By Andy Beaubien, BPR
Music streaming is spreading as we encounter more and more streaming sites across the Internet. The big companies like Apple and Google have already learned that music streaming is a significant revenue source. The market has rapidly evolved from Pandora (here are a bunch of songs that you might like) to Spotify (here are the specific songs that you want to hear).
Music programs used to be the exclusive territory of radio. In the early years of radio, all music programs had to have live music because copyright restrictions prevented radio stations from playing recorded music. Early in the 20th century, ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) was founded to protect music composer rights and, more importantly, to collect performance fees or royalties from music presenters.
In the 1940’s radio broadcasters revolted at ASCAP’s high fee rates but after a protracted struggle ASCAP settled for a significantly lower rate. This opened the door to wide-scale use of phonograph records as a supplement to live music broadcasts on radio. By the 1950’s, live music broadcasts dwindled in importance and American broadcasters made phonograph records their primary source of music.
Television had also been broadcasting music programs from time to time but TV had proven to be no competition for radio in this area. The system remained quite stable throughout the latter part of the 20th century until the advent of the Internet and relatively fast audio download speeds. Very quickly radio lost its monopoly on music. Music streaming broke the paradigm.
Radio is no longer the exclusive source of music programming. Ask any teenager where they get their music and radio will definitely not be at the top of the list. In fact, radio may not be mentioned at all.
Radio still can rely on its traditional advantages. First of all, it is still free. This is a big plus for radio stations, especially the ones with formats that appeal to people who do not use or cannot afford personal access to the Internet. However, many streaming sites offer free services, often with advertising. Even the services with accompanying ads have fewer and shorter ad interruptions than most commercial radio stations.
Live presenters and localism have always been advantages for radio. Many stations will increase the amount of songs by an artist that is performing live in the market. Radio stations can also make promotional deals with concert presenters to support the shows and link the station to the concert event.
Live radio presenters have always been good at demonstrating their affinity for the music that they play and this helps to create a common bond between the listener and the radio station. However, with networking and pre-recorded presenter inserts that advantage has been greatly diminished. If radio wants to remain relevant, we can never ignore the value of living breathing people behind the microphone.
Song requests programs have fallen in demand in many markets but listener polling (send us an SMS telling us how much you like this song) is still something that radio can do very well and best of all it is LOCAL.
Radio will never again claim exclusivity in the world of music but then again radio did not put live music performance out of business as some once predicted. As radio increasingly moves to digital media, radio’s ability to create and evolve will surely be tested. However, our ability to create and evolve may be our biggest asset.