Radio's Jihad Against the "Nutty Professor"

Since I have been at USC, I have been very careful who I call a "Nutty Professor" for obvious reasons. For every finger you point, you have three pointing back at you.

Stan Liebowitz, a distinguished University of Texas-Dallas professor has riled the radio industry with his Business Week comments. In fact, radio people are in quite a snit.

It all has to do with his study titled Don't Play It Again Sam: Radio Play, Record Sales and Property Rights. You're going to want to read this 40-page report.

You may have heard about his work because the radio trades and others have launched a holy war against Professor Liebowitz for in essence saying that radio airplay is actually hurting record sales.

Liebowitz argues: why buy the music when you can get it for free.


That's what many of my students are saying but they don't listen much to radio.

All of a sudden, we're outraged!

How could the good professor argue that radio is actually hurting record sales? It seems like radio just can't get any respect these days?

First the record labels want to charge radio for the right to play the music which we always assumed was helping them sell records and CDs.

Inside Radio Editor Frank Saxe had a great response the other day when he quipped that perhaps radio ought to charge record labels not to play music on the air.

There's no stopping radio when it gets dissed.

NAB's Dennis Wharton provided the usual NAB smart-ass comment "Everything's bigger in Texas -- including the imagination of professors who claim that radio airplay of music does not boost record sales". That ought to discredit Professor Liebowitz, right?

Edison Research's Larry Rosin wants the industry to fight Liebowitz's assertions and not let him get away with his attack on radio's prowess.

It's just radio being radio once again.

Remember when Clear Channel Radio President John Hogan made a big deal out of "Less Is More" -- his failed attempt to lighten the spot load a bit and increase sales and ratings.

It didn't work.

What "Less Is More" did succeed at doing was screaming from the roof top that radio has a clutter problem scaring advertisers and giving them every reason to wonder whether we have gone nuts.

You don't have to listen to me but if I'm in the radio industry I'm going to scroll back up, read the report and then keep my mouth shut. More publicity is not what this study needs whether you agree with it or disagree.

Translation: Liebowitz's study is an academic pursuit. It's not the holy grail. They do those kind of things on college campuses. I'm sure his methodology is correct. Trashing the professor is not necessary.

You might disagree with his conclusion.

I do.

Making a big stink out of it can only hurt radio.

But you may not like what this "Nutty Professor" is going to share with you. I'll take my chances and be brave.

My observations of the next generation not based on research -- taking into account the bias that some of my music industry students may have -- is that radio's effect on music sales is a moot point.

The record industry is dying by their own stupidity and the radio industry doesn't have the strong influence it used to have over the key music buying demographics. It's the blind leading the blind.

If radio wants to defend itself, start by explaining why radio companies let consolidation and Wall Street make them take their eyes off the next generation of listeners.

It's easier for the radio industry to attack Professor Liebowitz's flawed conclusion than it is to look in the mirror at their own flawed actions.

If you haven't already clicked on "comment" below to put me in my place, maybe you will after these next predictions.

Music will eventually be free or cost next to nothing.

Radio will no longer be the way consumers find out about music. Social networks and Internet-based web sites will be. They are right now.

The biggest music growth business will be live music performance.

The biggest "radio" business will be Internet streaming.

With all that bad news, Professor Liebowitz's study doesn't sound so maddening anymore, does it?

Quibbling over an alleged 20% loss of music sales because of radio airplay is so minor compared with the outcome I'm predicting.

Can't radio people find anything better to do.

Look, Professor Liebowitz could be wrong.

I could be wrong.


You could be wrong.

But one thing is remarkably certain.

This next generation is changing everything.



Or get involved in a pissing match with an academician who is trying to get you to think.

Take your choice.

For those of you who would prefer to get my daily posts by email for free, please click here.

Learn more about my USC programs for music, broadcasting, interactive and mobile as well as my private practice (in the right hand column).