March 26, 2015 - 3:46pm EDT
In an era when broadcasters, webcasters and record companies are often publicly tearing into one another about issues such as royalties and rivalries, there were some noteworthy Kumbaya moments at this year’s South by Southwest music conference. Executives from all three industries said, at the core, their fates remain closely tied together.
“We cannot break artists without radio,” Glassnote Records CEO Daniel Glass said, telling the conference crowd that the label has informed all its artists they need to find ways to work with broadcasters. “We really trust and respect radio and its gatekeepers,” he continued. “So if [radio] goes into that relationship without cynicism and with a positive and optimistic view, your growth and ours are attached, then I think things are great.”
Some have compared the cross-industry dust-ups to sibling squabbles, and Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey said he believes radio and music producers still have a “very symbiotic” alliance built from star air personalities and hit records. “At the end of the day people want to hear stars on the radio and see them in concert -- that’s what excites a fan base and ultimately that is good for all of us,” Dickey said. “An engaged audience is also great for our advertisers, so our interests are very much aligned on this.”
Glass believes local programming is what will keep radio relevant for artists, and encouraged operators to allow local personalities to get behind a record and champion it with their listeners like old school DJs could. “If I ran a radio station, I would give that freedom maybe once a week,” he suggested. “When the radio station makes a commitment of artist development and a record gets into rotation, it leads to more fan investment.”
Record labels and radio stations have been partners for nearly a century, and while streaming radio has handed consumers new way to access music, Rdio CEO Anthony Bay sees digital’s expanding role as “very complimentary” to FM/AM radio. “We think the pieces fit very well together,” he said.
Speaking at SXSW, Bay pointed to cable television as a possible template for the audio industry. He said digital radio’s narrowcasting is not unlike HBO, which has carved out a niche alongside the big broadcast networks like NBC. “It’s one of the reasons we work so closely with Cumulus,” Bay said. “It’s not an either-or, it’s a combination of the pieces that fit together.”
For record labels, Glass said they’re likely to continue to seek out new ways to use streaming to connect artists and fans. But he also sees digital as a launch pad to convincing FM/AM radio to add songs from bubbling-under artists. “People love streaming and the more smartphones we have the more streaming there is going to be, but they also love listening to the radio,” he explained. “We are a company that loves being on radio.”