Music Second, Pay First

Sooner rather than later, terrestrial radio stations will be paying what I call the NAB Tax – that special new fee for being allowed to help record labels expose their music for free while they make all the money.

We can cry about it if we want, but a royalty tax is coming to a radio station near you thanks to NAB.

Big consolidators can absorb the cost and write it off as debt, but mid-to-smaller operators are going to feel it on their bottom lines – certainly 5-10% erosion of profits in some cases.

As irked as radio people get when the labels come after them for fees, they also roll over and play dead when it comes to getting tough on airplay.

I can’t imagine that radio stations will want to sit still for this botched initiative by the NAB and then go passively into the night exposing the record labels’ best product while being charged an additional tax for it.

Auto dealers make a profit when they sell cars. Retail clothing outlets earn a profit for that which they showcase, sell and in some cases even advertise.

Only in radio, will this raw deal exist. You help the labels make money and get to pay for it.

Well, I’m about to be sick (again). In the past I have hammered away at giving the labels a taste of their own medicine. Perhaps now, we’ll be committed to fighting fire with fire.

The Del Colliano Plan should be inspired by the name MusicFirst which is the group leading the very successful negotiating fight for the record labels.

So let’s call our radio plan, “Music Second, Pay First” – kind of catchy, don’t you think? Maybe we can make it hit home to our friends in the music business. Now that we have a name, let’s see if we can come up with a basis for our strategy. Feel free to add to this on our Facebook discussion today.

1. Radio will gladly play the necessary big hits for record labels at no cost to them. We choose which songs these will be and we’ll dump them after they hit peak popularity.

2. Young people are not as nostalgic for “recurrents”or “oldies” so once a hit is done, it will be as if it never existed (for the purpose of selling the labels’ catalog, that is). May I show you a rate card for additional airplay?

3. Radio stations will play no licensed new music the day that a terrestrial radio tax is actually imposed without receiving payment for the plays. Let’s see now. In streaming, the labels charge per listener per performance. I like that. Let’s do that. And let’s charge an extra fee for mentioning the name of the artist. Okay. Okay. I’m starting to sound like a greedy music industry executive.

4. Radio stations will begin to integrate music using their best instincts from artists who are not licensed and who expressly give them permission to play their music for free. As long as they do, the stations can feel free to continue to air the music.

5. Start a Sunday night radio show devoted to all new music in your format’s genre. That is, with a real music authority and with interviews. No record label artists allowed even if they pay.

I’m just getting warmed up.

I started out writing this piece as a joke – you know to let off a little steam as I do from time to time when I feel outrage, but you know, it has kind of empowered me.

See, to their credit, radio people never thought like record execs – even when they were down and out (which many are). Radio could never have been serious about charging for airplay. Hell, we hardly got much legal paid advertising when the labels owed us more of that out of sheer gratitude.

And now that I have brought up the topic of gratitude – let’s put it out there. The labels have turned on radio to save their bacon. But ironically enough, whatever they extort from the radio industry in new fees will be offset by the many, many other poor decisions record industry execs have made over the past ten years.

They couldn’t see the importance of Napster.

Still don’t believe bullying consumers with lawsuits isn’t a deterrent to theft.

Wrong about paid monthly music services.

Ditto on getting ISPs to charge consumers for all the music they can eat.

And wrong about taxing radio to help them help themselves to profit.

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