RBR-TVBR News Analysis: Music blog and the meaning of value

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Dollar SignA post on the website of recording industry organization musicFIRST notes that it is demeaning to be told that your work is worth $0.00 – but others would contend that radio stations confer great value to musicians who benefit from free airplay.


The blog post asks, “What does it mean to not have an AM/FM performance right? What signal does it send when we tell performers their songs are worth nothing, zero, zilch, nada to terrestrial radio?”

The organization took its cue from a New York Times piece by Tim Krieder which went so far as to say it was “even sort of insulting” for artists to be told their material is worthless.

Of course, in reality broadcasters think nothing of the sort. If the music did not have value broadcasters would not be airing it. That’s simple enough.

However, the actual airing of the music also has value, and the quid pro quo of free promotion for free airplay has been the symbiotic beneficial arrangement between the two industries for decades.

The latest attempt by the recording industry to extract a performance royalty began when the big labels were flailing about for any source of cash after services like Napster and the subsequent tidal wave of change in how music is bought brought their age-old business model crashing down.

Broadcasters had nothing to do with that, and contend that the free promotion they provide is as valuable now as it ever was.

RBR-TVBR observation: In the course of writing about the competition between Pandora and iTunes Radio, two facts have been brought to light that should give any creator of recorded music pause.

Pandora is said to have 1,000,000 recordings in its library.

Think about that for a second – how does an artist break out of that kind of clutter? 1,000,000.

But that’s nothing. Nothing at all.

iTunes is the true hoarder, with 27,000,000 recordings.

There may be music fans out there who would absolutely love the work of a given musician – if they could find that needle in a 27,000,000 song haystack.

Radio is a proven way for an artist to break out of that massive pack.

You’d think musicians would be begging for radio to put their songs on the air and boost them toward success.

Oh, yeah – they do. That’s why recording company press releases constantly brag about airplay received and discuss airplay to be sought, and it’s why we still have the odd payola scandal now and again.

So please, musicFIRST – please don’t pretend that radio fails to recognize the value of music. And please stop pretending there is no value for airplay.

Your song can exist in obscurity, buried in a pile with 27,000,000 others.

Or it can be one song elevated from the pack and played for 27,000,000 or more listeners.

Take your pick.