Keep the hits coming: HD Fast Track Radio


It is indeed refreshing to see that the NAB has taken a second look at their approach to resolving the issue of music performance royalties. Good for Gordon Smith and Bruce Reese and kudos’s to Jeff Smulyan and Peter Smyth for publicly coming forward in favor of a compromise. The conversation must be about much more than money. A creative collaborative approach may well generate a badly needed radio and music industry renaissance! 

Over many decades, radio has been the key partner of both artists and labels, creating success, profits and stardom. However, we cannot forget that it is artists who sing the songs that attract audiences to the airwaves.  It is in radio’s best interests to continue to encourage a partnership with a creative wellspring that is a defining element of the industry. A permanent resolution of this issue without damaging a fabulous and long-standing relationship can be a big victory for everyone. I for one want every recording star exactly where they need to be, in the radio family!

How might radio prosper from a negotiated partnership with the recording artists and labels?  First, and foremost the considerable risk inherent in an all or nothing approach would be eliminated. A negotiated settlement would preempt a third party (government) from writing or having an extraordinary influence over the deal. Even if radio wins the first round, a negotiated permanent settlement eliminates the issue from reoccurring year after year, which, would increase the ultimate probability of an industry loss.

A negotiated partnership could benefit radio enormously.  Place on the table a window of broadcast radio exclusivity for new releases. Hard to police, yes!  Impossible, no. The motion picture industry does this with every new release for the hardtop theaters. Is some film pirated? You bet, but the lines are still long for the blockbuster hits!

What about new music?  HD and Broadcast Internet Radio may be the perfect platform to expose and experiment with new artists. Spectrum is extremely valuable to artists and record companies, particularly in a tight play-list environment. Make easy rapid access to that platform part of a negotiation.  I could think of no better incubator for new music and new artists than HD Radio, particularly for artists and music genres that currently have little chance of getting on the air.

HD Radio is in need of a programming rationale. Why not come up with an industry-wide strategy that puts HD Radio to better use? Let us expand the use of HD Radio multicast channels as a vehicle for getting new artists on the air. Let’s call it HD FAST-TRACK-RADIO.

Crowdsourcing for new artists, driven by radio promotion on FM, on HD and on station Web Sites will discover new superstars!  American Idol is an excellent example of Crowdsourcing that can also work for radio!

HD FAST-TRACK- RADIO could provide a  nationwide new music network or networks by format with new artists uploading content from all over the world, distilling and judging the product and putting only the best on the air! The industry could offer the carrot of a top weekly, monthly, annual new music prize! Yes, there could very well be a weekly radio American Idol.  Place the bright young minds that currently work in radio in charge of this concept and they will figure how to make it work!

What about paying the performance royalty bill?  Radio delivers extraordinarily valuable targeted audiences and no one knows that better than the music industry.  Can a pool of on air, HD and radio Web Site inventory be made available to become all of part of a royalty package?  A negotiated partnership as opposed to a legislated settlement is likely in the end to be a superior financial arrangement for radio. The radio and music industry are simultaneously undergoing extremely challenging times. That in itself may be a sound bargaining foundation for a permanent, mutually acceptable and innovative profitable agreement.

Win or lose situations, particularly between constituencies that have historically been natural partners are not a good thing. There is also the reality that there is no guarantee that  members of Congress who have currently signed on to support the Radio Freedom Act will not change their minds when it comes time for the actual debate and vote. Some reasonable and important voices in Washington have already sent a message that both sides should “sit down and work out a solution.”   Poignant advice?

Music and radio are synonymous. Together they can creatively continue to be a formidably successful combination. It may be the best and only way to launch another radio renaissance. The answer is not in the nickels and dimes it is in the big picture.

–Gordon Hastings, ghhmanagement