Labels’ Subpar Subscription Plans

What does it take to pierce the brain of record label executives who keep insisting that subscription models will save the music business?

Last week, SonyBMG jumped aboard the Titanic for another try at offering an unlimited iPod-compatible library of its music for between $9-12 a month.

The plan is likely to sink in Europe before it arrives by lifeboat to this country.

Just what young people want -- one label's music library.

Even if the labels could agree to contribute all their music to a consortium and offer it for the same money, every indication I have is that it will fail.

Cut the price -- and it&hellip

20/20 Radio Hindsight

There is a YouTube video making the rounds these days that is worth a look.

It's about CKLW's 20/20 News concept when The Big 8 was a dominant rocker in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

In my career I also had the opportunity to do this form of rock 'em sock 'em news which in many ways went beyond what news should be. But in retrospect, this video teaches us a lesson and gives us a glimpse into what might have been if radio kept inventing new ways to do things.

I hate to send you away to watch a video, but you must. Come back for some comments that I think you'll appreciate.

One Radio Station Per Market

Every time I write about how better off the radio industry would have been without consolidation, I get a barrage of email telling me a) you

Tell Clear Channel to Go to Zell

When The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Clear Channel's privatization deal was near collapse it sent shock waves throughout the radio industry.

This ill-conceived way for the Mays family to have one more payday has been teetering on the brink for well over a year.

I say teetering because the economy and the radio industry has been declining since the ink dried on the agreement.

The $19.5 billion price was wrong from the start. You'll remember Clear Channel tried to do the deal at a lesser price than $39 a share, but was forced to up it.

All during the tough times, Clear Channel tried to keep Thomas&hellip

Let’s Play Satellite Radio Monopoly

Yesterday the DOJ fired the shot heard 'round the entertainment industry. It paved the way for the long-anticipated merger of Sirius Satellite Radio with XM.

Now the only thing standing in the way is FCC approval which will come -- maybe in a month or so.

But the question is: how will the FCC screw up this merger by mandating add-ons that have little or nothing to do with the merits of the merger?

Let us count the ways.

Don't get me wrong.

Once Sirius merges with XM it will be a monopoly -- the kind of thing the DOJ is supposed to protect us from. But they gave up on that mission a long time&hellip

March Media Madness

With the NCAA's March Madness annual collegiate basketball frenzy underway, I see too many parallels to the music media business to not mention them.

Imagine if the key components of the music media industry were basketball teams -- with real nicknames, coaches and game plans.

Let's see if anyone other than Jim Cramer would bet money on them.

The Wireless Mavericks

Remember when many of the major cities in the U.S. were going to make municipal WiFi available to their citizens?

Forget it.

Philadelphia, the leader in round one, is now being forced to abandon its plans because of second thoughts on the&hellip

The 7 Words You Can’t Say On Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case concerning vulgarity on the airwaves -- you know, Bono using the F-word in an unscripted broadcast, etc.

The FCC wants the power to punish carriers that are responsible for such slips -- like the ones Cher and Nicole Richie made at a Billboard Awards show.

I guess the Supreme Court has nothing better to do -- the next presidential election doesn't need to be decided until November. What's remarkable about this issue is that one of the chief proponents for stronger FCC power is the Parents Television Council -- a group some consider right wing wackos.

In fact, as The&hellip

Inside Apple’s iPod Subscription Plan

No doubt those of you who follow the music media business have heard that Steve Jobs is supposedly working on a program with the major labels to sell fully-loaded, "all you can eat" iPods with virtually everything ever recorded.

Well, if you have you may not be getting the real story.

My contacts at the record labels confirm that discussions have been going on for sometime -- for Europe.

No deal can happen in the U.S. very easily because of publishing issues.

Nokia apparently has set the bar for what it would take to get the labels to offer their libraries as a benefit for buying a fully-loaded MP3 player --&hellip

In Music, the Customer is Always Wrong

It never surprises me that the music industry is in the mess that it's in.

Consumers want one thing and the record labels want another. In any other industry, this type of thinking would put companies out of business. But in the music industry, it's standard operating procedure.

Examine the evidence.

1. Starbucks sells CDs when customers obviously want coffee. According to a recent New York Times article the average company-owned Starbucks sells only two CDs a day. Starbucks disputes the figure, but refuses to supply Times reporter Jeff Leeds with a better one. Starbucks has lost its way in the coffee end of the&hellip

The Evil Empire Vs. Satellite Radio

Clear Channel, sometimes referred to as The Evil Empire in the consumer press, has finally let the FCC know the merger conditions it is requesting should the Commission approve the merger of XM and Sirius. That is, after the DOJ decides.

Clear Channel is a minority owner in XM and has been for a long time. And, they provide some terrestrial programming for XM.

It must have been a good fit way back then because from the looks of their merger conditions, satellite radio is the evil empire -- not Clear Channel.

