Alice to Sunny. But there is no gettting around this fact--in a time when brands MUST resonate online as well as off, this one fails to inspire.
Written May. 2, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
As Internet radio stations grapple with the likelihood of music licensing costs and terrestrial stations look anew at the notion of selling sponsorships, not spots, the two trends come together at heritage Triple-A outlet WMVY Cape Cod, Mass., which announces today that it will switch from spot sales to a "listener- and corporate underwriting-supported station" -- at least on its on-line mvyradio.com streams.
WMVY has engaged Public Radio Capital to develop a new "Friends of mvyradio" organization, modeled on public radio's business model. The move does not change anything on WMVY's terrestrial signal. Mvyradio.com is currently offering at least six separate streams in addition to another suite of local music channels.
Written Apr. 20, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Nearly a decade ago, at a time when Country radio was at the depths of its doldrums, veteran radio consultant and programmer Bill Hennes tried doing an all-current Country format on WGRX Baltimore. At the time, the current product that might have justified a Country version of "Hot Hits" wasn't really there, and WGRX became Rock AC WZBA not long afterwards. But Hennes, now the publisher of industry Website AllAboutCountry.com is trying it again with the AllAboutCountry.Com:Hits channel.
Hennes' Hits channel is joined by a "New Country" channel (which sells slots to new releases) and will soon be joined by a Country Gold and a Country Legends format. If you're in New York without regular terrestrial Country radio, or if you'd just like somewhere to hear current Country without the heavy gold and recurrent lean of many major-market Country outlets, it's a nice resource.
Here's 45 minutes of the Hits channel this morning:
Kenny Chesney, "Beer In Mexico"
George Starit, "Wrapped"
Carrie Underwood, "Wasted"
Joe Nichols, "I'll Wait For You"
Bucky Covington, "A Different World"
Carolina Rain, "Isn't She?"
Bon Jovi, "(You Want To) Make A Memory"
Rascal Flatts, "Stand"
Toby Keith, "High Maintenance Woman"
Taylor Swift, "Teardrops On My Guitar"
Gary Allan, "A Feelin' Like That"
Kellie Pickler, "I Wonder"
Sarah Buxton, "That Kind Of Day"
Written Apr. 17, 2007 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
So far, broadcasters have shown an admirable amount of restraint in trying to get an all-'90s format on the air, instead leaving it to Internet or satellite broadcasters (particularly XM's '90s channel and Sirius' '90s-based Hot AC The Pulse). But it's still fun to speculate on how a '90s format might manifest itself, particularly when the mass-appeal music of the '90s went through so many changes. The XM approach is reminiscent of some of the all-'70s stations, acknowledging all the decade's extremes in turn. And for a truly unusual listening experience, there's the Devadesatka '90s Channel of Czech Hot AC station Radio City.
Maybe because the hits in Europe were different, Radio City does manage to find a pop center to the decade--a mix of pop, Eurodance, and the softest rock and hip-hop crossovers. There will be plenty here that's not familiar to most Americans, but as I write, they are about to segue from Shanice's "I Love Your Smile" to White Town's "Your Woman." Here's a recent sample hour:
Scorpions, "Send Me An Angel"
Madonna, "Beautiful Stranger"
LaBouche, "Be My Lover"
Prince Ital & Marky Mark, "United" (mid-'90s reggae rap from before the rapper-to-actor transition had completely taken hold)
Roxette, "Run To You"
Roy Orbison, "Oh Pretty Woman" (counts apparently because of the movie)
Culture Beat, "Mr. Vain"
Des'ree, "Feel So High"
Double You, "Please Don't Go" (a different studio group doing a similar arrangement to the KWS version)
Sasha, "If You Believe"
Prezioso f/Marvin, "Tell Me Why" (late '90s Eurodance)
DNA f/Suzanne Vega, "Tom's Diner"
Pet Shop Boys, "New York City Boy" (their hit streak ended here in 1988 but went on elsewhere for years)
Written Mar. 29, 2007 in Internet Radio with 2 Comments
I've always been intrigued by the concept of a "throwback radio station"--the idea of bringing back, say, WCAU-FM Philadelphia from its Hot Hits era or doing a new Top 40 in Detroit called CKLW with updated formatics from the '60s/'70s AM giant. Now, veteran PD Joel Salkowitz has done something similar on-line in hopes of filling the hole for new dance music left by WKTU's segue to Rhythmic AC. Salkowitz, who programmed WQHT (Hot 103.5/Hot 97) as a dance station in the late '80s and early '90s has launched an on-line radio station called "The Original Hot 97" which seeks to recreate the format as it would exist today: a mix of today's dance music (with an emphasis on remixes of pop hits) and gold that dates back to the Hot 97 era, buffered by the original drops and stagers from Hot 97. Salkowitz's station, one of an increasing number of on-line stations programmed by broadcasters with history in mainstream commercial radio, is not to be confused with the current WQHT's HD-2 throwback channel, which plays classic Hip-Hop.
