A COMMENT ON “ASK MUSICIANS FOR MUSIC ACT” OR THE AM-FM MUSIC TAX

As a 35 year radio veteran, now turned marketing and podcast production company owner, I have some thoughts on this. Tall towers in big fields have a shelf life. (They’re already on borrowed time.)  The recording label industry was all but deemed dead with the advent of the internet and streaming services and look at where they are today. They’ve figured it out. Licensing fees. Royalties. More artists = more options to listen to on any of your digital choices and hence, more licensing over more artists. More $$$. So… is it too far-fetched to think that linear radio could actually become a spoken word delivery system for the myriad of podcasts, of which the majority are spoken word? Traditional radio is a fading music delivery option. The big operators all have music platforms digitally that they’re already paying music licensing fees for currently across a more level playing field. Apple, Sirius, iHeart, Pandora, Spotify…etc.  (arguably, the fees are still exorbitant but they’re a known commodity) The linear system would still promote the music by shifting it to the digital platform. It’s not so far-fetched to think the “formatting” could go the way of the podcast directory. By genre. Big former music stations hosting big name artists in interviews that are aggregated to match the audience intended would continue in their respective “formats”. Personalities, both local and national, could/would host. Content remains king and great talent would still garner the ratings. And likely draw new listeners. Given proper execution and formatting, even younger audiences may come back to radio. (most likely through the stream vs broadcast delivery) The traditional News and News/Talk stations stay as is but add a few interesting in-depth podcast shows that fit the local interests and format.  The sum gives podcasting another boost, (all the above mentioned are also some of the largest podcast distributors as well) even greater ease of access and still allows for cross promotion of the digital platform to drive music listeners to the music, events, merchandise and more.  

If radio doesn’t take control, it’s likely what is already taking place on-line is going to end up sounding more and more like a radio station, complete with formatting, promos and dare I say, commercials.  Done right, could this become the next challenge to linear/traditional broadcast properties?  Fully formatted, 24 hour service, on-line formats would seem an easy outgrowth from any digital music provider and they could easily be localized. Some are already currently dabbling in this space. With the lower cost of entry and ease of distribution digitally, how much longer will there be an AM/FM market?  Great talent is all over the internet. I find this all incredibly exciting as it’s moving the industry to act.  These opportunities don’t present themselves often.  This is one of those times in the communication business where a confluence of talent and technology can advance a cause.    

If the radio industry as we know it is unsuccessful in this current attack to get artists paid, how will your local radio station in Fresno, Pocatello or Springfield be able to make it?  This “tax” or licensing fee, or royalty challenge has been going on for years in the radio industry and eventually, it’s going to happen.  Why not be pro-active and shift the paradigm completely?  We’ll certainly know if and when it happens…or not. And listeners will vote with their ears.

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