Radio Turns To Pirates for Playlists

Radio stations are beginning to use research about pirated music trends as part of their mix that includes increasingly difficult to get passive research in determining what to play on the air.

Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks through its Mediabase division is marketing the information to its parent company, Radio One and Emmis.

Even record labels are holding their nose and subscribing to what's popular among their nemesis -- the digital pirate. Universal wants to see what's hot on the Internet so they know what to pitch to radio stations. Wall Street Journal subscribers can read an excellent piece on this trend.

The article points out that the Mediabase info is beginning to influence airplay in a significant way.

There's irony all over the place.

Pirated music, which is on the increase in spite of the nasty legal war the RIAA has waged against consumers, is impacting the decline in CD sales.

Illegal music downloaded from the Internet is growing and hurting legitimate record sales. Meanwhile record labels may be doing more to hurt themselves than even pirates.

Consumers want Digital Rights Management (DRM) removed from any downloads they buy. They are demanding the same benefits they would get if they purchased a CD -- the ability to use the music as they wish and share it with anyone -- legally.

The record industry is once again slow to acknowledge what the marketplace is saying and is dragging its collective feet on DRM-free music. The labels are going to lose on this issue sooner or later.

Meanwhile, there is a new generation of consumers who don't see anything wrong with downloading music for free. It's not always easy to explain because most of these folks would not steal a CD from a record store (if they ever went to a record store). Nonetheless, like it or not, there is a problem here. Lawsuits aren't stemming the tide.

Another significant point is that when radio relied on call out research it was testing music radio stations were attempting to make popular over their airwaves.

Now, considering the preferences of Internet music pirates in terrestrial airplay decisions can be seen as conceding that radio is losing influence among the record buying youth market.

Radio stations are no longer the sole hitmakers among this demographic.

Even the record labels are not able to work a "record" using their radio partners. Now the "record" works itself in cyberspace.

The only group gaining influence is the massive young music market that has soured on CDs, doesn't like the DRM restrictions and isn't listening much to radio.

Ignoring them or threatening to sue pirates won't make the problem go away.

Labels and radio stations need a realistic business plan that takes into account the real world where -- like it or not -- piracy is the hottest thing.

They are acknowledging just that by turning to music trends of pirates to help determine popularity in the mainstream.

Five years ago few thought labels and radio stations would turn to music pirates as taste makers?

Now, allow yourself to imagine five years from today.

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