Here's "The Original Hot 97" at 10:45 a.m. today:
Pussycat Dolls, "Don't 'Cha (Remix)"
George Lamond, "Bad Of The Heart"
Justin TImberlake, "My Love (Remix)"
Deborah Cox, "Nobody's Supposed To Be Here"
Nelly Furtado, "Say It Right (Remix)"
Gabriel & Dresden, "Dangerous Power"
Two WIthout Hats, "Try Yazz"
Shakira, "La Tortura"
Killers, "Read My Mind (Remix)"
Michel'le, "No More Lies"
Pink, "U + Ur Hand"
Backstreet Boys, "I Want It That Way (Remix)"
Written Mar. 8, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
As readers of Ross On Radio know, I was opposed to any sort of negotiated exposure for independent label product to resolve the FCC's payola issues with various major groups. While a level playing field for all potential hit music is desirable, the notion of any sort of FCC involvement in a station's musical content is chilling. (Consider the possibilities for next time a major act criticizes a standing president, for instance.)
That said, I did not find the "rules of engagement" agreed to with the independent label lobby A2IM to be unreasonable. In fact, some of the things called for--e.g., no selling access to programmers, firmer rules on disclosure--to be so reasonable that one wonders why the FCC didn't resolve these issues themselves 10 years ago instead of letting the euphemistically named "cost of doing business" spiral as it did. Instead, the FCC first abdicated that job to a state attorney general's office and now, oddly, to to the A2IM.
And now an irony: this agreement came down shortly before the announcement of new Webcasting performance royalty rates--pushed for by the label lobby and handed down by the Copyright Royalty Board--that many small Webcasters believe will be disastrous. While many Webcasters are, of course, playing the same songs as everybody else, others have been determined champions of indie product. And in the not-too-distant time when those stations sit alongside the majors on The Infinite Dial, they would have offered smaller labels their greatest chance at a level playing field, no government intervention required.
Written Feb. 16, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Some interesting feedback to yesterday's posting on the problems that many stations still have filling the stopsets on their stations' web streams.
Paul Williams of Sony/BMG Nashville checked in about the :60 artist vignettes that his label offers stations for that purpose. Steve Hunter of the Cox/Tulsa cluster suggested syndicated short-form programming, such as "60 Second CD" and "Family First Minutes." And both KKWF Seattle's Scott Mahalick and KINK Portland's Dennis Constantine suggested checking out their Web streams. I've heard KINK's and although it augments spots and custom features with some promos and fill songs, the two breaks I heard were more seamless than what I heard in my Atlanta listening. In addition, KINK's midday host went as far as teasing a concert calendar and letting listeners know it would be on both the Web and on-air feeds.
Written Feb. 15, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
If you listen to terrestrial stations' on-line streams, you know what that the Web insertion stopsets are often a morass of instrumental fill songs, endlessly repeated morning show promos, and hard-sell PSAs--some of them as lurid as any teaser for the 11 p.m. news. In recent months, some broadcasters have been trying to tackle those issues, and I've heard more stations filling those spots with local retail or national advertisers, not PSAs. This week, Ross On Radio listens to five Atlanta radio stations to see how they handle their Web-stops. As you might expect from an early streaming stronghold, most stations were fairly sophisticated but some were definitely better than others.
Written Feb. 14, 2007 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Okay, in my last entry, I pointed out that WAEB Allentown, Pa.'s on-line oldies channel was surprisingly well done, but cautioned that a lot of Web-only radio stations offered by major broadcasters start out that way, but aren't well-updated and, finally, saunter away for good after about 6-12 months.
Want proof? Try Clear Channel sister KABL San Francisco. Its Adult Standards format went through a frequency swap, then a move to on-line only. And at the beginning of this year, KABL went away all together. Ironically, the letter to listeners on the station Website directs Adult Standards fans to listen to another Clear Channel property, WNIO Youngstown, Ohio.
Written Feb. 9, 2007 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
Even as a proponent of the Infinite Dial, I'm not a big fan of telling disenfranchised listeners that they can still find a station's previous format on its Website. It still seems too much like a consolation prize. And with the debatable exception of WOXY.com, there's just no sign that it ever really works. In fact, it's rare that telling listeners that their favorite format will still be available on AM actually works.
But Allentown, Pa., with only a handful of viable FM signals, was one of the few markets where Oldies on AM had actually gotten traction. When Nassau's WODE went Classic Rock several years ago, Clear Channel's WKAP became, for several years, a regular player in the 3-4 share range with a deep-playlisted music AM. But recently, WKAP became Contemporary Christian WYHM (picking up yet another FM format vacated by Nassau). A few weeks ago, N/T sister WAEB began stunting, eventually leading to the unveiling of an Oldies stream on its own Website.
I wasn't expecting much. There are, after all, a lot of ill-tended Oldies streams and HD-2 channels out there. But for now, anyway, WAEB Oldies Online is getting a lot more care and feeding than most. It has its own jingles (although it also uses a lot of bumpers/stagers from WAEB's N/T format), it runs traffic and weather and network news updates. Most interesting, I've heard three actual stopsets over the last 40 minutes or so with various combinations of at least five local retail sponsors (two of which were Oldies-related).
