Archive for the ‘Content’ Category

Disney Revives Radio Serial Format

June 30, 2010

Disney is know for reinventing or revitalizing media on a regular basis. Decades ago, it was Steamboat Willie, the cartoon short that introduced a certain mouse we all know. More recently, High School Musical has taken the televised musical from risky to mainstream in record time. Now it seems Disney is preparing to breathe life back into the old school radio serial.

“My Dream,” is slated to run for twenty episodes beginning next week on Radio Disney. The story follows a 14-year-old girl, Kayla, as she pursues her dream of becoming a singer and songwriter.

More details according to David Bauder of The Associated Press:

A new episode debuts each weekday at 9:25 a.m. on Radio Disney. Listeners who miss them can hear the 90-second episodes later on the station’s website or via mobile phone.

The idea recalls serials that were popular in the early days of radio, a format that was essentially destroyed when television arrived. Radio Disney says it will wait to see how the first serial fares before committing to others, said Ray De La Garza, the network’s vice president of programming.

“We thought, `let’s create something that can keep the kids entertained and wanting to come back day after day,'” De La Garza said.

Full disclosure here: I’m a big fan of the old-fashioned radio serials. That being the case, I’m excited to see Disney doing this. While the subject matter may be a bit youthful for me personally, I think that Disney has the best chance to revive the format. I also think that with all the brouhaha about music royalties lately, many stations might be more willing to experiment with audio plays and serials like this.

What do you think? Is the time ripe for a return to the serials of old?

Image: CURZU@ / CC 2.0

Crowdfunding For Public Radio?

June 24, 2010

The evolution of media is something on everyone’s mind these days. Whether it is speculation on the possible demise of the traditional newspaper or the development of digital age tools for reporting, it is a huge subject. This is exactly why the Knight News Challenge was created, wherein the Knight Foundation awards several million dollars each year for “innovative ideas that develop platforms, tools and services to inform and transform community news, conversations and information distribution and visualization.” In other words, bringing the news into the 21st century.

The Public Radio Exchange’s StoryMarket project has just been awarded $75,000 in the Knight News Challenge. Additionally, it will build on — and collaborate with — Spot.us, a prior high-profile Knight winner, to apply the principles of crowdfunding to public radio.

Here’s a quick description taken from the official announcement of the Knight Grant, as found on the Neiman Lab article about this subject:

Building on the software created by 2008 challenge winner Spot.us, this project will allow anyone to pitch and help pay to produce a story for a local public radio station. When the amount is raised (in small contributions), the station will hire a professional journalist to do the report. The project provides a new way for public radio stations to raise money, produce more local content and engage listeners.

Another very important thing about this approach is that it addresses an issue facing all radio stations, public and commercial: the need for more local content. In the current markets, radio stations are trying harder and harder to engage with their audience through a return to local reporting. Story Market is something to watch because the stories produced, if successful, will be dictated by that local market.

Image: Knight Foundation Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

Roundup: The Performance Rights Act

June 16, 2010

The Performance Rights Act (PRA) has been a frequent topic here on the Radio 2020 blog ever since its inception, and with good reason. The legislation as it stands could have massive negative repercussions for the radio industry at all levels. Among other things, the new royalty structure will almost certainly result in the labels revisiting their contracts with artists if it passes — not something many have considered. This is only one of many ramifications that will rear their ugly heads if the PRA gets passed.

Let’s take a quick trip in a time machine and revisit my prior postings on the subject. For the benefit of our readers, here is a nice array of data on the subject. These posts range from October 2009 to the present and are presented oldest to newest in this list.

The Performance Rights Act is a very serious issue and it could still go one way or the other, so please educate yourself on the subject. Make an informed decision and let your Representative know your views!

Image: D. Reichardt / CC 2.0

Performance Rights Act, A New Wrinkle

June 14, 2010

The Performance Rights Act (PRA) has been a fairly constant topic here and on other radio-centric websites. The push for additional royalties it represents has a broad array of implications for broadcasters, labels, and artists.

