The New and Unfortunate Future of Music Radio

Real Estate Agent with Bill Cherry, Realtor 0124242

When I was a teenager, the advent of Top 40 Radio was just beginning. Prior to that time, there were less than 1,000 disc jockeys in the US.  And then with Top 40 came thousands.


I was so enamored with broadcasting, that I weaseled myself into being a Top 40 disc jockey when I was 14, and being a radio broadcasting talent has  remained as an on again, off again avocation throughout my life.


I even began doing TV features for a Houston station when I was in my early 50s. Here one of them. Bill Cherry's Memories. I even play the piano in this one.

During the past fifteen years, or so, commercial radio --- the kind that has call letters and is regulated by the FCC and that uses airwaves for transmission from the broadcasting studio to the listeners' radios -- has been waining.


With a relatively small investment in equipment and monthly rental of access to a cable company's satellite, broadcasters can now reach almost the entire world with their signal, rather than just the local market.


Thousands of those small stations have cropped up.  They've been helped to find their audience by an app known as Tune In Radio


Subscribers can find a plethora of air wave radio stations as well as Internet radio stations to pick from.


One thing Internet radio stations have done is to provide an audience for new talent that would never begin on the play list of most commercial radio stations.  Three of those who come to mind are Michael Blube, Steve Tyrell, Renee Olstead.


Many of those artists have seen their recordings sell well and their live performances market soar.  That it would have happened without Internet radio is questionable.


Back in the days of the beginning of Top 40s, recording companies began paying DJs to favor playing certain of their artists.  It was named Payola and not only did the FCC initiate strict rules to regulate Payola, but it also filed suits against Top 40 DJs that they caught taking it. Alan Freed and Dick Clark were two who were charged.


Now the copyright owners of recordings have taken an opposite tact. Rather than bribe DJs to play their artists' recordings, they are charging those who do.


Yep, they are charging Internet radio stations with copyright violations for playing their artists' recordings.


And they ought to be glad, celebrating with Roman candles and cherry bombs and Sousa band parades.


But the fees have been so extraordinarily high that over 6,000 of those stations have closed their doors.


Commercial air wave  radio stations have obviously joined in driving these charges as well, doing their best to shut down the competition from the Internet broadcasters..


Now here's the irony of ironies. just recently, Norway became the first country to discontinuing licensing commercial broadcast airwaves. 


Now all broadcasts will be via the Internet. Aesthetically, it's a big win for Norway listeners since the sound through the Internet is far more pure than through the air waves.


Brad "Martini" Chambers


One of my friends, Brad Chambers, began, operated and built a substantial audience for his Internet station known as Martini in the Morning during the past ten years.  Like any new business, it was nip and tuck, often with his audience chipping in to help him pay the monthly costs.


It appeared to me that his worldwide audience was approaching one million. Martini in the Morning was finally almost financially secure.


A few months before Christmas, just after celebrating the tenth anniversary of his station, he was hit with copyright violation and licensing lawsuits.  He had to shut down his station. 


Thus far the costs of attorneys, resolving the fees, and getting back on the air could be approaching $100,000. That's exclusive of his loss of investment in his business and his loss of current income.


Meanwhile, without being on the air, he has lost his audience, and for all practical purposes will have to begin recruiting listeners as if his station was just starting out.


Nobody has been served by these attacks. It's interesting how free enterprise is often an aberration rather than a pure reality like we were taught in school that it is supposed to be.





Since 1966

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