Now, hearing at least three stop-sets an hour isn't an advantage if you're just looking for a pure music stream, but WAEB Oldies Online is a much better radio experience than listening to a terrestrial station on-line and hearing the stopsets blocked out clumsily by a combination of hard-sell PSAs, fill songs, and the same promo repeated several times in the space of a few minutes. As with all those HD-2 multicast channels launched a year ago, it's hard to say how long this will be the case, but, for now, WAEB Oldies Online sounds like it's getting more care and feeding than a lot of terrestrial stations.
Written Feb. 5, 2007 in HD Radio + Internet Radio + Podcasting + Technology with 0 Comments
Last week, the UK's most recent RAJAR data was released, and the results were extremely encouraging for British broadcasters. The headline stat, of course, was that more people than ever are listening to the radio in the UK--a record 45 million persons, or about 90% of the population. The primary reason for this growth has been broadcasters' platform-neutral approach to radio. By getting their product squeezed through every possible distribution channel, they have taken the decidedly 'Web 2.0' (and 1.0) approach of building audience first, and cracking the revenue model later. As a result, not only is the reach of terrestrial radio at an all-time high, but the use of other digital platforms to listen to radio is also rising dramatically. For example, almost 8 percent of the 15+ population has listened to radio on their mobile phone. This stat is currently almost unattainable here in the States, where our mobile phones rarely even have a tuner. Of course, getting tuners into mobile phones in the UK was as much a product of intense lobbying by the BBC as it was consumer demand--but, there you go. Maybe our lack of phone-tuners is just lack of effort after all.
Internet radio usage is also continuing to rise (as it is here, and we will soon have some fresh data on that score) and 39% of UK adults have listened to radio over their TV sets. The number that HD fans and foes alike have found solace in is the fact that 16% of UK adults own a DAB receiver. I'll come back to that point in a moment, but the big takeaway here is that by encouraging--and not stifling--the use of radio on other platforms, UK broadcasters are growing their industry. While useless debates rage on here with AFTRA and Harry Fox, broadcasters in the UK have done everything in their power to foster the development of Internet Radio, Podcasting and other digital platforms. Broadcasters have made it easier for UK listeners to consume time-shifted radio content, and listeners have responded by doing so--in record numbers. Here is where "The Paradox of Choice" has not stifled consumption, but clearly encouraged it.
There are some obvious conclusions here. One, certainly, is to fix that AFTRA thing already. Listening to Internet radio in the states is painful--we can't continue to preach about fixing what is "between the records" when what goes on in that space on our streams is...unspeakable. Another would be for high-level radio execs to start talking aggressively to Microsoft. Unlike the iPod and its typical (for Apple) closed-loop environment, the Zune has (gasp!) a pretty good FM tuner. Now Microsoft is working on a Zune phone to compete with the iPhone, and as long as it doesn't match the iPhone's hideous retail price, I wouldn't bet against it (and I am the only, stubborn Mac user in the company.) Broadcasters need to lobby hard to be sure there is at minimum an FM tuner and preferably an HD receiver built into the Zune Phone.
But there is a deeper point to be made here--and this goes back to the 16% penetration of DAB in the UK. DAB receivers are overwhelmingly home units--not installed in vehicles--and the UK model is actually proving successful by reaching people who want compelling audio content in their homes. The UK model is certainly different, with a separate tier of options removed entirely from the AM/FM band. But while many pundits in our business are just waiting for in-car WiFi to kill radio and its 'captive audience' for good, UK broadcasters have come up with a product that is compelling in the most competitive environment of all--the living room.
How have they been able to do this? Simple--necessity is the mother of invention. Broadcasters have thus far had it easy here in the US, with our wide urban streets, plentiful parking garages, suburban sprawl and monstrous ex-urban commutes. No such luck in the UK. Because UK broadcasters must succeed out of the car, they do. Now, so do we.
Here is what Southwest Airlines has to do with all of this. When Reagan deregulated the airline industry, most commercial carriers didn't even blink--they just kept plugging away with the suddenly irrelevant hub-and-spoke system, and failed to grasp what their new mission must be. Southwest, on the other hand, came into the business fresh, able to clear away the cruft of the old system, and find new, more profitable ways to ferry listeners from point to point that eliminated the decaying architecture of the hub-and-spoke system. The airlines hub-and-spoke system is, essentially, our AM/FM-based architecture. Regardless of whether or not the FCC accelerates or reverses consolidation, radio has already been deregulated. Though a handful of broadcasters here in my hometown of RDU have been granted "exclusive" spectrum licenses, sitting here at Starbucks as I type this I can listen to anything in the world I want to, and I do.
What the industry desperately needs is a Southwest Airlines to come in with a radically different model--to amalgamate saleable numbers of passionate listeners, no matter what the platform, using the AM/FM band as a promotional tool. Because the current crop of broadcasters are tied to their own hub-and-spoke system of quarterly books, an increasingly ill-prepared sales function and a failure to understand that radio station websites should be at the other end of the funnel, we are stuck maintaining hundreds of gates at DFW when our listeners can (and do) go anywhere they want, and grab any content they want, with little to no friction.
It's time for a Southwest to come into radio and change the rules.
