Written Sep. 1, 2010 in Music Industry + Technology with 6 Comments
Today's Apple event introduced us all to iTunes 10 and its central new feature: "Ping." Ping is a social network for music - essentially, a Facebook or Twitter for what your friends are listening to, not what they are doing (or tweeting.) This is not a new gadget or a high-end phone - this the the default music player for hundreds of millions of people.
I don't have to tell you that Ping is going to change the face of music discovery forever - and I don't think that's hyperbole, given both the installed base for iTunes AND the fact that over half of online Americans are already on social networking sites. Using Ping for shared music discovery, playlist sharing, "top tens" and more will be the mixtape for a generation.
You'll see a lot of posts on this over the coming days from a lot of folks covering the radio industry, expressing varying degrees of concern over this - but really, it's an amazing time to be a fan and consumer of music. We've always learned about new music from our friends; what Ping gives us is the ability to also learn from our "friends," our expanded network of social connections.
It is more important than ever to establish a credible image for curation, which means hiring great jocks and empowering them to express their love for music. Following PPM's received wisdom to just "shut up and play the music" will win short term ratings battles, but potentially lose the long term "war" for the hearts and minds of today's 12-34 music listeners and beyond.
We'll have more to say about this later this month, when we premiere the results of our groundbreaking American Youth 2010 Study at the NAB Radio Show. You can Ping me there. :)
Written Aug. 13, 2010 in Content + Music Industry with 5 Comments
As the Radio industry continues its inexorable march towards the payment of a performance royalty, I've observed emotions running the gamut from acceptance, to denial, and (in many cases) outright fury. However, as the ways in which the record labels can make money from recorded music dwindle, and as original, local content for radio stations continues to be engulfed by furniture-burning, there may truly be no more symbiotic relationship than radio and records. Radio needs music to make money; the labels need radio in order to make money from their music. This, as my Ph.D. scientist wife might say, is an example of "obligate mutualism": a symbiotic relationship whereby the value exchange between two organisms isn't just beneficial, it's required for survival.
As I observe the negotiations, I can't help but wonder what all of this says about music as art. That's right: art, not commodity. Call me an idealist, but the well-crafted pop song still gives me a little thrill. So does the final verse of Radiohead's "Videotape," the ethereal acoustics of Grizzly Bear's "Southern Point," the cascading voices of School of Seven Bells' "Sempiternal/Amaranth," and Neil Finn's mastery of form on "Don't Dream It's Over." I love music, and seeing the commoditization of recorded music makes me wince, even as I recognize it as inevitable.
Here's one thing I think we can all agree on: music, like any art form, has an intrinsic value, and an extrinsic value. The intrinsic value is a constant, but the extrinsic value ebbs and flows over time. Look what time has done to the extrinsic value of two contemporaries: The Dave Clark Five, and The Beatles. Look what happened to the back catalog of Michael Jackson after his passing. Consider other forms of art - take paintings, for example. When an artist is brand new and struggling, a sale of their work (no matter how gifted) might fetch "X" at their first gallery opening. Upon their second, they might be able to command "2X." After a 10-year body of work they might be worth "20X", and so on. After the artist dies, of course, artwork of great intrinsic value suddenly can take on extraordinary extrinsic value, as the buying public begins to value scarcity over other considerations. The same, of course, is true of sculpture, novels, and pretty much any art form you can name.
So, if we accept my basic proposition (recorded music is an art form), then the genesis of my wacky idea becomes a little clearer. The current speculation is that radio will agree to a blanket 1% performance royalty, but a "flat rate" that equates "Playground Of My Mind" with "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" seems derived from some pretty torturous economics. Instead, my modest proposal: let's let the labels set sliding "tiers" of value for their artists. New, unproven artists that the label believes in could be offered free of performance rights, while the next Lady Gaga might command the equivalent of 2%. Maroon 5 might be in a higher tier, while Yeasayer sits in a lower tier. Tiers would be based upon the artists' clear, demonstrated value to the labels (easily demonstrated by sales) with the potential for "discount rates" to promote back catalog releases (you know, like the movie industry does?)
