Radio, Radio Promotion, Touring,  Music Sales and the streaming bubble….

Radio, Radio Promotion, Touring,  Music Sales and the streaming bubble….

Radio, Radio Promotion, Touring,  Music Sales and the streaming bubble….

To anyone who will listen, I have unequivocally stated that, ‘the further away Recording Labels get from the selling of music and consumer ownership of music, the worse things will get.’  A couple of timely reminders occurred this past week that underscored this sentiment.  The first was from David Lowery from his July 11th post on The Trichordist blog site –  ‘A Timely Repost: The Economics of Mid Tier Touring from Someone Who Has Done It For 34 Years.’   {NOTE If you are a musician or anyone associated with Musicians and you are not subscribing to The Trichordist: Artist For An Ethical and Sustainable Internet you need to https://thetrichordist.com/ }

David Lowery, (Founder Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, Lecturer at University Of Georgia), eloquently shows the reality of the current state of the ‘business part’ of Mid-level artists trying to make a living at their craft.  David outlines the return of an average $20.00 ticket price for working artists and bands, and after all the deductions shows the stark reality of what is left and further points out the glaring hole that and the impact in the decline music sales has had on working musician.   The effort of promoting songs to broadcast and satellite radio has a cost that is no longer being made up by physical sales from traditional music retailers and digital sales have been in constant decline and streaming revenues cannot support the cost of promotion.  Simply put, the precipitous decline in actual music sales that has mitigated the return on investment for artist and their labels.   The bottom has literally fallen out of the physical sales and music retailers have gone from 12,000 stores to a couple thousand and that includes big box retailers that had systematically driven down the value of music and now have a few bins dedicated to ‘hot product’.  The decline in perceived value of physical goods being met by the disruption of Apple’s IPod and their monopoly on devices has driven the new frontier of streaming along with Pandora and Spotify.  The general belief among these streaming platforms is that they are now the dominant form of music consumption, no matter how passive, and the three companies that represent the lion’s share of master licenses are being led along.   My speculation is that the millions of dollars being paid by these streaming platforms to the Major labels from mostly their catalogue, has obscured the red ink from new and developing artists and further has made mid-level artists un-profitable.

I am speaking from the vantage point of someone who has spent his entire adult life promoting and marketing music.  With physical sales (CDs) becoming a boutique business and no concerted effort from the Major Labels to support not only the consumption of digital music but seeking an alternative to the Apple device & store monopoly, the next phase of this evolution will be aimed at the cost of promotion.  As David pointed out in his post, the investment by his former record companies, wrenching songs into the culture through broadcast radio, has given him a foundation and a fan base.   While there may be a few exceptions of “Spotify only” artists being able to tour, the real venue drivers are songs on the radio as well as songs embedded into the culture.  With the elimination of physical sales and declining digital sales, the cost of radio promotion campaigns becomes harder to justify.  However,  the long term value of a hit, even mid-chart hits on the radio, may be the difference in having a moment and having a career.

This brings me to the second reminder this past week.  One of the best promotion men I have known, John Boulos, announced that he was leaving Atlantic Records after 11 years to pursue other opportunities.  John was quoted from a 2016 Billboard article where he stated the importance of radio and promotion,  “[Radio] is the most important, critical component inside the company. Every meeting with managers, they want radio, they want radio, they want radio. And the fact of the matter is when we get radio, we have successes. When we don’t, we’re not economically successful.”  This sentiment extends to the artists that we promote and market to satellite and broadcast radio and the sales from retail (when possible) to digital and venue sales.  A hit song embedded in the culture is a long term investment that can ensure a long term touring business and greater value in master and publishing for use in TV and films.

The Artist Cooperative, Mars Music Services and Pasadena Records are dedicated to providing value to our clients and partners with our promotion and marketing services.