RBR-TVBR reader explains the value of airplay


Scott GilbertThe rebirth of the battle over royalties for airplay has made its way to the halls of Congress, and although it hit a lull for a time, it is an issue that will not go away. RBR-TVBR reader Scott Gilbert, currently working at Radio Mall, has worked on both sides of the radio/record divide and has some thoughts to share.

Gilbert was responding to an article on the latest salvo in the ongoing debate.

Here is what he had to say:

Like so many people outside of radio and records, John Villasenor just doesn’t get it.

I have worked for both record labels and radio stations. One label told me if I wasn’t submitting a weekly expense report that didn’t reflect at least a $600 expenditure for cocaine for programmers, I wasn’t doing my job. Another stressed: Do whatever it takes to get that song on the radio.

Let me see if I can make this clear for whoever out there doesn’t understand. And there are plenty of people who just don’t get it (or are just too greedy) to let this issue go away.

Record labels make their money by selling recorded music.

Radio stations make their money by selling commercials, which induce the audience to buy their advertisers’ products.

Since all radio stations cannot carry talk or sports, some play music. In fact, since the audience likes music so much, there are far more music stations than not.

It has been discovered (many, many years ago) that music that does get played on the radio gets sold and music that does not get airplay does not.

Consequently, having a song played in rotation on the radio is just like a flight of commercials for that artist/album. Radio stations do not charge the labels for those commercials and record labels as a great rule, do not buy real commercials for their artists on the radio, so consequently, radio stations are giving record labels tons of free advertising.

This is because it is a mutually symbiotic relationship that has worked very well for about 90 years.

Can you imagine a record label calling a radio station and saying: “You didn’t send us a fraction of a cent for playing that song, so now you can’t play any of our music.” Can you imagine a radio station sending a label a bill for 3 minutes of commercial airtime every time a song plays?

If I were an entity like Cumulus or Clear Channel or the NAB, my response to the labels who want me to pay them for the privilege of giving them free commercials would be: “Here’s your music back. We won’t be needing to hear from your representatives in the future, so please don’t bother sending us any more of your product. We are not going to be responsible for your inability to keep up with technology.”

Scott Gilbert
Radio Mall