Right On Cue! “Musicians Sing for a Cause That’s Their Own”

As if they felt the burning need to respond to my last post about musicians and royalties, The New York Times joined the chorus of those complaining about how darn unfair royalties are.

You can read their blurb here, but I’ll give you a couple of my favorite lines.

Marc Ribot declares that “[the creation of the Content Creators Coalition] is possible now because musicians and artists are fed up.” No mention of listeners being fed-up with tyrannical companies and organizations that treat them like criminals even when they aren’t breaking any laws.

Blake Morgan shares this original trinket of thought: “The U.S. has the distinction of standing on a very short list of countries — including awesome ones like Iran, North Korea and Rwanda — in this particular policy.”

With a straight face, John McCrea says, “It’s not about Spotify. It’s about what’s coming in five years if we don’t have a collective voice.”

Mega-star David Byrne warns that “the Internet will suck all the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left.” I almost feel bad for joking about it.

So, there you have it. If you don’t start emptying your pockets for musicians then all creativity may come to a screeching halt in five years. And worse.

Just for kicks, what if we applied the same standard to everyone in the name of fairness? If a mechanic repairs your car should he continue to receive royalties every time you drive the car? After all, without his work you wouldn’t be able to drive it. If you buy a sculpture for your home should you continue to pay royalties to the artist every time you look at it? What makes musicians so special that they should be able to make money in perpetuity for work that was done one time? It doesn’t make sense.

I would also like to know how much writers are paid for music sales. How is the money divided between the artist, the writer, the record company, etc.? The argument is that music played on broadcast radio only pays royalties to the writer of the music and not the performer. So how much of the cut goes to the writer for concerts performed? There is a very simple solution, which none of these genius musicians ever mention: If you would write your own songs this wouldn’t be an issue.

I’m all for people earning money and being able to keep it; however, when they treat you and I like criminals and then complain about how unfair it is that they aren’t being fairly compensated, I think it’s worth at least mentioning that David Byrnes is worth $40 million and Mike Mills is worth $245 million. Is this close to your net worth? Do you think you should continue to pay them over and over for work only performed once? If this isn’t a good reason to bring up the issue of intellectual property then what is?

As I mentioned before, this is a complicated issue and these people are not giving it the respect it deserves. There are lots of things to read, but for fun try watching some of these videos.

Thanks to Drepa Rugl for encouraging me to look for some new ideas about intellectual property. There are multiple good arguments on several sides of the issue. Honest debate can only help.

The Whining of the Musicians

So, it seems like the cool thing to do lately is complain about how little musicians make in royalty payments. These stories keep popping-up on Facebook and usually feature pictures of bank statements with ridiculously low royalty payments. Next to the pictures are captions like, “Britney Spears only made .15 from ‘Oops!…I Did It Again’ even though it was played on the radio over 23 trillion times!” You’re supposed to feel guilty about how little Britney is making in royalties. So guilty that you consider sending her money ever time you catch yourself singing one of her songs in the car or shower. We’ll discuss why you’re singing her songs in the car or shower another time, but for now you should feel terrible that you are stealing from Every. Artist. Ever.

Of course, no one ever really thought about this until mega-star David Byrne started complaining about it. He wrote an article on Vloggerheads where he adeptly points out that “with its denial of a Performance Royalty to artists, the U.S. stands with a short list of countries that includes: Iran, North Korea, China, Vietnam, and Rwanda.” The point is that denying royalty payments to artists is equivalent to genocide and mass murder. You can’t argue with that. I dare you to try.

I’m sure all of you know who David Byrne is, but for those who don’t you can get your hard facts over at Wikipedia (those guys know everything!). He is most famous for being the front man for the band Talking Heads. He’s a good example of how so many artists are struggling with his paltry net worth of $40 million, which makes him a natural spokesman for starving artists the world over. But I digress.

Byrne sees one problem (artists get small or no royalty payments) and one solution (government needs to pass laws). He presents a one-dimensional argument without answering (or even asking) the relevant questions. How else are musicians compensated? How much does he think artists should be paid? Where is this new money going to come from? He makes this statement: “Music fans wouldn’t be directly affected—it wouldn’t cost them anything. If anything they’d benefit, as some of the artists they like would stand a better chance of having a continuing life in music.” So, how do stations begin coughing up money without affecting the listener? Easy! “Many of those stations are owned by large conglomerates”! Sorry, he doesn’t provide any further information about where the money is going to come from. But you have to admit that’s a pretty ironclad argument. He continues:

…we musicians can expect [conglomerates] to hire lobbyists and propagandists to convince the public and congress that somehow, unlike most of thecountries (sic) in the world that A) musicians can live on the “exposure” their radio play provides and B) these companies won’t be able to make a profit if they are expected to pay a little bit to performers who provide the content that draws listeners.

