Negus gives an overview of the relationship between music radio and record labels in North America and the UK, and presents their similarities and differences, whilst Percival gives a more in-depth explanation of the two in UK, and Rothenbuhler & McCourt in the USA.
All discuss the power of radio as promotional tool for labels, but also determining “the way which artists are acquired, developed and presented.” (Negus 1992)
As Negus and Rothenbuhler & McCourt point out, in North America commercial radio is less about delivering music to an audience than delivering an audience to its advertisers.
As Percival points out, while this is true of commercial radio in the UK, the market is still dominated by the publically funded BBC which, as Wall points out, has as its primary objective “reaching audiences as an end in itself.”
All three authors highlight the important relationship between radio pluggers and programmers, whether commercial or the BBC. One key fact to appreciate is that radio programmers don’t simply play hit records they have a very powerful role in creating them.
“[…] It has largely been radio play which has encouraged retailers to stock recordings and consumers to purchase them.” (Negus 1992)
The way I interpret it, these are all concerned with the mainstream, and what I am interested in is the niche.
Where I think we are very lucky in the UK is that we have the BBC which as a “single dominant cultural organization will produce innovation (specialist music shows, for example) alongside products that compete in a mainstream mass market (like breakfast radio shows on Radio 1 and Radio 2).” (Percival 2011)
None of the records that I sell at Fat City are in the mainstream, but because the BBC can afford to have specialist shows, the products that I sell have the benefit of being promoted to a national audience.
As Negus and Percival say, DJ’s in the UK are considered more as tastemakers than they are in the USA.
Let’s take Radio 1 DJ Gilles Peterson as an example. He has a reputation for playing cutting edge new and old music, “joining the musical dots – soul, hip-hop, house, Afro, Latin, dubstep, jazz and beyond.” (BBC website) There is a big overlap between his audience and our customers, which means that if he plays a record, chances are that we will sell more of that release. Conversely, our reputation is enhanced if we stock a record that he plays.
What I am missing in all three texts is where internet radio stations falls into the equation. Is it of any importance to record labels? Does it add any promotional value, and if so, how? Could it be argued that they serve an important role for labels, especially indies, because they are not necessarily required to deliver an audience to an advertiser as commercial radio are, or satisfy a public service remit as is BBC. They can be as niche as they like and have the potential of reaching a worldwide audience.
I am a radio presenter and DJ on an online radio station, Laid Back Radio. Listeners can “like” a song and Tweet it through our software, find out more about the artist, submit music that they have produced, recommend tracks or artists we may not be playing, send us mixes that they have put together, or articles, photos, videos or artwork which can be shared with our worldwide audience. Our philosophy is not to define the audience to fit the advertiser but to let the audience define itself.
Negus, K. (1992) Producing Pop
Percival, M. (2011) Music Radio and the Record Industry: Songs, Sounds, and Power, Popular Music and Society
Rothenbuhler, E & McCourt, T. (1992) Commercial Radio and Popular Music: Processes of Selection and Factors of Influence’ in The Popular Music Studies Reader.