Posts filed under “Music”

How Did Terrestrial Radio Lose its Audience ?


Fascinating question posed by Jerry Del Colliano of The Audio Revolution:  "After decades of dominance, how did terrestrial radio lose its audience – and will it ever earn them back?"

"In FM radio’s heyday from the late 1960s to right after deregulation of radio in America in the mid-1990s, radio was the single most powerful source for consumers to find out about new music. On a no-cost media that was installed in every car, Walkman and AV receiver, radio was everywhere and had the power to literally make or break an artist overnight.

Financially, radio has always been TV’s bastard stepchild, with some radio insiders saying the media has never earned more than seven percent of the total ad revenue in a given year. Despite this relatively small portion of overall ad revenues, radio stocks boomed with almost the same enthusiasm as dotcom stocks in the late 1990s. It was during this time of consolidation when radio’s leadership took their eye off the ball, looking to economies of scale to cut costs and boost profits. Wall Street loved it, but what FM radio needed to be doing was creating new formats.  But who needed new formats when the stock price is through the roof? FM radio did – badly."

Of course, they didn’t realize that until way too late:

"Enter satellite radio in the early 2000s.  For the first time in radio’s history, it potentially had a real competitor on its hands. While the numbers of satellite subscribers were relatively small, this new media looked at the business and media of radio in novel ways, ways that stubborn terrestrial radio might not have an easy answer to, other than mergers and acquisitions. On a programming level, satellite radio has the ability to offer many times more channels than any major U.S. radio market. With these added channels, satellite radio is able to niche-program while terrestrial radio is trying to cast a big net around an audience that is increasingly difficult to capture. With dozens of niche stations ranging from death metal to ‘70s ballads, satellite radio’s odds of finding the exact genre of a listener’s tastes are far better than FM’s offering, which results in increasing listener loyalty for satellite."

The uphot of all this? As we mentioned back in Radio’s Wounded Business Model, "Traditional radio will likely never be the same nor is it likely to recover."


What Makes Satellite Radio So Great Anyway?

Jerry Del Colliano
Audio Revolution, November 24, 2004

Category: Finance, Music

Universal Music Takes Matters into its Own Hands

Category: Finance, Media, Music

Universal Dominance (so much for Piracy)

Category: Finance, Music

Wal-Mart / U2

Category: Finance, Music

Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse: DVD + CD

Category: Finance, Music

More P2P Promotion: Napster Rescues Shaggy

JACOB SLICHTER: So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life

I just finished Jacob Slichter’s So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star. Slichter is the drummer for Semisonic, which had a breakout hit single with “Closing Time.” Its an amusing look at the music industry by an insider, and was a welcome reprieve from my usual fare of economic/market related reading.

Towards the end of the book, there’s an interesting discussion: It turns out that Semisonic’s label, MCA, had a well deserved tin ear for deciding what was “single worthy” or not. The book suggests that a long series of missteps by MCA very much hindered the band. Despite critical acclaim, they never managed to really gain much traction on format radio beyond Closing Time.

Slichter offers Shaggy as an example of the pooor judgement of the execs at MCA. It seems the Jamaican born rapper handed in his new album, Hot Shot to the label, and the first two songs on the record suggested as singles were “It wasn’t me” and “Angel:

“Remember those song titles and read on: The MCA bosses listened to the album and complained “They’re no singles.” The bosses demanded that Shaggy return to the studio and record new songs, and Shaggy agreed. This was exactly the scenario that Semisonic had faced in late 1997 when Jay Boberg and other [MCA] senior executives heard no hit potential in Closing Time and suggested we return to the studio to record more songs. Jim warned us that if we recorded a new batch of songs, the label would choose the single from the new batch and forget about “Closing Time.” Fortunately, we heeded Jim’s warning.

When faced witht he same dilemma, however, Shaggy accepted MCA’s mandate to record more material, and no surprise, one of the new songs was selected as the single. The CD came out in August 2000, the single flopped, and within weeks MCA stopped working the album.

Meanwhile, a DJ in Honolulu, Pablo Sato of KIKI 93.9-FM, had downloaded Shaggy’s album off of Napster and started to play one of the other songs, “It wasn’t me.” KIKI was flooded with calls and “It wasn’t me” became a local hit. Bonnie Goldner and other Shaggy supporters at MCA seized on the success and advocated the song be pushed to other stations, and within a few weeks the song was a nationwide smash. By Christmastime, the album was on its way to number one, and after another hit, “Angel,” the album had sold 12 million copies worldwide, no thanks to the people running MCA. It was Pablo Sato, his listening audience, and Napster — the dread enemy of the music industry — who pulled Shaggy’s album from its grave at the Music Cemetery of America.”

I’m lost as to which is more amazing: the astonishing incompetence of the label at promoting their own bands, or artists actually being saved by P2P.

How many more of these stories are out there? Eminem, U2, Wilco, Radiohead and now Shaggy.
(If you have any other concrete examples of P2P functioning as a defacto promotional machine for the labels, please post them in the comments or send me an email).

UPDATE:  November 28, 2004 2:40pm
A commentor reminds me of Steve Albini’s The Problem With Music; In many ways, this book lays out that critique from the musician’s perspective . . .

So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star
Jacob Slichter
Broadway Books, 2004 7131547 9942524?v=glance&s=books

MCA, August 8, 2000

Feeling Strangely Fine
MCA, March 24, 1998

The Problem With Music
by Steve Albini

Read More

Category: Finance, Music

Category: Finance, Music

Slowing CD sales ?

Category: Finance, Music

Do Free Downloads = Lost Sales?

Category: Finance, Music

“The internet is like radio for us”

Category: Music