Well, if that’s what we can expect then I think Mr. Byrne is out of luck. How can he possibly expect our current administration to resist the temptations of lobbyists? Heck, before you know it the conglomerates are all going to be ambassadors!

For those who work in radio, I’ll need to lean on your enormous collective brain to help me understand how this works because there are several things I don’t understand.

He thinks the stations should pay the artists since they “provide the content that draws listeners.” Does this mean that that artists should pay stations who play their music for providing exposure to their music? It seems logical that radio play serves essentially as an ad for the artist. If anything, the artist should be paying stations for the advertisement. Not that you can’t be successful without radio exposure, but radio play makes a huge difference. If radio play generates sales for the album or songs, then commercial airplay should be royalty-free. Paying royalties on commercial airplay would essentially be double-dipping by the artists.

I also wonder about licensing fees that a radio station may already pay. When you buy a CD or purchase music online you are told that the music is for your ears only. If you play the music loud enough that someone accidentally overhears it then you must pay the price for operating a pirate radio station and broadcasting illegally! As far as I know, stations don’t just jump on the internet with their iTunes gift cards and download the playlist of the day. They need to pay for the right to broadcast music. This is often done through a group such as ASCAP, which provides a standard license to broadcast or use music by all of the artists they represent. Where does the money go that is paid to ASCAP (or whoever)? If the artist receives royalties from this organization then receiving royalties directly from the stations would be triple-dipping.

What about digital music? Byrne says that this does not affect internet music since “digital and streaming radio stations already pay royalties to artists.” Pew Research has an article on The State of the News Media that shows some of the trends with new and traditional media. I couldn’t find much about music specifically, but it is increasingly popular to stream music rather than listen to the dial. I doubt this trend will shift, so why is he so concerned about traditional broadcast now? What is David Byrne really complaining about?

When something seems so nonsensical then you can bet there is some other unspoken motivation. In this case, it’s about punishing the so-called “1%”. He wrote an article last October in the Guardian wittily titled “If the 1% stifles New York’s creative talent, I’m out of here“. This is a threat that no one should take lightly. After all, if he leaves New York he may come to your neighborhood, assuming you live among the mega-rich (“which, full disclosure, includes me”, he admits in the article). This whole gripe is about extracting money from those who he feels don’t deserve it. What he fails to mention is that while there may be some very wealthy conglomerates, there isn’t usually a lot of money in individual stations. Adding royalty payments to their list of expenses would mean the end of many stations. Even if it does hit the conglomerates directly, they don’t just absorb the additional costs. Those additional expenses are passed along to the consumer, which means it isn’t quite true when he says, “music fans wouldn’t be directly affected.”

This is a very complicated argument and Byrne does himself and all artists a great disservice by reducing it to nothing more than an attempt to shakedown those he doesn’t like. He further loses credibility by neglecting to mention the RIAA. If he wants to be honest then there needs to be a discussion about intellectual property in the United States. Does he really think our IP laws compare with “Iran, North Korea, China, Vietnam, and Rwanda”? There are some who may say yes, but for other reasons.

KOH KO’d? Reno’s Heavyweight Champion Takes a Punch

Bad news for KOH. As predicted previously, Nielsen Audio market data released today shows that KRNO (106.9) took the top spot with a rating of 8.2. KOH slipped to 7.6. I’m not sure how long KOH has been in the top spot, but it’s been YEARS.

Is this the result of Cumulus pummeling the station? Or increased competition that Ross Perot’d their share? Will Sean Hannity’s move to KNEZ (107.3) cause further devastation next time around?

There isn’t much else to report since KNEZ and KKFT are not included in the rankings. I would love to hear other ideas about what’s happening with talk radio these days. Drop a comment or jump over to Facebook and comment (and like the page)!

The Great Radio Shake-up of 2013/2014

It’s a new year. A time for more nonsensical literary meanderings. I’ve disqualified myself from discussing the state of Reno radio on a couple of occasions, primarily because I don’t listen like I used to. I generally pedal to work for seven or eight months of the year and this definitely affects how I tune in to talk radio. That said, I’ve never let my lack of qualifications or knowledge get in the way so here we go!

When I originally started grunting about Reno talk radio the landscape was meh. There was one powerhouse (KOH) and a few others with negligible market share (KJFK, KBZZ and KKFT). KOH held a 10.2 share compared to a collective 4 for the other three stations. That was 2007. Things were exciting for a while until KKFT, which seemed poised to go into the ring with KOH, became so inconsistent that you hardly knew who was in their lineup from day to day. Add the fact that KKFT stopped participating in the Nielsen/Arbitron ratings and you see that there hasn’t been much to talk about.