Critics of this approach might point out the following flaws, which I freely admit:
1. Budget-crazy radio stations might choose to only play lower-tier artists in order to save money.
True. Luckily, there is this thing called "The Invisible Hand." It states, roughly paraphrased, that if you "supply" your listeners with too much music they don't want, they will "demand" to listen to your competitors.
2. The labels might "overvalue" artists for emotional or other non-rational reasons.
That's the beauty of a symbiotic relationship. If the fungus chokes the moss, the lichen dies - and vice versa. See #1 above.
3. Unproven artists won't make any money.
I submit that the opposite is true. If a .5% tier convinces a radio station to play more new, unproven artists, then those artists will a) sell more (that's kinda how radio/records work, remember?) and thus b) ascend quickly to higher tiers.
4. Record keeping would be insane.
Dude, it's 2010. Your music database software spits out numbers. Buy a computer and write a script.
Okay, there are other flaws, I know. Why don't you tell me how lame this idea is in the comments? I'm ready for you. :)
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 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 Jun. 1, 2010 in Content + Music Industry with 0 Comments
Okay, we've had four months' worth of headlines about the least exciting "American Idol" season ever: ratings off sharply, voting down dramatically, and those viewers who do participate now seem to be voting more for the contestant they'd most like to have a soda with. Lee DeWyze is no more guaranteed a hit record than any of the other affable-enough winners of recent seasons, and you can at least reasonably wonder if this will be the first year that making it to the finale won't even guarantee you a hearing from radio.
Top 40 owes a lot of its comeback of recent years to "Idol." In Kelly Clarkson, the show gave Top 40 its biggest homegrown core artist in many years. Moreover, it also revived the notion of all-ages entertainment so that the mother/daughter coalition seemed possible again. Clarkson's brand of pure pop never became the sound of Mainstream Top 40. Rhythmic pop continues to dominate, but in the last five years, rhythmic pop has become, well, poppier, while the notion of Hip-Hop as the only music for self-respecting teens is long forgotten.
So you have to wonder a little about what Top 40 will be like if "Idol" continues to lose momentum (and "X-Factor" doesn't pick up the slack). The good news is that Kelly Clarkson hasn't turned out to be the only person who could make a mainstream pop record. Pink quickly returned to form. Katy Perry took advantage of Clarkson's hiatus from the charts. Top 40 enjoyed having mainstream pop so much that they didn't stop at one style, but kept going to Jason Mraz, Train, and Taylor Swift, who, in certain ways, gives Top 40 both Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.
Beyond that, what Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox have the ability to do--in the best case scenario--is to turbo charge what has already happened at pop radio with Train, Mraz, Owl City, et al. Putting a ukelele over Hip-Hop beats has already given us about three more hits than we can reasonably expect. Nothing is guaranteed for either DeWyze or Bowersox at radio, but what still excites me most about them is their potential to bring to Top 40 some singer-songwriters who would otherwise be exiled to non-comm Triple-A.
At the same time, programmers in other formats have to ask themselves: what happens if "Idol" doesn't remain a force? There have been other pockets of musical activity in the last five years--younger Country, indie rock--but none of them have had the same ability to galvanize a format that "Idol" has at Top 40. Or, as likely with both younger Country and indie rock, nobody at radio has had any idea whatsoever how to build a format around them. It's strange enough that we sometimes seem to have gone back to 1966--one dominant current music format that sells records, except, of course, for those records that sell without airplay. And now it's not impossible to imagine a landscape with no current music epicenter.
If I was an Urban or Rock programmer, I would at least be considering now whether there's the possibility to create more musical excitement than Top 40. And is there some sort of musical movement afoot anywhere? Top 40 only needs a varied collection of great hit records--some of them homegrown; more narrowly defined formats seem to need a movement, whether it's Country in 1990, Hip-Hop in 1995 or female singer-songwriters in 1997. And then programmers have to ask themselves whether they'd be willing to acknowledge a movement, if it meant targeting younger demos or, in the case of Alternative, stepping out of the '90s Gold war that is currently taking place.
