Friday, April 17, 2015

Major Media Role Confusion: Playing it Safe Hurts Artists

First a simple equation/Flow Chart:

Unique and compelling content creates ratings
Ratings lead to advertising buys
Advertising creates revenue

This is the business model certainly of radio broadcasting and for the most part television.

For the longest time both radio and television have been where consumers look to find new artists. MTV leading the way within TV and radio stations across the country exposing their regional audiences to new artists everyday. Sure the buzz within the music industry and even amongst fans is "I hear the same artists on the radio over and over... even on "variety" stations. So why/when did this happen? How is it hurting the growing artist and how is it hurting the public?

Sure. Not all that long ago you could flip to MTV and see music videos - A LOT of them. Especially at night. In addition to that, there were numerous countdowns that left room for multiple genres and tons of NEW artists. This was the same with radio - in the 90's it wasn't uncommon on Top 40 Radio to hear Dave Matthews "Crash" right after a Ja Rule song. Or Limp Bizkit's "Rollin'" right behind Vanessa Carlton's "1000 Miles." Variety stations were blasting familiar 80's songs and taking chances on new 90's artists.


Advertising revenue dwindled..
Especially in radio

And going back to the business model for mass media - like any business would - they started to be conservative with their content. Stick to the most popular of, well, anything. Only the biggest artists. By sticking with the most popular artists and cycling them as often as possible it could conserve ratings, which in turn create and sustain advertising revenue -but for how long?- What's immediately wrong with this picture? Besides the moral dilemma of not utilizing their access to a large audience to expose the latest and greatest content even when it's not the most popular artist- thus building the industry they are in the business of supporting? - The major problem is that diluting content causes audiences to no longer trust you in bringing them the latest and greatest music.. and they tune out or they look to new sources to find what they are looking for.. IE the Internet.

Here's the new model:

Identify the most popular artists/songs (In essence utilize content from other sources rather than BE the source)
Sustain ratings through PPM systems (15 minutes at a time) by recycling content
Sell advertising based on these ratings

And we wonder why revenues are dwindling?

The funny thing is that nothing has changed. All major mediums require the channel/station/website to create compelling content. What is the most compelling content? ORIGINAL content. The role confusion comes in when TV and radio believes that this is not what drives in new and loyal audiences just as it always has. The role of the medium is to identify this content. Tying this back into music - This means it is still the role of the major medium to offer up new artists to their audiences and continue to feed a music industry that is no longer getting any love.

Playing it safe becomes a slippery slope that has only gotten more slippery over the past 10 years. And maybe I am naive, but I am still waiting for the day when content again becomes king. A victory day for artists.