Here's what Clear Channel wants (in bold) -- with my comments:

1. No less than 50% of broadcast&hellip

Mad Radio

CNBC's Jim Cramer has been out to get terrestrial radio of late. The circus-like Mad Money show is hard to watch and even harder to tolerate if you work in radio.

Cramer's advice to investors owning radio stock is "sell, sell, sell" which is easy to say because he doesn't own Citadel at $1.32.

I don't know whether to advise you to listen to his most recent and scary rant, but we're all adults so here's the link. Promise me you'll return because there are some important points to be made.

1. Cramer worked in&hellip

New Radio

At left with the program consultant Todd Wallace (center) and former KOOL-FM, Phoenix morning personality Bill Gardner.

We had a great lunch in Scottsdale Wednesday that could accurately be described as "good times, great oldies". I've known Todd Wallace from the very, very early days of Inside Radio and Bill Gardner and I worked under Paul Drew when he was doing Drake at WIBG in Philadelphia.

It's always good to be with old friends. Todd still consults. Bill was one of the many victims of the recent CBS cutbacks. He was a highly rated morning personality so his departure is either gutsy or stupid depending on where&hellip

Prostituting Radio

The fall of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer -- the hated zealot who among other things forced the record and radio industries to own up to their failings and pay for them -- has now been forced to do the same.

Spitzer resigned as governor yesterday in a scandal over paying prostitutes and the once squeaky clean former New York state attorney general has fallen off his pedestal. Looking at the anguish, hurt and tears in the eyes of his wife Silda, not to mention what his three girls are going through makes it more than a "he got what he deserved" moment of revenge.

A number of my readers have expressed great delight in&hellip

The Noise You Can’t Hear Yet

Call me suspicious, but the Clear Channel buyout is supposed to close shortly and Randy Michaels keeps hiring more radio people for the television and newspaper business.

What's a person to believe?

There are a lot of funny things about the Lee and Bain $29 billion Clear Channel bailout starting with the price.

That price was determined over a year ago and since then the radio business has continued to tank on every level including local and national sales and share price. Still, these folks at Lee and Bain have not asked for the usual renegotiation to obtain a more reasonable price. What's up with that?



Last week the CEO of National Public Radio

It’s 3 am. Who Do You Want Programming the Radio?

Radio doesn't want 6-11 year olds. The Advisory Board has asked Arbitron to stop measuring listening for these children and "redistribute" the People Meters to the 12+ sample.

There must be a shortage of People Meters.

Or a shortage of foresight.

It's as if the radio industry believes that the more People Meters you put out there, the more 12+ radio listening they will record. Of course, the People Meter does a better job of correcting the under-reported ratings delivered by the antiquated diary system.

Kids are the new 12+ if you believe these people -- for all the wrong reasons.

It's typical of radio&hellip


The radio revenue figures for 2007 are out and the industry is down just 2%. I say just because it could have been a lot worse and it probably will be a lot worse going forward. It seems non-traditional revenue may have helped mitigate some of the damage this time.

Radio is a business that has been on the decline for many years. Consolidation has never really paid dividends (in more ways than one) and the growth of the Internet and failure to attract the next generation has taken its toll.

Most of the executives who were in charge when their companies consolidated are still at the helm today. Their personal wealth is&hellip

Nine Inch Sales

Nine Inch Nails is thinking out of the box with its next-generation Radiohead marketing of the band's new 36-track record which was recorded over a ten week period last year.

Where Radiohead shook up the industry with its -- you name the price (or don't pay a price) model, Trent Reznor's group is adding a few more nuances to their attempt.

1. A free download of the first nine cuts.

2. A $5 download for the entire album (well below the Apple iTunes $9.99 industry standard).

3. A $10 double-CD set either on their website or at record stores after April 5th.

4. A $75 deluxe edition including a hardcover&hellip

Radio & Vultures

I was on a panel yesterday for the California Bar Association in Santa Monica dealing with the issue of repealing radio's performance tax exemption.

Besides the fact that everyone was very nice as expected, it was a scary hour and a half that I thought you'd like to hear about.

These guys are clueless -- the record industry -- about the new paradigm that free is the new overpriced CD.

What's scary is that no matter how many times you tell them that both the radio industry and record business have lost control of their delivery systems, they stumble back into dreaming up ways to get their piece of traditional&hellip

Citadel’s Farid Suleman Must Go

This isn't personal. I don't even know the man. I know he has had an excellent career as a bean counter for Mel Karmazin, but something needs to be said.

I am tired of reading news accounts of the implosion at Citadel without anyone standing up and saying what's on everyone's mind.

Citadel CEO Farid Suleman must be fired.

He has earned the right to get a pink slip for many, many reasons. Among them:

1. Presiding over a company that is virtually worthless to its shareholders. Over $10 a share a year or so ago and $1.10 a share when it closed Friday. I mention shareholder value first since it is the Holy&hellip