Written May. 3, 2010 in Music Industry + Technology with 0 Comments
With the news that Apple is shutting down Lala.com, perhaps in anticipation of some sort of cloud-based iTunes, there is no reason not to go public anymore with the reasons I liked Lala.
I'm still from the generation that wants to own hard copies of music, even if that hard copy is merely my purchased MP3 burned to a CD-R. So the music-in-a-cloud thing was not their killer ap, for me. But . . .
Lala was cheaper than the iTunes Music Store, not enough to bother with when the difference was 89-cents vs. 99-cents, but definitely when it was 89-cents vs. $1.29.
And it allowed me, in at least one instance, to buy a soundtrack song without forcing me to buy the entire rest of the album.
As somebody who uses iTMS mostly for catalog -- and not the kind of catalog that a lot of people are so anxious to own -- I've been surprised recently by how many songs have gone up to $1.29 and how few obscurities have gone down to 59-cents.
Why shouldn't somebody pay more for an in-demand hit song, labels asked? Fine. So why should I pay as much as a current hit for the 1967 obscurity "You Can Bring Me All Your Heartaches" by Lou Rawls? Now, if this was a merit-based system...
Fortunately, there's still Amazon.com when you disagree with iTMS pricing. At least today.
Written Apr. 23, 2010 in Content + Music Industry with 0 Comments
If I listen to the John Gorman-consulted Triple-A WNWV (V107.3) Cleveland every few weeks, I can pretty much count on hearing at least one song I want to buy in an hour's time. Today, I heard two, and one of them was the five-year-old song that I would cover as Crystal Bowersox' first single. And it's by an artist who's already been covered once on Idol this season.
Written Dec. 23, 2009 in Content + Music Industry with 0 Comments
...Belongs to Tim McGraw, whose hit "Something Like That" received 487,343 spins in the naught-ies, according to the New York Times. Tim handily beat Usher, Ludacris, Train and even Flo Rida (featuring T-Pain) in radio's cage match of the decade.
Note to the labels: a Tim McGraw cover of "Low" featuring an auto-tuned T-Pain would be golden.
Written Dec. 22, 2009 in Content + Music Industry + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
I've fielded a number of consumer press calls this holiday season about how hard it is to come up with a "new" holiday radio standard. It's not hard to figure out why so few new songs take hold each year. For starters, Mainstream AC has become the agenda setter, and one that is now clearly going to default in most cases to a new version of "O Holy Night" or "I'll Be Home For Christmas" than to an unfamiliar song. It's also hard for any song to get traction with no more than eight weeks of national airplay--more like five at most stations. Even Britney Spears' "3," as obvious in concept as any record, had just taken hold at Mainstream CHR after five weeks. And it is hard, of course, for a new song to quickly develop the emotional attachments of the songs associated with childhood holidays.
So what. then, is special about the songs that have made it through to become enduring Christmas hits in recent years?
Going back 30 years, which is recent in Christmas music terms, consider some of the original songs that still play on holiday formats today:
* Paul McCartney, "Wonderful Christmastime" (1979)
* Dan Fogelberg, "Same Old Lang Syne" (1980)
* Band Aid, "Do They Know It's Christmas" (1983)
* Wham, "Last Christmas" (1984)
* Mariah Carey, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" (1994)
* 'N Sync, "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" (1998--less of a standard, but hangs in at CHR)
Now consider a few remakes that became standards:
* Bruce Springsteen, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (came to radio on a wide-scale around 1980 with help from "The River.")
* Hall & Oates, "Jingle Bell Rock" (1984)
* Madonna, "Santa Baby" (1987) -- not a new song, but probably one that would have faded without this remake.
The pattern here is that a lot of enduring holiday records are contributed by the artists who are CHR core acts or at least prolific hitmakers at the time, and manage to sustain that status for at least a few years. And, yes, that still included McCartney & Wings in 1979 and even Dan Fogelberg in 1980. Band Aid, of course, had the advantage of having multiple CHR acts and being an early event record of that sort. Making a Christmas record has become the way a veteran act extends their longevity at radio, but those aren't the acts who can offer us more than just another version of a standard and get our attention.