Written Jan. 20, 2007 in Internet Radio + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Based on yesterday's story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it sounded like the new WHAT (AM 1340) Philadelphia was going to be a young male-targeted hybrid along the lines of KMBY Monterey, Calif. New owner (and rock radio/research veteran) Tom Kelly promised "a mixture of modern rock, R&B, reggae and hip-hop" targeted to what PD Alvin Clay termed college- and post-college-age listeners.
Now the new Skin Radio is here and, in its first weekend anyway, it sounded more like a halfway point between the usually adult-friendly Modern Rock of the now-defunct WPLY (Y100) and triple-A WXPN (which has itself tried to fill that hole by taking up the Y100 mantle at night).
Here's more than an hour of the station, beginning at 9:10 p.m. on Saturday (20):
Evanescence/Call Me When You're Sober
Live/Killing The Drama
Roseland/Hobbyhorse (local record and staged as such)
My Morning Jacket/Off The Record
Keane/Nothing In My Way
Jet/Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is
Nada Surf/Always Love
Red Hot Chili Peppers/Snow (Hey-Oh)
Lo-Fidelity All-Stars/Battle Flag
Angels & Airwaves/The Adventure
Town Hall/Night Patrol
Bob Marley/Is This Love
Written Jan. 20, 2007 in Internet Radio + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Based on yesterday's story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it sounded like the new WHAT (AM 1340) Philadelphia was going to be a young male-targeted hybrid along the lines of KMBY Monterey, Calif. New owner (and rock radio/research veteran) Tom Kelly promised "a mixture of modern rock, R&B, reggae and hip-hop" targeted to what PD Alvin Clay termed college- and post-college-age listeners.
Now the new Skin Radio is here and, in its first weekend anyway, it sounded more like a halfway point between the usually adult-friendly Modern Rock of the now-defunct WPLY (Y100) and triple-A WXPN (which has itself tried to fill that hole by taking up the Y100 mantle at night).
Here's more than an hour of the station, beginning at 9:10 p.m. on Saturday (20):
Evanescence/Call Me When You're Sober
Live/Killing The Drama
Roseland/Hobbyhorse (local record and staged as such)
My Morning Jacket/Off The Record
Keane/Nothing In My Way
Jet/Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is
Nada Surf/Always Love
Red Hot Chili Peppers/Snow (Hey-Oh)
Lo-Fidelity All-Stars/Battle Flag
Angels & Airwaves/The Adventure
Town Hall/Night Patrol
Bob Marley/Is This Love
Written Jan. 10, 2007 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
Streaming music provider Pandora has started to insert audio ads into some streams to test their acceptance and viability. Web 2.0 hawks like Mashable have noted that lots of folks are complaining, but, of course, no one would write in welcoming the addition of spots, would they? Still, there is a lot of passion for Pandora out there (I myself have been a paid user since day one--here is the station I made around my favorite song of all-time) and it is encouraging to see so many people who are passionate about what is essentially a jukebox, albeit a spanky-smart one. Pandora says that only a small percentage of users hear the ads, and that even then they will only hear one ad per day. People are complaining about this??? It is easy to get caught up in the fickle, manic rage of the blogosphere; one would hope that these folks would realize that even (gasp) two ads per day is a more than fair tradeoff for the free lunch of great music Pandora has delivered to their doorstep.
Underlying this kerfuffle, however, is a more weighty issue for broadcasters. Sustaining Internet audio services without audio ads has, to date, proven untenable (and I gave it the old college try as far back as 1999.) So, what is the future of Internet-delivered music radio? As long as I can minimize the player, or stick the iPhone in my pocket, I am not seeing banner ads, Google AdWords, or any other kind of visual advertising. Why else would Google buy dMarc? The Internet has changed our tolerance for spotloads--with so many alternate choices so easily reached, our attention spans for advertising grow shorter and shorter. You can't make money without more listeners, and the more listeners you have (until bandwidth is actually free) the faster you go out of business.
So, what is the answer? Dunno, but I do know that Radio is not the only one with this problem. The radio industry needs to reach out more to Madison Ave., and to media buyers and agencies (instead of ignoring them when they tell us they want PPM.) As more and more 18-34 year-olds (in particular) drop off "the grid" of conventional advertising, agencies need to reach them every bit as much as we do--and every time someone listens to Pandora, or subscribes to XM or Sirius, that isn't just another one of a thousand paper cuts to Radio's cume and TSL-- it's another valuable consumer unreachable by media buyers and advertisers. It's a big problem--one that requires the resources of a gigantic industry...like Radio.
So, no terrestrial broadcaster should gloat or say "see, I told you so" when Pandora has to start running audio ads. Instead, let's help Pandora solve their problem--it's your problem, too.
Written Nov. 29, 2006 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
Congrats to our friend Gene Stevens and his team at CHWO Toronto (Pop Standards) for recently rolling out their on-line stream at www.am740.ca. I'm listening to "Spin, Spin" by Gordon Lightfoot right now (a song I haven't heard since I lived on the Canadian border myself, over 20 years ago) and it sounds great. No matter how far this blog looks forward, there is always space on the Infinite Dial for the standards. And now for a little Francis Albert...
