Hits Without Radio and Radio Without Hits

By Jerry Del Colliano

In the past week, there have been two examples of what happens when an artist decides to market without radio airplay while another tries to get airplay she believes she deserves based on Billboard progress.

Both are fascinating and revealing and I thought you would enjoy hearing about them.

The Bed Intruder Song.

The story of a crime that happened in "singer" Antoine Dodson’s family.

Dodson did an interview with a Huntsville, AL TV station after an intruder broke into his family’s house and attempted to rape his sister.

The video interview became popular because of Dodson’s dramatic delivery style in which he talked to the audience as well as the person who attempted the rape. Dodson used colorful language and raised the ire of TV viewers who complained to the station. The station defended Dodson and said that censoring him would be worse than his graphic style.

The video went viral in the form of the Bed Intruder Song some have called the one awesome use of Auto-Tune ever. Auto-Tune is software that can make speech sound like singing. The Gregory Brothers turned an angry rant into a pop song that has sold about 100,000 copies on iTunes and is 94 with a bullet on Billboard for the week of September 18.

The YouTube video has been seen over 20 million times before some genius took it off -- I am scratching my head here.

All of this with little to no radio airplay. The subject matter is a deterrent to over-the-air radio but still – this is an example of a song taking off without a record label, promotion teams and radio station airplay. It’s all viral.

Then, there’s the dilemma of singer Arika Kane.

Her fans are really mad that she can’t get any airplay on Sirius XM Heart & Soul channel for “Here With Me”. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of artists having a public spat with satellite radio over airplay let alone caring.

Kane’s fan club has a page all set aside to petition Sirius XM for their decision. The reason the fan page alleges Sirius XM “banned” the song was – well, you read it:

“Specifically, BJ Stone of "Heart and Soul" has confirmed his personal decision not to play Arika Kane’s records. According to the program director, the reason for the ban against Arika Kane’s record is because he believes that a White artist should not be singing an urban song”.

Sounds a bit sketchy.

Nonetheless what kind of media world are we living in when fans organize to get airplay on satellite radio and unlikely hitmakers like the Gregory Brothers don’t need a record label or radio to promote their record.

It’s the new world of radio and the labels.

In the previous iteration, the labels discovered the stars, oversaw the recording of their material, promoted it to radio and radio played the hell out of it -- for free.

In the new world, the labels can’t afford to take chances signing future music stars so they divert their attention toward suing customers, intimidating college universities and trying to get a new royalty tax imposed on radio.

That is – the labels have taken their eye off the ball.

And radio is failing to respond to the major generational change that indicates that young people crave music discovery as opposed to very short listed hit music stations. They can’t see why an iPod is more attractive to a Gen Y’er than a radio station that plays the same things over and over again every hour and a half.

It’s always worked before.

You may be surprised to know that program directors will go to their graves insisting that the repetition they got away with for decades still works in an age when young people carry their own music collection in their pockets.

This should be a wake-up call for everyone.

Listeners are now disc jockeys and they don’t need radio’s People Meter. They have their own. It's called an iPod.

The long held belief that repetition of a handful of songs will please this growing on-demand audience no longer applies. Yes, repetition of music certainly has its place, but radio must wake up and understand that they are not the only source of new music as they were before the digital age.


They can’t add two or three songs and play the hell out of the rest of them when their audiences have other places to go to seek new music, fresh artists and learn about their favorites.

That used to be the role of radio. We keep talking about the day the music died, but the music hasn’t died. It just keeps getting repeated.

What died is the personalities that live local radio stations offered with music loving djs who gave people of all ages a reason to listen to radio.

The difference between hit radio stations and your iPod is that your iPod has the music you like. You can play it over and over again or not.

Today I have offered you more evidence that digital age consumers are going on without radio and the music industry.

It doesn’t have to be that way. But it will be until some people wake up.

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