Consider an article in a recent issue of Billboard predicting that the coming Christmas season will be just as "un-merry" for the labels and their artists as the ongoing trend indicates. Chart 1 shows a disturbing trend of mostly declines in music sales in the post-9/11 world.
As is the case with all traditional media, the music industry has been plagued by the reality that consumers enjoy a pu pu platter of digital competition, file sharing, and and the ability to take control of their entertainment lives. And like Kodak ignoring digital photography, the music empire's inability to recognize the changing tides of music formats and consumption is at the root of its problems.
But the other side of the dilemma is musicFIRST's ongoing war with radio over this insane performance tax situation. In our Tech Poll this past winter, we posed the question to our more than 21,000 respondents - what are all the sources people use to expose themselves to new music?
Chart 2 clearly illustrates the dominance of radio in the process. Of course, it's been this way for decades, whether you're talking 45s, albums, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, or mp3 files - most people find out about music from the radio and from other people.
Now you may be thinking that because our survey is comprised of radio listeners, these numbers are inflated. So to compensate, let's knock radio's level down by 20%. Even with that adjustment, radio at 68% has more than a 2-to-1 lead over the next two media outlets - television and outlets like MTV and Vh-1.
Of course, it makes sense to expose music on tertiary sources like SiriusXM, video games, and in Rolling Stone. But why would you be fighting with the reliable, time-honored top source? Simply put, nothing compares to radio.
But then there are short-sighted Congressmen like Nashville, Tennessee's Jim Cooper who is another expert about the music business. Stating that "our artists and performers are being ripped off every day" by radio, Cooper takes the Bizarro World logic that somehow radio is the enemy in this ridiculous dance to generate revenue where there is no money anyway. And Cooper must not watch those CMA Awards shows where artist after artist accurately thanks radio for all its support. They know that radio sells music, puts butts in seats at concerts, and builds brands. It's one thing to pander to your constituency - it's another to understand who made who.
Yet, the stupidity continues. Another upside-down marketing moment recently occurred after this year's All-Star Game. Where the world heard the new Pearl Jam single - or at least a few seconds of it - over the closing credits. Actually, the world didn't hear the song, because most viewers had already found something else to watch well after the game was over.
But think about this: How could any rational marketing person conclude that Pearl Jam would have better exposure for its new song from Joe Buck ambivalently introducing a brief portion of their new song at the end of a baseball game where viewership was already waning - or on thousands of enthusiastic radio stations across the country. Do promotion and marketing people actually get paid for decisions like this?
But that's record label logic for you. And it gets worse. Our same Tech Poll also uncovers the location of a treasure trove of music buyers - people who continue to buy music on CD, mp3, and even vinyl. In fact, more than 80% of this particular group has purchased music during the past year.
Guess what? They're radio listeners!
Our last chart shows that the vast majority are still buying music. And they're all listening to the radio. How do you reach them? Hey, do the labels need bread crumbs to see the way toward improved music sales?
In the face of these three charts, would any sane person - much less a musicFIRST executive - attack a radio industry that continues to play, feature, and embellish new and catalogue music; that continues to support concert appearances (whether there are advertisements or not); that continues to prominently feature music and artists on its websites for no compensation? Even with this performance tax insanity going full force?