So now consider Lady Gaga's "Christmas Tree." It came out last Christmas as her star was ascending. Five hits in to her career, it's back for a second holiday. Even if she's taking a hiatus from new product, it's probably guaranteed some airplay next Christmas. And then, its durability will be a function of what kind of career she pulls off.
Today, it's hard to imagine a song with the couplet "everybody knows/we will take off our clothes" on an AC holiday format, next to Johnny Mathis and Bing Crosby. But even "Let's Dance" and "Paparazzi" got a little airplay this year, and it seems inevitable that being "this generation's Madonna," will also include following her audience to AC radio over the years. The Top 40-to-holiday-standard route has also been compromised a little by AC's greater presence in the Christmas space, and its tendency to use new recordings (usually of standards) as a way of acknowledging the format-breaker acts like Josh Groban, Susan Boyle, and the Glee Cast that it would be reluctant to play in regular rotation.
But reinvigorating the "new song by ascending superstar" formula is worth considering for anybody lucky enough to be A&R'ing a successful CHR act in, say, August 2010. (Imagine if the Black Eyed Peas had a new holiday song this year.) If there aren't more new songs added to the Christmas canon (besides "Christmas Canon"), it may be because the acts who could get a holiday song considered haven't wanted to do so.
Written Oct. 13, 2009 in Content + Music Industry with 9 Comments
Let me take you back to the 1970s. The often goofy theme songs from Laverne & Shirley, Welcome Back Kotter, Happy Days, SWAT, and Rockford Files all chart, and a few go number one. TV themes were among the secret weapons that Top 40 programmers pulled out, when they weren't digging up novelty records or album cuts. Were they all good or enduring records? It doesn't matter now. For kids of the '70s, they were all "pop culture," long before that phrase took hold. And radio didn't have to work to reflect pop culture, it was still in the business of helping to create it.
Fast forward to today. I have made a consistent theme of modern Top 40 radio's failure to jump on things that are selling music or everyone is watching on TV or whatever. Basically, I have learned that if radio does not get songs promoted to it, it simply will not play them. In other words, in this time when we need to be more creative and daring than ever, instead we are the most conservative we have ever been.
The latest example is the buzz-alicioius show Wednesday nights on Fox: "Glee". Every week there are a number of songs on the show, and pretty much every single song they've released so far is in the iTunes top 200 for sales right now (including songs that are on upcoming shows). The show is huge with teens and doing well with 18-49s. Hunt down some of these songs online (including last week's mash-ups) and listen for yourself.
Radio's response? Of course, it has hardly played any of these songs.
Meanwhile, there is a new song from Michael Jackson. Heard of him? I think he'd gotten some attention this summer for something. Take a look at Mediabase. Outside of Urban AC, most of the stations that have acknowledged "This Is It" have given it 3-4 spins since Monday. Some gave it a single spin. So far, much of commercial radio just decided that a 'new' Michael Jackson song was not of interest to its listeners. Wow.
OK, write in the comments I'm nuts. That all these songs, including the Michael one, suck and that our job is to keep sucky music away from the masses. That PPM makes playing anything that isn't totally safe too risky to consider. But I think radio should be at the forefront of these things. Top 40 Radio should be on all these songs that are getting so much buzz. We go to seminars about how to create buzz for our radio stations: gee whiz, why don't we just play the buzzed-about songs?
Written Sep. 17, 2009 in Music Industry with 0 Comments
CNet reports that ASCAP and BMI are trying to collect royalties from Apple for the 30-second song samples used in the iTunes music store.
If I were Apple, I would happily remove the stressor by deleting these samples and forcing consumers to purchase music without auditioning it. You know, like in the good old days.
Written Sep. 15, 2009 in Music Industry with 0 Comments
While the end of summer brings sadness to some, it is the beginning of all things magnificent to others. Kids going back to school, new TV programming and last but far from least--good sports. College football, NFL, NBA, NHL and the MLB pennant race all come to the forefront in the fall to the delight of fans around the country. And whether you are a season ticket holder or just a diehard that mostly roots from the living room, you undoubtedly have felt that excitement when you hear the music pumping in the stadium.
