Archive for the ‘Music Radio’ Category

Muddled music thinking

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016


The best mix of all the hits!

Choose one.

Another station in Elmira New York describes itself as “offers a Adult Standards format, playing mostly Adult Contemporary music.” Yes, Ella Fitzgerald is “Contemporary” all right

A few ratings tidbits

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

For the most part, I ignore radio ratings from month to month as I don’t trust them and think Arbitron (now Nielsen) bears a significant part of the responsibility of the decline of radio, getting people in radio chasing the wrong metrics.

This is only day two and two large surprises.  In Washington DC, the venerable and highly profitable WTOP AM/FM wound up in a tie for #1 with the rising star WAMU-FM, the NPR affiliate operated by American University.  Loosely speaking, American University is the service academy for the US State Department, like the US Naval Academy for the Navy.  If you have dreamed all your life of working at the US embassy in Lithuania, you probably went to American University.   WAMU produces a few syndicated shows for other public radio stations, the most important one being the Diane Rehm show.  The election undoubtedly is the reason for this one – a lot of people living the good life in Washington DC might be moving back to Kansas if Donald Trump is elected.

The other one is pretty stunning and since radio managers are lemmings, you’ll probably see this show up in your city.  WMGC-FM is located in Detroit – it has a pretty unique history.  During the heyday of the Motor City, it was a commercial radio station (WQRS) playing Classical Music.   It operated out of Wayne State University and had tight relations with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  My guess is it was a favorite of GM executives driving their Cadillacs down Woodward Avenue to work.  The transmitter is located in Royal Oak Charter Township, just North of the 8 mile line of death that is the wall between The City and Suburbia.  The signal is solid over to Ann Arbor to the west, a big part of Western Ontario, and North almost to Flint, and all of Detroit City.

With the deregulation of radio in 1996, the station went into play being bought and sold, briefly owned by Clear Channel, but had to be divested and wound up in the waiting arms of Greater Media (the Boston based company that owns WBT-AM in Charlotte and is being acquired by Beasley).

Greater Media got the station in 1997 and thrashed around ever since, struggling to find a niche in a rapidly declining city that is racially polarized – with “Detroit City” choosing (until recently) to make white people feel very unwelcome and white “suburbanites” happy if the entire city just slid into the Detroit River (except for the sports teams).  Initially, WMGC  tried Alternative Rock.  After two years, the station became WGRV “The Groove” playing jammin’ oldies (Motown?).  In 2001, the station became “magic” WMGC, playing Adult Contemporary music.

One of the largest flaws in Arbitron is that all listeners are not created equal.  Ratings give you counts, but ultimately advertisers care whether the listeners have the money and desire to buy their product.   A person living on public assistance in the city has buying habits very different than the children of GM executives living in West Bloomfield.

In 2012, the station switched to Soft Rock, trying to cling to its suburban listeners who can’t get enough Elton John and Barry Manilow.  That lasted a year until the station veered off into being an ESPN affiliate.  At the end in June, the station had a 0.7 rating.  July 1st 2016, the station became “The Bounce”, playing Classic Hip Hop, a format that didn’t exist three years ago.  For August, the station finished #1 with an 8.0 share.


PPM killed Delilah

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

That’s what Bloomberg thinks

The Arbitron / Nielsen Portable People Meter listens to what people actually listen to, not what people say they listen to. You’re in the bedroom, but Delilah is playing in the den in the basement – so sorry, no ratings credit.

The article correctly points out that Adult Contemporary is fading very fast. Country is hot and Hits are hot – and “urban” and Spanish dominate several major cities. Middle age white people music, not so much

Pandora’ing “fairness”

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Yesterday was much more important to radio than the Fed interest rates. THe copyright royalty Board (CRB) made its decision what the fair amount to pay for playing music is over the Internet for the next 5 years.

* Boring history part *

Since it became possible to record music for playback, there has been a fight over who should get paid and how much. Originally it was mass produced records (see: Victrola) but as radio appeared, rules were needed for playing recordings over the radio – in the early days, music was performed live.

Those music rights have several pieces – the composer that wrote down the notes, the lyricist who wrote the words (if applicable) and the musicians who performed the music. The first two groups were paid via ASCAP, and later BMI and SESAC. Performers were paid whatever the terms of their contract with the record company said. Many were paid nothing.

Skipping lots of the story, over the air radio (AM/FM) pays nothing to the artists – that’s the job of the record labels. Radio is giving away free publicity, after all!

Along comes Sirius and XM satellite and they say “Me too!” – we are radio, so we should get free music too!