Imagine my surprise, after writing extensively on the subject for so long, when I find a completely new and worrisome aspect of the legislation that had heretofore eluded me.  I stumbled across this excellent analysis of the PRA debate by Stephen Koff , The Plain Dealer‘s Washington bureau chief, that was syndicated on Cleveland.com.

It covers things in a very even-handed fashion, but most importantly it gives us the following observation:

Meanwhile, Rex Glensy, a former entertainment lawyer who teaches at Drexel University’s law school, says a radio performance royalty could alter the dynamics of record contracts. If there’s money involved — especially more money for the artist than the label envisioned — it’s bound to happen, he says.

He uses the example of Barbra Streisand performing a Cole Porter song and releasing it on CBS Records. Right now, the only party getting radio royalties would be the estate of Cole Porter.

Under the recording industry proposal, Cole Porter’s heirs would still get their money, but additional revenue would go to Streisand and the record company.

“You know what will happen?” Glensy says. “All of a sudden Barbra Streisand is going to hear a knock at her door and see CBS saying, ‘We want to renegotiate your contract.'”

That’s the problem with changing anything related to copyright, Glensy says. It inevitably affects every other piece of the business.

I’m personally thunderstruck that I did not think of this earlier. As with most legislation, it is the cascade of secondary and tertiary effects that can wreak the most far reaching changes.  I’m pretty sure that most of the artists supporting this misguided legislation are unaware that things could play out this way either.

Image: tacomabibelot / CC 2.0

Prince Turns 52, Releases New Song “Hot Summer” on Radio

June 12, 2010
Prince's Yellow Cloud Electric Guitar

Prince's Yellow Cloud Electric Guitar

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Prince has just celebrated his 52nd birthday! Seems like it was only yesterday that we all wanted to “Party like it’s 1999” or hop in a “little red Corvette” for a joyride. Now it is decades later and the artist formerly known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” is once again just Prince. Another thing that has come full circle is that his music is debuting not on the Internet, but over the  airwaves.

On June 7 (Prince’s birthday), Minnesota Public Radio show The Current debuted “Hot Summer,” a new Prince track reportedly written in response to the record heat that gripped the state last month. As Rolling Stone music writer Daniel Kreps reports, this is not new for the ever protean star:

In recent years, Prince has often turned to radio to premiere new music, starting in December 2008 when he unveiled four songs off his Lotusflow3r triple-disc set on Los Angeles rock station Indie 103. After returning to the Twin Cities, the public radio supporter also offered the Current a new song called “Cause and Effect” in February 2010. Prior to that, inspired by the Minnesota Vikings’ march toward the Super Bowl, Prince quickly wrote and orchestrated a fight song for the football team titled “Purple and Gold,” which was then handed to a Minnesota local news program to debut.

Whether you like his music or not — and I must confess I usually do — Prince’s stature as a giant in the world of modern music is indisputable. He has been the recipient of  four American Music Awards, six Grammy Awards and one Golden Globe Award, and his singles have made him legendary around the globe.

I think it speaks volumes that a star of this caliber, and one with the amazing array of industry experience that Prince possesses, should consistently choose radio as his delivery mechanism for new music. It shows a natural awareness that even in the Internet age, radio still reaches far more people overall.

Image: InfoMofo / CC 2.0

Blagojevich’s Radio Show Pulled During Trial

June 4, 2010

Followers of Chicago radio are well aware of the show that embattled former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been hosting since shortly after the scandal broke. WLS-AM has pulled the show from the air pending the completion of Blagojevich’s corruption trial.

The hiatus was announced during his appearance on the Don Wade and Roma Morning Show last Wednesday. The Huffington Post reports the following statement made on the show:

“Out of respect for the legal process, WLS radio is putting the Rod Blagojevich Show on ‘hiatus’ effective immediately,” Operations Director Drew Hayes wrote in a statement read by Wade and Roma. “After the trial has concluded, we will review the status of the program.”

Whichever way things go, this should be fascinating radio coverage, especially as Blogojevich intends to take the stand.  Chris Meincke at ABC Chicago brings us Mr. Blagjevich’s own words on the subject:

“I never could understand these politicians who said they never did anything wrong and then when they’re given the chance to say they didn’t do anything wrong, where it matters in court, they don’t do it. So, yes, I’m gonna do it and Patti’s gonna do it. We have the truth on our side,” said Blagojevich.