Stadium anthems have become a staple for the players, teams and their loyal followers, and are now a musical category all their own. ESPN hit it out of the park in 1995 when they rolled out the original Jock Jams CD, which not only gave legitimacy to the sports anthem theme, but it also reignited songs on the radio that had been "rested" for some time. The CD was a hit even for those not into sports, and featured a mix of dance party favorites, featuring "Whoomp! (There It Is)" and "Hip Hop Hooray."
Songs like "We Will Rock You," by Queen and "Rock & Roll (Part 2)" by Gary Glitter are old standbys and are just about guaranteed to play at the stadium during a game. But what about some of the other additions to this growing novelty genre? Songs like "We Are Family," by Sister Sledge and "Gonna Make You Sweat" by C&C Music Factory may not be as universal as Queen, but then again, they are both on "ESPN Presents Stadium Anthems: Music for the Fans."
So what classifies as an "anthem?" Wikipedia defines an anthem as "a musical genre identifying songs that are played over the public address systems at stadiums and arenas during breaks in the action to rally the fans. Stadium anthems are characterized by a catchy up tempo rhythm and a repeated vocal call-response catchphrase, often a statement of pride or arrogance." Based on that definition, it seems just about any song can make the cut as long as it is either fast and furious or repetitive and addictive. Hence, "Who Let the Dogs Out," by the Baha Men.
What owns the title as greatest sports anthem ever? It depends on who you ask, but the usual aforementioned suspects are always there, along with old standbys like "YMCA," "Centerfield," "All Star," and "I Feel Good." The list goes on and on, since everyone has something to add.
I recently read an article by Rick Paulas for ESPN.com that made a great case for the Journey classic "Don't Stop Believin'," which I would have never thought of. But after reading how key it was to the 2005 season for the Chicago White Sox, and how it has undergone a rebirth in the sporting world, I think he's onto something. The Washington Capitals adopted it for their playoff run in 2007-2008 and the Dodgers recently began playing it in the eighth inning at every home game. Paulas went on to connect the dots with the series finale of The Sopranos which also used that same Journey song and helped to catapult it back into the public eye.
Any ideas on what the next big anthem will be? I think the new Bon Jovi single, "We Weren't Born to Follow," could be a contender. It has all the key elements: it's uptempo, catchy and has fightin' lyrics: "We weren't born to follow. Come on and get up off your knees. When life is a bitter pill to swallow, you gotta hold on to what you believe." Listen for it at a stadium near you.
What's your pick for the stadium anthem of the future? What current (or recent) song has "FIGHT" written all over it?
Written Sep. 11, 2009 in Music Industry + Social Networking + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
Going to the NAB (or at least going to be around Philly Sep 23-25)? Interested in radio's digital future? I can think of at least two places you need to be to join in and help lead the dialogue. First, I hope you'll join me on Wednesday, September 23rd, at The Digital Meetup (registration required), which will take place at The Phoenix Rooftop Deck near the convention center. This is a fantastic networking opportunity and your chance to exchange ideas with some really smart people (scroll down the main invitation page to see the attendee list) including, hopefully, YOU.
Also, Kurt Hanson is bringing the RAIN east--or, at least, the RAIN Summit. I've been fortunate enough to attend the last two RAIN Summits in Las Vegas, and bringing an abbreviated edition of this wonderful forum for Internet Radio to the NAB is a great idea and a welcome addition to the slate of events that week in Philly. The event will be held on Thursday the 24th at the Hard Rock Cafe next to the convention center. More details are available here.
Finally, I'd love to connect anytime with you. If you want to meet up--either professionally, or just socially--at the NAB, I'll be there all week, as they say in the lounges. Hit me on the Twitter or text/call me at 919-260-0228. I'll be on a social networking panel on Friday morning (which I hope you'll attend!) but would much prefer some actual, you know, old-fashioned networking to learn what you are doing and how your station is seizing its place on the Infinite Dial.
