If you've even been casually following entertainment trends, you know the business model for music artists and groups has been roiled by new tech trends. It wasn't that many years ago when owning music was something most people eagerly did. But not anymore. While streaming services have become more popular, royalties cannot make up for lost revenue from sales of CDs, vinyl, and even MP3 files.
And that's put more emphasis on other offerings that generate cash – specifically, concert ticket sales and merch. Because so many shirts, hats, posters, and other paraphernalia are sold at concerts, the value of encouraging consumers to attend live performances at stadiums, arenas, and clubs has never been more important.
Now, Spotify has come up with an amazing innovation – the concert calendar. In partnership with an online music and community events company called Resident Advisor – or RA – Spotify is now providing another service that goes beyond the stream, focusing on local shows.
Of course, there's a dash of AI in the mix. According to Music Business Worldwide, Spotify streamers will be connected to concerts and events by artists they have a preference for.
The press release announcing this new partnership claims RA is responsible for selling millions of live event tickets. Nick Sabine is the co-founder of RA, and says the mashup will help local venues achieve “sustainability and creativity of the global electronic music industry.”
But what about Aerosmith, Jason Aldean, Five Finger Death Punch, and the local bands in the market struggling to be discovered?
While this collaboration between a global streaming service and a web-based events platform is interesting, local concert and event promotion used to be the province of hometown radio stations not that many years ago.
Those long and laborious on-air “Concert Calendars” mostly went the way of the cart machines once PPM became the currency in the largest 48 markets. They were typically about as entertaining as school closing reports, and they deserved to die.
But the advent of station websites, and even better, mobile applications focused on concerts and events should have been broadcast radio's gateway for cashing in on being the authority for all events live and local in their hometown markets.
And by the way, if I'm already a fan of a band, connecting for the chance to see them in concert has a certain convenient, personalized appeal. But what about an artist that you only know a little something about? Or one your partner likes, but you haven't really experienced?
Like so many algorithmic services, keeping you in your music bubble works against true music discovery – something that often happens when you see a band live for the first time or an opening act you've never really heard of. How often do you become a fan after seeing a band in concert?
It's why the record reps always want to get you to a concert. They know any artist worth their salt has the ability to impress first-timers with their live performance.
But if you use a concert algorithm that's customized to your existing tastes, how much great live and local music do you end up missing?
A comprehensive local concert guide – put together by a radio station (or a cluster of them) – is a logical extension of what hometown music radio is all about – helping consumers enjoy their favorite genres, tunes, and artists in both recorded and live venues. Or at least that's the way it used to work.
And as my Dad used to say, in most markets, providing accessible concert and entertainment information – say in a mobile app – is a hole you can drive a truck through. I opened up Apps on my iPhone, searched “Detroit concerts” and ended up with Stub Hub, followed by a weird app I've never seen – with a 1-star rating. The Motor City remains one of the top concert-going towns in America. Tell me a dedicated concert and events app couldn't rake it in, complete with ads and sponsorships, coupons, and other related revenue.
Yet, so few radio stations have optimized their mobile presence by creating a dedicated local concert and events app. I checked with our team at jacapps where we've developed more than 1,300 apps most of which are radio-centric. And the best they can do is an app for WWOZ, the eclectic public radio jazz station headquartered in New Orleans.
Or imagine a skill on your Alexa devices that would provide you concerts, shows, and club nights going on in Savannah or San Diego this weekend. That's something any radio station or cluster could produce for the Alexa and Google platforms, as well as a website that would likely be heavily trafficked.
When I see music brands like Spotify scooping up these local opportunities, they're taking money off the table that once belonged to radio. Just because airing this information may not make sense for any number of reasons, using the power and reach of radio brands to provide this information – and make money from it – just makes good sense.
At CRS last week, researcher Mark Ramsey admonished Country radio programmers for not being more proactive with mobile apps. He pointed out apps that merely Xerox the station's audio in stream form is missing the mobile opportunity. As Mark noted,
“Smartphones are how fans get ‘radio' today. That’s no longer theoretical and ‘on the way' – it’s now here. The smartphone, not the smart speaker, is the center of the universe. 18-44 year old Country fans are AS likely or MORE likely to use smartphones to ‘often' listen to audio entertainment and information than they are to use ‘a regular radio or car radio.' The radio industry at large focuses too much on re-purposing their over-the-air content on smartphones and not nearly enough at giving people what they want on those devices the way they want it.”
Mark was at a Country gathering. He could have been addressing a group of Classic Rock, Hip-Hop, public or Christian radio programmers and managers. The increasingly lost mobile app opportunity has been there from the beginning, but slipping away every time you read a story like this one about Spotify and RA's collaboration to own the local concert scene.
Yes, it's important to have a branded app in the two biggest app stores – Apple and Google – as well as their dashboard ecosystems, CarPlay and Android Auto. But it needn't stop there. As mobile phones have become the most ubiquitous, addictive, and must-carry devices, radio has had a chance to have a coveted pole position in the space.
I hear broadcasters worry and complain all the time about where revenue dollars are going to come from – this year, next year, and beyond. And often when they look at digital and throw up their hands in frustration. Where to start, what to do, how to monetize, and how can any radio company compete against the big boys, like Amazon, Spotify, Google, and Facebook.
Good questions all. Success in the next decade isn't going to come easy to the radio broadcasting industry (or any other for that matter). It will be earned, based on innovation, imagination, and hiring people who understand technology, entertainment, and people.
Don't tell me “live & local” doesn't matter. That dog won't hunt when you look at how much money is being poured into these partnerships, collaborations, apps, and skills being produced by outsiders that know opportunity and “real estate” radio is abdicating when they see it. Just because they listen to Rush Limbaugh or Bob & Tom doesn't mean they don't care about whats happening in their towns and regions.
Last month, one of traditional media's biggest fanboys, billionaire Warren Buffett spoke with his wallet when he sold Berkshire Hathaway's 31 local newspapers to Lee Enterprises. Buffett has been investing in newspapers since the 1960s, but just sold his hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald in this package deal.
Buffett believes that while there are still opportunities for small town newspapers, his investment portfolio will no longer reflect the print sector. Aside from three newspapers – the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street journal, Buffett's prognosis for the medium is utter doom.
That vacuum in local coverage and information screams “radio.” And the new tools – streams, apps, skills, podcasts – are all within the industry's reach.
Go ahead and shed a tear for your hometown newspaper if you like, They had a great run, provided great service, and at one time, probably made a ton of dough.
But their lack of electronic media DNA, stubborn management, and a workforce mired in the printing press and delivery trucks couldn't get them to the promised land.
We must ensure we don't go down the same path.
You can see Mark's CRS presentation here.
Latest posts by Fred Jacobs (see all)
- How Are Some Of The Most Cutting-Edge Tech Brands Marketing Themselves In 2020? - September 25, 2020
- You're Right, Jay.Get Off Social Media. - September 24, 2020
- Why Facebook Is Limiting Its Spot Load (And Why Radio Sellers Should Be Paying Attention) - September 23, 2020