It has been very interesting watching the course of his radio program, and I wonder if we will see it return to the air. I also wonder if his on-air presence will influence the jury selection. After all, radio is everywhere and he has had more than ample time to disseminate his views.

If found guilty I doubt his show will be renewed. But if he is innocent? What do you think?

Image: RichieC / CC 2.0

iUK: BBC Radio on the iPhone

May 24, 2010

Well, it looks like the BBC is jumping into the iPhone arena — hardly shocking since streamed audio is huge on the Apple handset. Just look at the success of iHeartRadio, Pandora, AOL Radio and other audio/radio apps. Combine that huge listener base with America’s love of British TV — Dr. Who is the number one television show purchased on iTunes, for example — and they have a tempting market just waiting.

The new app, BBC Listener, does not provide access to all BBC radio programming. Rather, it supplies a selection of programs mostly from Radio 4. These can be streamed for immediate listening or downloaded for later. Still, for anglophiles, even that will be a treat. It also has a nice interface; I particularly like the old-fashioned radio tuner it displays when you turn the iPhone on its side. The Beeb has a nice video walk-through of the app up on YouTube so you can see how it looks and operates before purchasing. [BBC Listener Promo – YouTube]

So, you really want your BBC radio. You pay $2.99 for the app — a reasonable price — and you’re good to go, right? Wrong. The app uses the iPhone’s in-ap subscription function to charge the $12.99 per quarter subscription fee. Even that sounds reasonable to me, but I’m a longtime fan of British media. PaidContent:UK‘s Robert Andrews notes the rather large flaw in his recent review:

But BBC Listener may not be all that good value – many of the shows contained within are available as free downloadable podcasts, as well as for web playback, no matter where in the world listeners are. For example, here’s BBC World New America reporter Matt Frei’s Americanashow, all 51 episodes of it.

Maybe some users will be happy to pay to have all this wrapped inside a single app, but there’s another stumbling block – NPR in the States does at least as good a job at radio news and documentary, and all its apps, like its podcasts, are free.

So, is it the new British Invasion or is will the BBC’s monetization efforts flounder? What do you think?

Image: nikiv116893 / CC BY 2.0

Are Car Radios’ Days Numbered?

May 10, 2010

Drive time. It’s always one of the first things to come to mind when thinking about traditional radio’s reach. Those long hours on the D.C. Beltway, Los Angeles traffic jams, and the American tradition of the road trip are all places that radio helps us maintain our sanity in the face of our commutes. So far, it has also been the last place where Internet radio is uncommon. This is something that has changed drastically over the last year or two.

Many in-dash radios now include an iPod/iPhone port you can plug into. Of course, this is about as safe as texting while driving, i.e., not at all. I don’t think we will see any great longevity out of services that make you look down at your phone while driving. It is simply too much of a safety hazard.

Manufacturers are meeting that issue head on with the newer generation of receivers. Alpine’s iDA-X305S Digital Media Receiver with Pandora Link allows control through the in-dash receiver, but the display is still tied to the iPhone. The Pioneer AVIC X920BT takes things a step further and not only allows full iPod library control, but it also allows you to use Pandora from those same controls via a custom iPhone app.

Last.fm, Pandora and a plethora of new online audio options may be striking fear into the hearts of more timid members of our industry, but not me. The current trend of bringing the Internet into the vehicle is a huge boon for them, no doubt about that. It also happens to be a huge boon for radio.

As smartphones and autos become more compatible, the picture looks better and better for radio. As John R. Quain of The New York Times pointed out:

Ultimately, the incursion of Internet-based music services and radio station streams may be less about annihilating yet another business model than it is about breaking down barriers. For the first time, small local stations will be able to reach an entire driving nation, so some broadcasters may see their audiences swell as more listeners find them on Internet-connected car radios. In the end, it may simply be a case of radio is dead, long live radio.

