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Thursday, October 27, 2016

FM radio as a viable media outlet in 2016??

I wanted to write a quick article on the effect of FM radio on today’s music industry. Most people do not know the business or politics behind radio so you will hear a LOUD bell ringing in their voice saying “Why doesn’t the radio support locals more? Why does the radio play the same 6 songs? Who listens to the radio? ” The fact is that radio is still a viable resource in pushing your campaign as a musician. HOWEVER, the radio is the FINAL piece in today’s pecking order when it comes to nurturing and growing an artist’s fanbase. Today’s radio hits have been tested and approved by other media audiences PRIOR to ever receiving airplay. There is something that radio stations do called “research”. They research a record to see how it is performing on platforms like Spotify, Shazzam, and they use polls as well as other methods to find out if the record is viable to play for a commercial audience.

Remember the radio is an ADVERTISING tool first. The money generated from business ads is what brings in most of a stations revenue. The companies advertise based on how many people are listening. If they play a song that makes people turn the channel, guess what? They have LOST advertising power and revenue. THIS is why you hear the same 6 songs in rotation over and over. Not to mention, VERY large budgets (50k +) have been paid to independent radio promoters to get record spins in FM markets. Again, it’s NOT Payola in the sense that most people think. Artists and labels DO NOT PAY radio stations directly. That WOULD break the law. There are what each major label has (and independent labels should strive to have) and that’s a radio promotions department. The radio promotions department are usually industry veterans that have build relationships with disc jockey’s and Program Directors across the country. Labels pay them to use that influence to get certain records played. There are 4 levels of play on an FM radio station.

Mixshow play: Normally 2-10 spins per week in the DJ mixshow (records played more than 60 seconds count on BDS and Mediabase as spins)

C rotation: 20-30 spins per week (rough numbers)

B rotation: 31-50 spins per week (rough numbers)

A rotation: 51 + spins per week (rough numbers)

The popularity of your song in a particular area or your budget may be enough to get you into mixshows. From there you must invest to push the record into rotation slots. (Remember there are only so many and you are competing with major labels and their budgets for those slots)

How valuable is FM to your push?

Below as you can see, CBS the LARGEST radio corporation is spinning off it’s radio division. XM and internet radio (companies like Sirius, iHeart, etc.) have created SERIOUS competition for the radio market moving forward. Experts don’t know if this spells the death of FM as of now, but with other avenues such as streaming and the other radio mediums the days of FM radio being the place where the masses consumes their music are growing short. Most labels are now using internet radio networks to test records because of the low cost overhead. Spending less than 1k vs. spending 10k to test a record has become more attractive. The bottom line is if you are not being played on FM radio, it most likely means that you have skipped steps in the process on the way to commercial play. Street Djs, Mixtape DJs, internet radio, youtube, spotify, Soundcloud, and other mediums should be SUCCESSFULLY covered and marketed to for an audience WELL before you ever think about radio play. Your “on the ground” presence in college towns and your region should be strong by this point. These avenues build up YOUR RESEARCH and help PD’s decide which records can be placed on the list and started in mixshow play. This is how it works.

If you are not being played in the majority of clubs in your city, if you don’t have fans that purchase your music or tickets to shows, if you do not have the support of tastemakers and DJs in your market, if you don’t have your music registered properly and out on most digital platforms (above), if you have haven’t invested at LEAST $500 into marketing materials for your project, if you haven’t gotten the project properly mixed and mastered, if you haven’t reached out for consultation on how to move your music and make money, THEN YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR FM PLAY. My final thought and I will leave the article below is that RADIO is not in business to break artists. EVERY Mid-Major market and it’s artists have the SAME issue with getting on their local FM station. It’s not just YOUR CITY. Take the proper steps to put your music in the best position to be played and by then you won’t need to be. Trust Me.

Peace and Love,

St. James

Why CBS Is Spinning Off Its Radio Business

Nowhere is the profound effect of the internet more apparent than in the radio business.

When William Paley and his family launched CBS CBS +1.98% in 1927, it was as innovative in its day as the worldwide web was in the 90′s. Now, CBS is about to end its almost century-long history with radio by spinning off the entire division. There’s more to the radio business than just one network, of course, but something’s up when the company that developed from the original innovator decides to move on. To find out about the reasons for this and to catch up on what’s new with the “old technology,” I talked to Robert Unmacht, the founder and former Chief Executive Officer of the M Street Corporation, a broadcasting trade publication and market research firm. After 15+ years with M Street, he sold it to Clear Channel Communications, the largest operator of radio and television stations in the United States, now known as iheartMedia.

Unmacht has owned and operated several radio stations, principally in the Pacific Northwest. He’s now a partner at RTK Media in Nashville.

Here’s how our discussion went:

John Navin: Robert, why would CBS want to spin off the radio division after such a long history in the business?
Robert Unmacht: The CEO of CBS, Les Moonves, is not a radio guy. He’s a television guy. He never liked radio much. The fact is, they’ve been looking for a buyer for a long time. Since they haven’t found one, it makes the IPO look like a good idea. It brings in cash, helps to fund the company, then they dispose of the assets. Actually, it hasn’t been the CBS of old days for years — it’s been more like a mix of several different radio companies rolled up into one. Viacom was rolled in, Group W and the San Juan Racing Association was rolled in, Mel Karmazin‘s company — all sorts of radio companies ended up under the CBS group.

Navin: What’s the difference between the radio business now and the radio business in 1996, 20 years ago, just as the internet was becoming popular?

Unmacht: Ultimately, it’s about audio. The internet was radio’s first real competition — that mobile, wireless audio is its first direct competition. Television was basically a spin-off of radio, radio companies began the TV business. They paid for television in its developmental years. Also they say that radio survived 8-tracks, cassette tapes and CD’s, but the internet is different…it can do all that radio can.

With the internet radio shied away and allowed Pandora and Spotify to grow and establish themselves. Radio execs could have fought it — radio can move traffic to a website but there needs to be something there when you arrive. Radio is often bad at marketing itself.

Navin: Pandora and Spotify are about to launch a radio-like services. How does that look for radio?

Unmacht: Well, they have no personalities and no weather. The smart phone experience has taken much of that sort of content, it is like radio in that way –it’s definitely replaced the clock radio. I think of Pandora as radio, Spotify as record collection. You Tube is in there as well — a lot of kids and 18-34′s use those spots as primary place for their music and music news — it may be that radio is no longer primary for it, but teens still discover their favorite hip hop on their favorite hip hop radio stations.

“Classic hits” is a number one radio music format for adults in many markets including NYC. Decade specific, “80s” “90s” “70s” stations failed –is that music that no one wants to listen to? No, but no one listens in decade-defined terms, so classic hits radio which plays songs from all of those years is working. Boomers still like radio


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