I'm crying for you. Really.
The WSJ reported today (subscription required) that "Music Labels Say it Costs Too Much to Get Songs on Radio." The article discusses the "price to access" program directors and the difference between paying "independent consultants" with "access" to radio stations and the Payola scandals of the 50's and 60's. Curretly, to "compete for the limited number of open slots on pop radio, labels say the typically pay independent promoters from $200,000 to $300,000 per song, and occasionally more than $1 million." Any wonder why music sounds more and more the same, and comes from fewer and fewer new acts?
The Journal completely missed the irony of this situation. Here the music labels had the largest distribution mechanism ever created - Napster - and sued it out of existence. Now, before you jump to conclusions about music theft, realize that for the cost of just a few pop songs, they could have held an investment in a whole new medium. They could have made some new rules. Worked with some Digital Rights Management technology that made copying hard for most of the world, and written the rest of the copying off to promotion costs.
Additionally, the CARP ruling, when it comes out, may in fact kill Internet Radio, a completely new channel that the record companies should have embraced instead of allowing or encouraging it to die the death of a thousand paper cuts (high pay-per-play fees that give Internet Broadcasters a disincentive to get large audiences.)
So on one hand,
Internet Radio=consumer choice=piracy=low fees for artists=low fees for record companies=bad.
on the other hand
Broadcast Radio=limited choice for consumers=high costs for record companies=high costs for sold music=consumers feel need to pirate songs=bad
I'm skipping some of the logic behind this and I'm sure it bears more discussion, but I'm on a roll...
When I was an evangelist for the Windows Media team, I heard numerous business ideas for distributing music differently than Napster. Often it involved downloading locked tracks to people for distribution in a push model - different than the current PressPlay and MusicNet offerings. These, I'm sure, are convincing the record companies they've made a mistake in trusting digital distribution - since few people are subscribing. Think about the old "Click Radio" which downloaded locked tracks to your hard drive with ads. The business model (or the amount of spending) wasn't right, but hell, it made for a fun commute with Music in high quality playing off a laptop. There are lots of devices for MP3 and other format playing that could use a similar technical model and still do well, if they made it a business customers wanted. With customer choice in music. Oh, wait, I forgot. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act bars consumer choice. Oh well.
And yet, my CD collection has a diversity it hasn't had since I got a CD player in the late 80's (mostly due to replacing old albums) - because of music I heard online. Yes, I download songs. And I buy music Iike.
And yet, the record companies are stuck bitching and moaning that they have to pay for play on the airwaves, which are by definition a limited resource. Whereas the Internet is a wide open space still ripe (Venture drought aside) for innovation, new business models, and new ways of reaching an audience that is frankly tired of the music being played by radio stations. My wife is a typical consumer in this regard. For mother's day she asked for a car CD player because there's nothing good on the radio anymore. Hello? Opportunity knocking.