I’ve already experienced this a lot over the past year. While discovering new stations here in Cincinnati, I have also been able to continue listening to my favorite shows back home in New Orleans. My audio options have expanded rather than being simply changed. To be able to do the same while driving sounds like a winner to me!

Image: jamescridland / CC BY 2.0

Trae tha Truth: NO Airplay? I’m Suing!

May 7, 2010

If you are paying attention to the Performance Rights Act (PRA) as it winds through Congress, you are aware of the argument that free airplay is not of sufficient value to artists, hence the desire for more royalties.  I can talk all I want about how silly I find that argument, but it looks like the court system in Texas is about to address that for me.

There is a rap artist in Houston called Trae tha Truth, and he is currently launching a lawsuit against RadioOne because they have banned his music. The rationale is that by doing so, they are hurting his career. The Houston Chronicle‘s blog has particulars:

Trae (whose real name is Frasier Thompson III) and attorney Warren Fitzgerald, Jr. allege that 97.9 FM banned the rapper’s music after he was involved in an on-air altercation with Madd Hatta Morning Show DJ Nnete Inyangumia. During a 2009 radio interview, Trae says Inyangumia falsely accused him of inciting violence at a festival celebrating “Trae Day.” The rapper, whose real name is Frasier Thompson III, was honored July 24, 2008 by Mayor Bill White and the Houston City Council for his community work.

I’m not here to comment on the right or wrong of the situation. What I find noteworthy is the approach being taken.  This is a lawsuit based on loss of business and weakening of brand caused by a lack of free airplay, airplay that musicFIRST and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) consistently devalue in their lobbying for the Performance Rights Act. That sounds suspiciously to me as thought the free airplay might just have value, that it might just be essential to the artist.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Let’s hear from Trae’s record label itself. If the airplay has no value they should be quite unruffled by the situation:

Rap-A-Lot Records’ CEO James Prince weighed in on the ban, saying that it also affected his business decisions with regards to Trae’s music. “I had been excited about being involved with the next Trae album,” says Prince, “but with this ban taking place, not only in his home town, but likely also in the second best place for airplay, which is Dallas, it would be impossible to promote the album. This ban is sabotaging his career, because those cities are the foundation for breaking his records.”

Wow. “Impossible to promote the album.” Strong words, especially from a record company exec. Could it be that airplay does have some intrinsic worth? “Sabotaging his career,” sounds to me like a bit of an impact.

I’m very curious to see if any of the pro-PRA groups out there will make any comment on this, or if we will simply hear silence and crickets.

Image: traaf / CC BY-SA 2.0

Thank You, Ben Nelson!

May 3, 2010

Washington, D.C., is not a very straightforward place. Legislation is the result of deals, compromises, lobbyist influence, and many other factors. These find their way into law in the most roundabout ways at times. One standard approach is to take some piece of legislation — in this case the odious Performance Rights Act (PRA) — and attach it to some “must pass” measure up for vote. That way, its native popularity level has nothing to do with it being enacted. It happens all the time.

Enter Ben Nelson (D- NE), who chairs the Legislative Subcommittee, which oversees the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB). The CRB is the organization that would administrate PRA if it gets passed. The excellent thing is that he is on our side of the fight.

As RadioBusinessReport notes, he made mention of the PRA in a recent address about the CRB’s budget for 2011:

“As a brief aside, I continue to hear from a number of organizations concerned about the performance royalties bill that would affect local radio stations,” said Nelson. “I make this brief note here only because of the Copyright Royalty Board’s potential role under this legislation. Along with many of my colleagues I continue to oppose this bill and would not support an attempt to attach such legislation to an appropriations bill whether it is this one or any of the others.”

This is a step in the right direction!  Having someone in the right position to prevent the classic political sleight of hand is something that I find reassuring. Having grown up in  family of lawyers, I have seen all to well the winding path taken by even the most innocuous legislation.

Support for the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes the proposed royalty structures, is one of the only true bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill, or at least in the House of Representatives. Too many remain off the record in the Senate to have a clear idea of where things stand with them. Nelson’s stance in keeping that back door shut will hopefully make the ongoing battle in the Senate a more straightforward and honest one.

Image: Senate portrait / Public Domain