Written Nov. 15, 2006 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
The debate about the future of teen listening began a decade earlier in Canada than it did here. In the early '90s, Top 40 finally died on the AM band and, until FM stations began popping up to replace it, existed more on music video channel MuchMusic than it did on the radio. A few years ago, Top 40 almost disappeared from the radio again, although it's since made quite a comeback. Now Canadian group broadcaster Corus has launched the Internet radio station, BoomBoxBaby.ca, billed as radio by teens and for teens and tying in with various other youth-oriented Corus properties. For a full report on the station's first days, check out this week's Ross On Radio.
Written Nov. 10, 2006 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
Most radio people have now had at least a year or so of walking into a business which used to play the radio, or a canned music service, and hearing XM or Sirius Satellite Radio. But a few weeks ago, I walked into a sandwich shop in Maplewood, N.J., that used to play Sirius and heard something that sounded considerably more eclectic. As it turned out, satellite had been replaced by Santa Monica/L.A.'s KCRW, which was now serving as the in-store music.
Besides the novelty of a radio station repatriating in-store listening on behalf of radio, albeit from 3,000 miles away, that story illustrates how well certain public stations are doing at building national brands in anticipation of a day when wireless broadband makes every station that streams available on every car radio and over-the-air signals are a secondary delivery source.
KPLU Seattle is clearly gearing up for that day as well. In a profile in yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the station's interim GM Kerry Swanson anticipates "people bopping down the highway listening to KPLU and [its on-line Jazz station] Jazz 24 in Los Angeles and Houston." Swanson also notes that the station raised more than $200,000 last year from listeners outside its signal area--enough that "we're covering [the cost of streaming] and more."
Written Oct. 30, 2006 in Internet Radio with 0 Comments
I've been intrigued with Pandora.com for a while now. The Internet application that starts with your list of artists or songs and finds others with similar musical qualities has generally been more predictive (not to mention less intrusive) than similar applications at iTunes Music Store or Amazon.com. So I wondered, what would happen if I gave Pandora a list of recent Top 40 hits and asked it to find some other compatible songs? Was it possible to find songs the audience might like without having to even ask them? The resulting list looked a lot more like KCRW than KIIS-FM, but see it all here.
Written Sep. 12, 2006 in Blogging + Internet Radio + Marketing with 5 Comments
In just 3 days, Internet-only alternative station WOXY is going dark. I can absolutely feel their pain, having been a partner in another Internet radio play back in 2001 that also ran into the crippling paradox of 'Net radio--the more listeners you have, the faster you go out of business. As it was with Puremix, so it is with WOXY--while Internet radio usage is significantly more widespread than Satellite radio or even the iPod, making money from a pure Internet radio play is still a tough nut to crack.
WOXY had a significant presence in the Alternative community, and its site was the home of one of the most active message boards in all of radio. My wife's graduate students all listened to WOXY nonstop in lab, and I also listened to it a fair amount. So who killed it? The short answer is--I did. So did my wife's graduate students. And, statistically speaking, pretty much anyone else reading this who ever listened to WOXY. Because chances are, you didn't pay to subscribe, and neither did we.
America has seen a lot of alternative rock stations go by the wayside over the past 18 months, and prevailing wisdom has it that the 18-34 year old male has pretty much checked out of the system--ditching land lines, not filling in diaries, etc.--making them essentially invisible as far as ratings (and, thus, advertisers) are concerned. Perhaps passive measurement will bring with it a resurgence in formats that cater to this demographic. We see this when we conduct surveys in markets with underperforming alternative rockers--we know more people are listening to them than the diaries show, but if they don't play the game, they don't count.
So I am sure that there are lots of voices out there who are quick to excoriate Arbitron for their apparent failure to accurately measure the 18-34 year old male. What WOXY teaches me, however, is that the 18-34 year old male has to take some responsibility for this, as well. After all, WOXY has one of the most active user communities of any station on the web--just troll through their message boards and see--and yet hardly any of them ponied up a few bucks a month to subscribe. So for those of us who left WOXY on all day while we worked (and in the case of my wife's graduate students, even left it on overnight after they had gone home for the day) without paying for it, all we did was kill it quicker.
So we can hope that the coming dawn of passive measurement restores some balance to the force. But the "free lunch" mentality of the Internet means that even passive measurement of Internet radio doesn't mean that Internet radio has sussed out a revenue model yet. WOXY had a tremendous, loyal and passionate community--but despite all that love on their message boards, WOXY couldn't convert love into gold.
So, how do you create, sustain and monetize a rabid community of fans on the web? I hope you'll join me at the NAB Radio Show next week, when one of my panelists will be WOXY's GM, Bryan Jay Miller. Ask the man himself--and learn from his valuable perspective.
Written Aug. 28, 2006 in Internet Radio with 3 Comments
A little while ago I commented that when one googles for "internet rock radio" or "rock radio" no 'terrestrial' radio stations can be found.
So I decided to try another one: Jazz. And lo and behold, when one googles the words "jazz radio" the second match is for the public radio jazz station in Newark NJ, WBGO. Right behind them is K-Jazz in Long Beach, CA (which uses the creative URL www.jazzandblues.org . )
Clearly the creative forces at Public Radio are tracking ahead of their commercial counterparts on staking their claim to the Infinite Dial. If one is looking for Jazz on the Internet, these public stations, their streams, and their very good sites (check them out) will be found.
