Does Radio Airplay Matter?


Posted on May 7th, 2012 by Kristin Thomson in What We're Learning. 5 Comments

1. Frequent airplay on commercial radio is rare.

We begin this report on radio’s relevance with a basic examination of access to the airwaves. On the survey, we asked:

 

The survey respondents’ answers, in aggregate, were:

Of the 4,360 survey respondents who completed this question, only 1.7% (72 respondents) said their music gets played “frequently” on commercial radio. This is not a surprise. Getting airplay on commercial radio has always been very difficult, given its restrictive playlists and risk-averse programming.

In contrast with the survey respondents, the majority of our interviewees had had some success getting airplay. This is largely a reflection of factors particular to the pool of interviewees. Almost all the people we interviewed were full time musicians or composers (or managers of full time musicians). Many were bandleaders. Many had achieved name recognition in their field. A few had composed evergreen songs that are played on commercial radio every day. Others have had recent success getting played on alternative rock radio, or had piqued the musical interest of NPR or other noncommercial broadcasters. Of the artists who have had limited success with traditional radio, many reported getting airplay on NPR, Pandora, or on dedicated genre channels on Sirius XM.

The varied experiences of our interviewees – which included musicians as different as a choral group, a platinum-selling rock band, and a metal band – provide a richer picture about the value of radio.

An emerging classical composer had this to say about his experience with commercial radio:

I wouldn’t know about commercial radio because I’ve never been played on commercial radio and probably never will be.
– Emerging Classical Composer

Another artist acknowledged radio’s power as a highly managed and influential promotional platform:

Radio is still one of the gatekeeper outlets. Unlike iTunes or YouTube where it’s straight to fans, someone has to decide that you’re cool enough for their demographic to hear you. That, then, becomes a task to convince them that you’re cool enough, and that’s not always easy to do.
  – Jack Conte, Pomplamoose

A rock musician made the point that getting on traditional radio costs money:

The simple version is that it’s still largely run by money and in a fairly tit-for-tat way that may not technically be payola or bribery anymore but feels like it from the artist’s side. Because there’s pretty much no way to get on the radio or stay on radio without good radio consultants, and they cost boatloads of money, much more than most independent bands can afford. It’s no surprise that promotion costs money, of course, but when there’s a direct correlation between the amount you spend and your position on the charts, it’s hard to believe that the merits of the music are as important as the depth of the pockets.
– Damian Kulash, songwriter and rock band guitarist

For our survey respondents, access to commercial radio is very rare, with only 9% reporting “frequent” or “some” airplay. Meanwhile, the interviewees provide some context. While some musicians know their music will never be played on commercial radio, others readily acknowledge radio’s power as a highly managed outlet, although one that is expensive to deal with.

Next: The impact of radio deregulation





5 responses to “Does Radio Airplay Matter?”

  1. […] extent. Our artist revenue streams study found that significant commercial radio airplay remains out of reach for all but a tiny handful of artists.  And our earlier radio-centric research demonstrates that […]

  2. […] extent. Our artist revenue streams study found that significant commercial radio airplay remains out of reach for all but a tiny handful of artists.  And our earlier radio-centric research demonstrates that […]

  3. […] extent. Our artist revenue streams study found that significant commercial radio airplay remains out of reach for all but a tiny handful of artists.  And our earlier radio-centric research demonstrates that […]

  4. […] extent. Our artist revenue streams study found that significant commercial radio airplay remains out of reach for all but a tiny handful of artists.  And our earlier radio-centric research demonstrates that […]

  5. […] of music, from live performances to digital video (especially in the noncommercial sector, as a recent Future of Music study illustrates). The presentation suggests that there are new ways for radio to expand into both […]