FMC: Majors still dominate the airwaves


The Future of Music Coalition fondly remembers the promises of four big radio companies caught in the Spitzer payola trap to increase their broadcast of independently-produced music. But it doesn’t see it happening. As remedies, it wants more diversity of ownership. And it wants the FCC to start keeping track of who’s playing what.

FMC see says its study ran from 2005-2008, using Mediaguide data. During that period, music from the conglomerates dominated the airwaves consistently, eating up between 78%-82% of playlist time. Disney artists also claimed some space, with independent labels getting in the neighborhood of 10% or so at any given moment.

And there is a pecking order among the indies, says FMC. Although any one was able to get an act on the air now and again, in general it was the same few independents eating up most of the airspace in their limited niche.

To make matters worse, FMC noticed that most stations introduce new music very slowly, relying on older hits as the bread and butter of airplay and sprinkling in new releases sparingly, making it especially difficult to break a new act or introduce a new album.

FMC said that Country and Noncommercial AAA were the most likely to play indy music.

It is recommending that the FCC collect comprehensive data to fully understand the scope of the problem, put some teeth into its localism requirements and take actions that will lead to “expansion in the number of voices in on the public airwaves.”

RBR/TVBR observation: We agree with a lot of what FMC is saying – it would be great if there were more stations making themselves a vital part of their local music scene – they should strive to be in the thick of it. And what’s happening locally should instruct what to select from the national playlist options. That’s what localism is all about.

But economic forces being what they are, this will never be an option for every station. There will always be room for small specialty formats, and there will always be demand for access to national programming as well – hey, if local people want to hear someone based in Los Angeles or West Palm Beach or Austin TX – that’s local demand.

And we can foresee no circumstance under which the FCC will or should get into the business of playlist monitoring.