Written Aug. 26, 2006 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
As a million blog posts by dozens of (correct) bloggers will tell you, 'terrestrial' radio has simply not prepared itself to compete in the Internet space.
Case study #1,000,001 is the launch of Clear Channel's 'Rumba 104.5' in Philadelphia. Their site can be found here: http://rumba1045.com/pages/splash.html.
This station was hardly rushed onto the air. There was more than enough time to create a real web site. Instead we get this static page which says, essentially, nothing. The only content is a link to their stream, which (and maybe it's my computer, but) I can't get to launch.
And, do you think just maybe the words 'click here to listen to Rumba online now' could have been in Spanish?
After all these years, the accompanying Web site is STILL treated as an afterthought.
Written Aug. 20, 2006 in Content + Internet Radio with 0 Comments
While a bit late to the party, I finally read Chris Anderson's book version of his Long Tail articles this weekend, and I have great respect for his thoughts. Add me to those recommending the book.
The chapters on filtering got me to thinking: "How will people find great radio on an Infinite Dial?" So I started experimenting at the natural beginning point, Google.
I started by googling the words "internet rock radio" Results here: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=internet+rock+radio+&btnG=Search. As you can see, a variety of brands, some familiar and some not, come to the top. Note who bought these links on the right-hand side: Pandora, Rhapsody, etc.
The first 'real' radio station -- one that can be heard with a standard tuner, is Virgin Classic Rock (a digitial tier british station). In fact, this is the ONLY 'real' radio station link on the first ten pages Google delivered. The former radio station WOXY.com does show reasonably high.
On an Infinite Dial, people will either use google like I just did, or some new site will come along and replace this function within the niche. Either way, it's interesting to see who is playing the Google game that dominates right now. And it's interesting to see who is not -- namely 'terrestrial' radio stations.
Written Aug. 14, 2006 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
I usually cringe when I see any article in the consumer press that begins with, "You've had it with the disappearance of musical variety on the radio." But Marc Fisher's Aug. 13 article in the Washington Post, while intended as a consumer's guide to XM vs. Sirius, is a very good, clear-eyed look at the two that stops well short of the outright advocacy that the consumer press is sometimes capable of when it comes to satellite. For one thing, it makes the point, made here a number of times that satellite radio is becoming more mainstream all the time. And for any terrestrial broadcaster who hasn't had a chance to check out every channel of both services lately, it's a pretty good guide to the competition right now.
Written Aug. 10, 2006 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
Except, Skype, Gizmo, JaJah and more everyday are turning telephony--and soon, mobile telephony--into a non-profit business. With rumors of an iChat-to-Skype service for Mac users, built-in support for Gizmo on the Nokia 770, and Sony's new Mylo, who needs a phone? Radio professionals worry (rightly so) about increased competition from internet-delivered services once Wi-Fi becomes ubiquitous (and available in the car). They aren't the only ones worrying, however.
Take today's Alltel-XM deal, enabling Alltel users to listen to 20 commercial-free channels of satellite radio on their phone. This isn't just a "value-add" for Alltel customers, nor is it a sweetheart deal for XM. Rather, it's the nation's number five carrier trying to drive revenue through additional services in the face of ever-increasing downward pressure on call rates. Once we get that in-car WiFi we are all being promised, we may still need Verizon and Cingular for broadband access, but I won't be buying 900 minutes a month anymore, that's for sure. And I might not even need a "phone" as we currently know it. Now, I am not trumpeting the death of the cell phone here--that would be idiotic, and this isn't that kind of blog.
But it is a great time for terrestrial radio to talk to the telecoms about their broadband audio entertainment strategy. XM and Sirius have ZERO advantage over terrestrial radio once they are moved from dedicated satellite radio device to a mobile broadband appliance, so (hopefully) we will see a good scrap in this space. In that case, the customer might just win.
Written Jul. 24, 2006 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
A new study from Brix Networks shows that the quality of VoIP telephony has degraded by 5% over the past. I know I made a VoIP call just the other day and the quality was unbearably bad, though a subsequent call later in the day showed improvement.
If this degradation is real (and common sense tells me it is), there are implications for radio stations and other media channels who seek to stream their content online (as opposed to simply making it downloadable). The Internet we all know and love was never designed to carry the load it currently does, and despite near-ubiquitous broadband and increasingly common WiFi connections, all Internet traffic goes through a finite series of tubes.
As ridiculous as Sen. Edwards' description was, he was kinda sorta right about the “tubes” in that bandwidth is not infinite. As consumers increasingly make their phone calls online, and now with YouTube and other video sharing sites mucking it up even more, radio stations should be careful about their stream's audio quality. I have an extremely fast connection at home, and streams at 128 kbps often choke and sputter if I listen to them for more than 15 minutes or so.
I am eager to hear GCap's new higher quality audio streaming in the UK, which promises CD quality audio delivered over the Internet via a multicast solution. While sound quality may not be a problem now, GCap's rethink of their streaming architecture may prove prescient, indeed.
