Sony Music and Universal Music have announced that from next month they will be simultaneously releasing some singles from their acts to radio and for sale online.
This will probably lead to articles asking “is music radio dead” and “why radio has no place in the music business”.
The music business is a commodity based one, reliant on shifting units (tracks/albums/downloads). As such, they need to make their products available wherever there is a customer base and demand. This change is feeding in to the “on demand” “right now” culture that we now find ourselves in. It was tested out pretty comprehensively during last years X-Factor where performances were available to download almost immediately after the show aired.
But does this mean anything for radio?
Previously, radio would play a large (though not exclusive) role in hyping demand for many singles and albums. The plugging arms of the record companies put much effort in offering exclusives, spot plays and playlist additions. These happened weeks out from release and added in to the highly planned pre-release publicity schedule including interviews, contest winner gigs, live sessions and much more. This record company pre-release marketing effort also provided much programming and contest content for stations.
This is purely another way of marketing the product. It means that the record companies (like everyone else) will need to work harder and smarter to target their consumers. They will probably make preview clips available online beforehand, and build up social media buzz in a highly targeted way. And the result will hopefully mean higher sales in the long run. And I’m sure radio will still get content driven promotions via the record companies – they may just need to come up with bigger ideas.
For radio, it will be increasingly important to have links to technology that lets the listener “buy it now” – either through the station website, via mobile listening platforms, or directly from the radio via Apple or Pure Flow Songs. This technology already exists – but I guess it’s set to become all the more important – particularly for Commercial radio who can monetize their listeners.
And what if there were a station that could play the song you voted for – a sort of live jukebox service with an online presence on mobile devices? You could vote on the song, get it on air and buy it for your mobile device – all at the same time. Absolute Radio tried it with DABBL with new/live music.
This format exists now – to a degree – in the USA. It’s called Listener Driven Radio. How long before someone tries it again here?