A big story came out of the music world last weekend, reported by The Verge. It seems that rapper Drake’s new project, More Life, broke all sorts of streaming records, thanks in part to an exclusive deal with Apple Music.
But the part of the story that caught my attention wasn’t the 300 million streams on Apple Music, but this claim by Apple Music’s content chief, Larry Jackson:
“(Beats 1) is the biggest radio station in the world.”
He went on to say “There’s no way you’re going to find another station that has as many concurrent listeners and audience-wise as Beats 1 – period.”
So that's the assertion. And we're not talking about WTOP or Z100 or some big station in China we've never heard of. Apple Music is saying the numero uno station on all the planet is Beats 1. Of course, Apple didn’t supply any listening numbers for Beats 1’s performance, so we’ll have to take them at their word.
But many people in broadcast radio – or “proper radio” as my UK friend Michael Hill calls it – will dispute whether Beats 1 is even a bona fide radio station after all. That's been the case since the early days of Pandora, where radio luminaries like Bob Pittman and many others have rejected similar claims made on the premise that these streaming stations are not “radio.”
But there are mitigating factors at work here. Unlike streaming services that are simply music collections, algorithms, or a collection of playlists, Beats 1 has an entire staff of DJs, headed up by Zane Lowe (pictured below), a guy who is very much connected to the music he plays.
But addressing the technical argument about what is “radio, there are many different ideas about its definition. In an effort to clear the air, along with the staff at Jacobs Media, I’ve come up with a 10-question quiz that will determine – once and for all – whether Beats 1 is, in fact, a real radio station.
If its programming team can answer a definite “yes” to at least 7 of the 10 questions below, I’m letting them into the Radio Club. For those of you who working at undisputed radio stations, this will be a breeze.
So sharpen your #2 pencils, and here goes:
1. Does Beats 1 have a prize closet with at least several hundred copies of last year’s commemorative calendar collecting dust?
2. Does all unlabeled food disappear in the Beats 1 kitchen in nanoseconds? Does food with legible labels get consumed in under a day?
3. Do the same five people seem to keep winning every Beats 1 giveaway?
4. Are there Beats 1 live remotes over the weekend at a Jiffy Lube or a Verizon store?
5. Is there a weird, unidentifiable odor coming from the Beats 1 van?
6. Does the GM’s spouse have strong opinions about Beats 1’s music mix?
7. Is there currently a dispute at Beats 1 between programming and sales over minutes versus units?
8. Does anyone on the Beats 1 airstaff know the actual price of a concert ticket?
9. Has Beats 1 ever given away coupons good for 50¢ off a burrito?
10. Does Beats 1 pay a consultant who flies into town with crazy ideas and flies right back out without ever actually executing them?
Bonus question: Has Art Vuolo ever shot video in the Beats 1 studio?
So, 7 simple “yes” responses, and Beats 1 receives all the privileges and perks that come with membership in the Radio Universe. Of course, you might have some better “litmus test” questions, and you’re welcome to contribute them in the “Comments” area below.
As opposed to getting into one of those circular philosophical arguments about streaming vs. broadcast, I’m hoping this little quiz will settle the score.
Then we can all get back to what's really important in radio.
Like figuring out what we're going to do about all those 1-877-Kars4Kids spots?