Written Jul. 17, 2006 in Internet Radio with 2 Comments
Leave it to a radio-research guy.
Since we conceived of this blog, I have spent a ton of time trying out all of the various streaming sites available on the Web. While there are many good ones, I'm ready to proclaim my choice for best overall streaming site: http://www.accuradio.com.
Kurt Hanson, a long-time radio researcher (Strategic Radio Research) conceived and runs the site. While not perfect (what is?) Kurt's site comes as close to running my list of desired features as any I've yet found:
1) When you click on a channel, you get your own stream. You don't just plug into an ongoing stream
2) One can skip forward any number of times you want. Don't like a song? Just skip.
3) Significant customization features -- one can eliminate all the artists or albums you want from your stream and it will listen to you.
4) The player has all the information you might want -- title, artist, album, composer( ! ), label, year, cd album art, the ability to buy the album.
5) One can pause the song in midstream and come back to it later.
It works rather seamlessly, and one can move from channel to channel easily.
Kurt has also incorporated many other terrific ideas. Go to the home page, and one finds that he is promoting channels that aren't easily found on one's over-the-air radio -- like Broadway, 60s Oldies, Pop Standards, Brit Pop. He also has created an extensive Chinese music sub-site, which seems extremely clever to me.
The site is ad-supported, although one doesn't hear too many spots. If one could make any negative comment about accuradio.com, it would be that there is an awful lot of visual advertising bombardment on the pages...but if that's what it takes to build such a good streaming site, it's a small price to pay.
Written Jul. 11, 2006 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 1 Comment
Philadelphia's WXPN (a non-commercial station operated by the University of Pennsylvania) announced a rather novel deal today with Y100rocks.com, the continuing web presence of now-defunct alternative rocker Y100, which was switched to gospel over a year ago. In the deal, XPN will devote 10 hours of on-air programming per week to alternative rock, to be hosted by former Y100 PD Jim McGuinn, and WXPN will also host "Y.Rock" on the Internet under the umbrella of WXPN's online brand.
Since WXPN is ostensibly non-commercial (though heavily sponsored) this represents a unique marriage on another level, as well. WXPN expects that donations will cover the expenses of the new venture, while Y100rocks.com will presumably benefit from increased traffic and site revenues.
There are several interesting things to note about this announcement. First, public radio is becoming increasingly aggressive with listener acquisition/aggregation, moving from "serving the needs of our listeners" to actively trying to capture "loose bodies" like the disenfranchised former Y100 listeners, who were not likely to have been listeners to WXPN's 35-54-focused format. Also, according to Roger LaMay, WXPN's GM, "It also gives [them] a station that's going to appeal to Penn students," which seems like a good idea for a station that has heretofore been geared to those students' parents more than anything.
There is a podcasting component to this venture, as well, which is an area where public radio (especially NPR) has been able to leapfrog over their commercial counterparts due to the fact that they own the rights to more of their content. We certainly know from our research that consumers want more control over their media, and public radio's natural advantages here may help them to reverse their recent (slight) downward trend after over a decade of solid growth.
The move is also a reminder that Internet Radio and Terrestrial Radio can work together without cannibalizing each other, though it certainly helps XPN that they don't have to play the ratings game. While you can understand the reasons why the two primary commercial rock operators in Philly didn't try this, by avoiding cannibalizing themselves now they have perhaps lost out on the chance to piggyback onto a reasonably valuable Philly-area brand and find new ways to capture the increasingly elusive 18-34 year-old male. We know from telephone studies that these listeners are out there, and they do listen to alternative/active rock--they just don't fill out diaries like they should. The coming advent of PPM may change that, and Philly's commercial operators (most notably--Radio One, who gave up the brand in the first place) may regret having passed up the chance to plant a flag with this format.
Execution, of course, will be everything. Sometimes these brand marriages work when they make sense, like the Starbucks in your Barnes and Noble, or that Eddie Bauer Edition Ford Explorer. Other times, they end up looking like the Arthur Treacher Kenny Rogers Miami Nathans Grill and Coffee bars you see on the turnpike.
Written Jul. 11, 2006 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
The WXPN/Y100 marriage is also an interesting way of acknowledging that Y100, for most of its life as terrestrial modern rocker WPLY, was really the next generation of Triple-A. Having evolved from an Alternative/CHR-hybrid, WPLY never fully embraced the hard rock that became an issue for so many modern rock stations. For most of its life, it had a healthy gold library and some sort of Dave Matthews Band presence, even after the softest of the softer music finally came off the station.
Five years ago, when Modern Rock was at its crunchiest and rappiest, and Triple-A's traditional base was starting to age, many Triple-A PDs hoped that they could become the new "true Alternative" format. That's why today's Triple-A chart is Gnarls Barkley at No. 1 and the new Tom Petty at No. 2. And why the Fray, Raconteurs, Keane, and Death Cab for Cutie co-exist with the new Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris song, and with Jackson Browne oldies. To some extent, Modern Rock made it harder for Triple-A when it added more gold, backed off the rap/rock, and started playing Keane and the Raconteurs itself. But in Philly, nobody has come along to replace WPLY directly. So perhaps showcasing Y100 music in this manner makes it easier to segue from the new Thom Yorke into "Fountain of Sorrow."
