We are, as an industry, rightly concerned about the Performance Rights Act currently meandering its way through congress. Changes in the royalty structure for broadcast music could have potentially catastrophic effects on radio stations across the country.
While our allies and supporters in Congress are working on our behalf, some stations are experimenting with new models for delivering music over the air waves. One of the groups exploring such avenues is the Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS). They’ve resurrected an old idea and given it a modern twist. Artists and their labels can circumvent the SBS programming department to get their music on the air by purchasing a package of “Monthly Rotating Infomercials” that are priced according to the number of spins per month that the track will receive.
Leila Cobo at ABC News provides some detail:
The novel programing idea — which may be unique for radio overall — works like this: Developing and established artists alike can buy packages of infomercials that will air on SBS stations between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Monday through Friday and 11 p.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The infomercials consist of an entire song preceded by an introduction that announces the artist, the title and the presenting sponsor.//
That sponsor can be the performer himself, the label or a third party or brand; however, the sponsor must be named in order for the infomercial to run. Infomercials air at a network level based on genre; a tropical track, for example, will run on all of SBS’ tropical stations nationwide. There isn’t any other programing — or ads — during the infomercial slots.
This has been tried before, but only using 30-second clips of the songs in question. SBS is giving it a twist by airing the tracks in their entirety. The jury is still out on how effective this strategy will be, infomercials in the past have been the time when most people “tune out.” Still, the target markets here are in urban areas and urban areas with a high Latin population. Cobo notes in her article that most urban Latin listeners are a late night audience.
I’m quite curious as to how this will fly. Latin audiences are the fastest growing demographic, and one with above average listener loyalty. It might just counterbalance the “tune out” factor. If so, wise program directors can keep an eye on the metrics for the infomercials as a means of possibly discovering the next big Latin hit.
Either way, experimentation is being done, and that is one thing we need right now. We need to embrace the frontier style can-do attitude our medium has been known for over the decades.
We need to try new and unique ideas because we are, whether we want to be or not, living in a new and unique time.