The NAB had a hissy fit.
NAB: “That free ride is for us, not for you! We have an FCC license, and you don’t!”
Sirius: “uh, yes we do!”
NAB: “but our signal goes through the ether!”
XM: “there is no such thing as the ether”
NAB to Congress: make them pay – a lot!
Congress: “you got it!”
NAB: “hey this streaming on the Internet is a great idea!”
Sirius: um, that’s not “over the air”
SoundExchange: Sirius is right. Pay up
NAB: so sue us!
SoundExchange: OK
Judge: Radio, you lose – pay SoundExchange – Retroactively
NAB: highway robbery! There was no music before radio! We created you!
SoundExchange: Remember Victrola?
NAB: well that was then. Kids would not know music existed without us
SoundExchange: that’s changing. Apple sells a ton of music for iPods. They don’t need you
NAB: OK, you win. We will stop streaming!!!
SoundExchange: suit yourself
[crickets chirping]
Pandora: hey we have a great idea to play music over the Internet – we’ll pay you $400 million a year to hand out to musicians who are getting screwed by the labels and radio
Musicians: WTF is this check from “SoundExchange”? In 30 years I haven’t been paid a cent
SoundExchange: it’s your royalty check from SiriusXM and Pandora
Musicians: and radio?
SoundExchange: nope, they are still screwing you
Musicians to Congress: we love SoundExchange – radio is screwing us!
NAB to Congress: you want to be reelected right?
Congress: iSIS! Mass shootings! Repeal Obamacare! Abortion! Prayer in Schools!
Musicians: is that a “no”?

* end partially accurate history lesson *

So Congress authorized the Library of Congress to determine a fair rate for playing digital music on a non-interactive basis (where the listener doesn’t choose the song). Over the air radio still pays nothing to performers. When they stream the music or create Internet only content, radio has to pay, so does Pandora and Spotify. SiriusXM has their own deal. The CRB rate only applies when the copyright holder and the music consumer can’t agree. Parties are still free to cut their own deals with each other, which may be why you notice radio stations not playing artists from some labels.

The ruling yesterday increased the fee on Pandora by about 20% – and they are happy with that. Stock markets hate uncertainty. The same rate applies to the other streamers. Currently, 44% of Pandora’s revenue goes to Soundexchange or other artist agents. Pandora has little expense other than that. Here is the math

The new rate is roughly $.20 per 100 songs played. Assuming about 20 songs an hour, that means the music is costing Pandora about $.04 an hour. The ASCAP,etc part is 2.5% of revenue ($.13 a month)

Because Pandora has a very good profile of you, advertisements can be targeting right at you. $20 per 1000 would be a typical price, meaning they get $.02 for each ad for free subscribers. Hence, the cost of the music requires about 2 ads per hour. Note this isn’t the composer / lyrics part.

Pandora has a $4.95 a month paid subscription without the ads. That means 120 hours a month (4 hours a day). If you insist on keeping it going nonstop all day, I hope you enjoy Gregorian chants and Slovic folk dances.

Most recent 10-Q

Pandora has NO debt, and about $600 million in cash or near cash.

Real Radio, powered by Pandora!

Monday, December 14th, 2015

While snooping around for new streams, I bumped into this station I read about in the Radio Biz press. It is a toss up whether the “establishment” radio hates SiriusXM or Pandora more. In both cases, Real Radio is pushing to maximize music costs for their competition, while buying off Congress people to keep their music performance royalty free.

Pandora came up with a novel legal strategy – buy a “real” radio station in the middle of nowhere, then declare that Pandora is a “Radio owner” entitled to the same streaming rates as Big Radio.

If you’re looking for rap music in Box Elder South Dakota (Population 7,800), you’re out of luck.

The new player if you are a snoop

Polka Music 24/7

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

You demanded it, Radio Northland heard you!

New Radio Format – Gay Pride

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

The new format is listed under the category “Oppressed Voices”, although there is little evidence LGBT people face discrimination in the culture of the United States. LGBT folks have substantially higher incomes than the US average, as they are mostly over educated white kids convinced that procreation is unfair and should be left to poor people to do.

The main distributor of this “format” – and I use the term loosely – is IHeart media. Gay people were a major source of the membership of America Online in the early days. Bob Pittman has a 5th sense of where to find unspent pools of disposable income.

The flood of new FM translators this year is expanding FX translators fed by HD2/3/4 channels, which is where iHeart is hoping to monetize Gay Pride. In order to hear “their” music, this potential audience might choose their next radio or car based on the availability of HD radio to hear radio targeted to their culture. I could see Bernie Sanders advertising on this network.

K-Love hits #2 in Denver

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

For those who don’t know, K-love is a Contemporary Christian music (CCM) service of the non-commercial Educational Media Foundation (EMF). It is targeted primarily at mothers. EMF has another Christian Rock format called Air1, designed to attract angst filled teenagers.

There is not much motivation for EMF to subscribe to Nielsen ratings – they survive by getting listeners to send in money – but it does give an insight to the big swath of radio broadcasters that hide in the shadows because Arbitron stopped publishing numbers of non-subscribers and greedy commercial radio stations don’t want to know The Truth. Radio can’t handle The Truth.

Brian is the czar of Contemporary Christian radio and listens to many different stations. Perhaps I can coax him into providing some insights.