Written Sep. 11, 2009 in HD Radio + Marketing + Music Industry + Technology with 2 Comments
I wrote a few days ago about the new iPod Nano, and the killer combination of FM Radio and video capture that could make the new iPod a vibrant, participatory platform for radio stations to engage younger listeners. Here's another thing to think about. For almost a decade, radio has treated iPods and other MP3 players like the proverbial elephant in the room--all too aware that they had become an integral part of their listeners' lifestyle, but too afraid to acknowledge their use, lest they encourage listeners to migrate further away from radio and towards the retreat of the little white earbuds. But widespread distribution of this Nano (and make no mistake, like past iterations of the Nano, it's going to sell a bajillion units) could possibly have other unintended benefits for the industry as a whole.
Here's one: tagging. Previously relegated to the HD Radio minors, song tagging now gets its shot at the big leagues. Stations that talk about new music, should talk about tagging new music, whether you see a dime of those purchases or not. Can you imagine some scenarios where the kind of clickstream accountability that Google enjoys might be useful to demonstrate for radio? Even more specifically, can you imagine some upcoming licensing battles in which a clear demonstration of radio's power to sell music might be helpful? The Internet may have usurped much of radio's new music discovery position, but new music discovery on the Internet leads merely to music..ahem..."acquisition," while tagging leads to purchasing. The genie may be out of the bottle on torrents, peer-to-peer and other popular means of downloading free music, but if radio has a role in driving legitimate music sales, lets see it once and for all by talking about and encouraging tagging on the air, whenever possible. Let's sell some of these new iPods for Apple (as if they needed help) and let each new device serve as a portable purchase meter (or PPM for short--trademark pending) to demonstrate the power of radio as a new music platform AND a driver for purchasing behavior.
Not only will this help the radio industry prove its point regarding music licensing, it will also serve as an example of the tactical power of radio to drive purchases, period. You might dismiss this, and point out that the majority of listeners won't own one of these iPods, and that the numbers wont be all that attractive. Not at first, no. And maybe not ever. But life rewards action.
Written Aug. 20, 2009 in Music Industry with 1 Comment
According to NBC, when the new Jay Leno show debuts on September 14th, the nightly musical guest will be history. The network has done their research and cites that people want comedy, not music. By Leno's own admission, the musical guest will always get a great studio audience, but not necessarily a good television audience. Since they are already taking a risk in a primetime slot at 10:00 pm, Leno and NBC have decided to mitigate that risk and upping the comedy content of the program at the expense of music.
While the musical guest won't be a nightly fixture any more, it will still be a part of the show, only downgraded to a couple of times per week. And it won't necessarily always be at the end of the show, either, which is also a change from the late night norm.
Is this programming change yet another reflection of the ripple effect of new media on music? Leno himself seems to think so, noting recently that "It's just that fact that, when I was a kid, the only place you saw the Beatles was The Ed Sullivan Show. That was the only place you ever saw them. Now, you can see any music group you want, any time."
While there is truth to his statement, I don't agree that viewers wouldn't enjoy seeing their favorite band perform on the show, or even a good new band, for that matter. I'm sure the musical guests aren't regularly driving viewers to tune in, but who is to say that they wouldn't if the performer was a big enough name? With enough "plugging" it could happen. It's no different than NBC stable-mate Saturday Night Live, which continues to feature musical guests very prominently.
Furthermore, just because you can see your favorite artist perform online anytime, doesn't mean you actually do. Isn't that a bit like a fast food restaurant saying "you can get a burger anywhere, so why put it on the menu?"
Finally, let's not lose sight of the fact that the earlier time slot opens up the door to a whole new audience whose bedtime is more 11:00 pm than 12:30 am. If I'm watching the 9:00 pm drama on NBC and I see the teaser for the Leno show that is immediately following, I'm likely to stay tuned for a good guest lineup--musical or not. Before the time slot change, there was no way I was making it until the end of that show.
It seems that the Leno camp is underestimating what a musical guest can bring to the late night table, and that's a shame. They are putting all their eggs (and ratings) in one comedy basket. I hope the musical guests (both established and new talent), continue to live on in late night, and that this doesn't become a new trend.