Does Radio Airplay Matter?
Radio airplay and income
Is it possible to measure radio airplay’s impact on musicians’ earnings? We are also able to look at the revenue streams data for those who reported getting radio airplay of any kind. The differences are interesting.
Those reporting “frequent” commercial airplay or “frequent” satellite radio airplay are making four times as much from their compositions (6% versus 24%) as the general survey population. Even those who got “some” airplay of any type reported significantly more income from their compositions in the past 12 months.
The income from live performance shows less of a difference. For all survey respondents, income from live performance accounted for 28% of their revenue in the past 12 months. Those who reported getting frequent or some airplay on most types of radio were also making more money from live performance, but it wasn’t a significant difference.
The chart above shows a negative relationship; those getting “frequent” commercial airplay had a lower percentage of income from live performance. This sub-group may include the elite of songwriter/composers, who enjoy frequent commercial airplay of their songs, but who are (a) not performers themselves or (b) have written legacy or evergreen hits that are played routinely on commercial radio.
Finally, income from sound recordings. For all respondents, income from sound recordings accounted for about 6% of their income in the past 12 months.
But the chart above shows that airplay of any sort – commercial, noncommercial, satellite or internet radio – accompanies a greater percentage of income from sound recordings for our survey respondents. In the case of frequent internet radio airplay, almost three times as much.
By the measures above, “frequent” or “some” airplay on any type of radio accompanies a distinct profile with respect to the revenue streams of the survey respondents. A higher percentage of their income is derived from music. Their gross estimated music income is greater than those without airplay. And, they report a greater percentage of last year’s income from compositions, sound recordings and live performance.
But, there are other factors that could have led to this outcome, so we don’t want to jump to the conclusion that radio airplay is the sole reason that they’re making more money. Perhaps this sub-group of survey respondents who report frequent airplay are benefiting from a label relationship that is simultaneously getting them airplay and netting more sound recording sales.  In these instances, radio is not the reason that they’re making more money or deriving more from various revenue streams, radio airplay is simply a part of a larger PR strategy.
The survey data suggests that radio airplay may have an impact on certain revenue streams. Our interviewees had a lot to say about radio airplay’s perceived effect on earnings.