The WXPN announcement, by the way, does not address WXPN's HD-2 channel. (Nor could I find mention of one on the WXPN homepage.) It seems like bringing back Y100 would be a pretty good way to get a certain group of listeners to ante up for HD Radio. Of course, if you're depending on listener donations, perhaps you don't want to divert their $300, but if that's money that would otherwise go to satellite radio, it might still make sense.
Written Jun. 27, 2006 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
On a tip from a friend, I went to the Rolling Stone Web site (www.rollingstone.com) to check out their radio offerings. They don't make it easy to find your way to their radio offerings (a teeny 'listen' button on the home page) and even when one gets to their 'listen' page it is not entirely clear what is going on -- there seems to be some kind of combination of co-op deals with Rhapsody and their own playlists served through Real Player.
Anyhow, through some clicking around I found my way to a 'Rhapsody Radio Station' called 'Rolling Stone 500 The top 500 songs of all time, as picked by a five-star panel assembled by Rolling Stone magazine.' (http://www.rhapsody.com/radio/station?stationId=sta.8648164).
Rhapsody Radio Stations are Ad-free, presumably the model is to get one to sign up for the Rhapsody pay service. To their endless credit, they do not ask for any info...just download the player and you're listening.
And, Rolling Stone 500 is simply a GREAT radio station. You get the combo of (mostly) great songs with the feeling of "How in the WORLD did a panel pick THAT piece of dreck for the Top 500?" That question overwhelmed me when Foreigner popped up as the fifth song. As of the first hour of listening, this is essentially a Classic Rock/Classic Hits station -- in line with the Rolling Stone brand, one might suppose -- but were no "greatest songs of all time" written after 1985?
Within the free player, one cannot skip forward. If you try to, you get an ad saying: "Upgrade to the Rhapsody Premium Service to skip songs." Fair enough.
|Sam Cooke||"You Send Me"|
|Bee Gees||"Staying Alive"|
|George Harrison||"My Sweet Lord"|
|Cure||"Pictures of You"|
|Foreigner||"I Want to Know What Love Is"|
|Jimi Hendrix||"Foxey Lady"|
|Spencer Davis Group||"Gimme Some Lovin'"|
|Supremes||"Where Did Our Love Go"|
|Don Henley||"Boys of Summer"|
|Muddy Waters||"Mannish Boy"|
|The Troggs||"Wild Thing"|
|Rolling Stones||"Tumbling Dice"|
Written Jun. 22, 2006 in Internet Radio with 1 Comment
In looking at the choices on AOL Radio today, I saw them promoting "Sopranos Radio" with the positioning line: ""Listen to music from the acclaimed series, plus classic rock and mob hits." Since I live in New Jersey and am a fan of the show, it sounded worth an hour's listen.
At first this seemed like a great example of corporate synergy within the Time Warner/AOL empire. The Sopranos is such a strong brand name. And the show has always made music a major centerpiece.
The station plays a wildly eclectic mix, and to its credit I suppose, there is obviously no clock. Songs from the 50s play back to back, followed by Classic Rockers back to back, etc. I also heard two Frank Sinatras run in a row during a second listen. There are periodic IDs that have microscopic actualities from the show.
All I can say is: "Boy could this channel use a DJ." While the wild mix is fun, all I could think about was "When did they play this? How does this relate to the show?" It really got frustrating. And how fun would this channel actually be if it had David Chase, or someone from the cast -- or even better -- the music director from the show? Someone who could set the scene: "Remember when Tony and the gang whacked Big Pussy on the boat? This was the music playing in the background. I chose it because..." Further, some of these songs are just begging for explanation. Can someone please remind me how "I Love This Bar" by Toby Keith was used on the show?
Anyhow, a fun idea that was just frustrating because it could have been so much better. But if you are having a cocktail party before viewing the season finale, this would make good background music.
SOPRANOS RADIO on AOL RADIOSpringsteen, Born to Run
Toby Keith, I Love This Bar
Nancy Sinatra, These Boots
Cars, My Best Friend's Girl
Dion and the Belmonts "I Wonder Why"
Flamingos "I Only Have Eyes" [taken from an album called "Fuhgeddaboutit! Music You Heard on The Sopranos"
Billy Joel, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
Pretenders, Space Invader [an obscure instrumental taken from the album "Sopranos: Pepper and Eggs"]
Dean Martin, You're Nobody til Somebody Loves You (sounding like it was recorded from AM radio)
The Police & Henry Mancini Mash-Up of "Every Breath You Take" and "Peter Gunn" [gotta say, a really really cool song that sounds like the Sopranos]
Grand Funk Railroad "Closer to Home/I'm Your Captain" [UGH -- a Ten Minute Song!!! This is a good song but no stream that can't skip forward should ever play ten minute songs]
Frank Sinatra, "For Once in My Life"
Nancy Sinatra, "Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down" from Kill Bill.
Radiohead, "Kid A"
Post Note: During a second listen seven hours later I heard "For once in my life" again, so apparently there isn't too long a playlist. Also, they segued it into Stone Temple Pilots "Down", which qualifies as about as extreme a jump as one can make.