Jump to 2013/2014 and we have a different story. Bill Manders, who moved from KOH to KKFT but then left to go to KNEZ, finally landed at Power Talk 96.7 in Fresno. KJFK was mercifully put out of its (and our) misery. Mike Huckabee’s show vanished into the ether. Of course, the big one is Sean Hannity’s move from KOH to KNEZ. Whoa! Seemingly out of nowhere, KNEZ ends up with Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Dave Ramsey. If you don’t think that’s a game changer then email me and tell me about your trip to Colorado.

So, in the tradition of previous posts, let me briefly share my uninteresting and uninformed opinion about each of the talkers.

KBZZ (1270 AM) – KBZZ always had a really weird lineup. They were a lot like a morning FM show that went all day long, all day, every day. But they had Savage for a while. You would think having Savage would affect their ratings but it didn’t seem to matter much. If anything it may have hurt them. About a year ago they switched to a sports format so they are officially off the radar. So long.

KJFK (1230 AM) – As previously noted, KJFK closed shop last year (March 18th according to their web page). Apparently a station cannot succeed if the audience is comprised solely of its own staff. They had a very stagnant share for as long as I watched them, averaging about 1.6 with a high and low of 2.4 and 1, respectively. They ended at 1.7. RIP.

KKOH (780AM) – I’ve gone from griping about KOH to feeling almost sad. Almost. KOH has had a rough time lately as their numbers show. As of the Spring 2013 review period KOH is sitting at 8.2, which is their all-time low since I’ve been keeping score. KOH is actually at risk of being overtaken by Sunny 106.9…Renoooo as the top station. KRNO 106.9 scored a 7.8, which puts them less than half a point away. Hannity’s move to KNEZ is certain to be a problem – he’s been replaced by the very mobile Michael Savage. The deal between Rush and Cumulus will be a lifesaver for the station. I think they were grooming Mike Huckabee to replace Rush, but when Cumulus realized that they were unable to advertise to a sleeping audience they pulled the plug on Huckabee. KOH is alive for now. And in position number one. For now.

KKFT (99.1 FM) – KKFT seems to be treading water. I’m still a member of their fan club, but I’m feeling a bit apathetic. Their lineup is solid: Laura Ingraham, Dennis Miller, Tom Sullivan, Lars Larsen, Andy Dean, Roger Hedgecock, George Noory… *breathe*. This is where I always get into trouble. Personally, I’d rather listen to Beck than Ingraham. I’d rather listen to Rush than Miller. I’d rather listen to Levin than Andy Dean. That said, Jerry Evans has put together a great schedule. It’s just not always my first choice. Except for Tom Sullivan and Lars, to whom I’ve definitely converted. In a Cumulus and Shamrock world, it’s great to have a local shop.

KNEZ (107.3 FM) – KNEZ is proving that they’re ready to play ball. Beck, Ramsey and Hannity are awesome. The station also has Sean Patrick and Rusty Humphries, both local favorites (even though Rusty joins us via his national show).  Travis Christensen almost reminds me of the old KOH-era Ira Hansen. I wish he had more airtime. For such a new station they’ve certainly shown that they want to be taken seriously.

The big win out of all this is the fantastic choice now available to the patriotic citizens of Northern Nevada. It seems like there is room for three great talk stations. Unfortunately, it seems like the turf wars will be an issue. I was disappointed when I heard Sean Patrick refer to 99.1 FM Talk as a “tinker toy station”. Seriously? C’mon. Competition is good, but nastiness serves no real purpose. KOH clearly has some issues to deal with. I’m sure KKFT and KNEZ do, too. If either of these stations rise to number one I’m sure we’ll see all their dirty laundry.

The numbers for Fall 2013 will be available next week. It will be interesting to see how things look. But not as interesting as the 2014 numbers when we begin to see the effect of the Hannity and Huckabee changes…

107.3 KNEWS Officially Launched – Glenn Beck Returns to Reno!

As reported several weeks ago, there is indeed a new news talk station in the Reno market. Shamrock Communications launched 107.3 KNEWS last week and the lineup looks pretty good.

Here’s the official lineup (courtesy of our friend “Ben”): Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Michael Smerconish, Sean Patrick, Rusty Humphries, Clark Howard, Neal Boortz and Overnight America.

So, I’m excited out of my gourd over the return of Glenn Beck. People who have emailed me wondering about the whereabouts of Sean Patrick will love to see his return opposite Bill Manders and Dan Mason.

I don’t see a web page or anything on Facebook yet, so make sure you listen to the station and tell your friends. If you have a business, make sure you throw some advertising dollars their way. It will be interesting to have three right-leaning stations in Reno. Best of luck to the new station!

Glenn Beck, Sean Patrick to Return to Reno Radio? Oh, Sweetness…

So, as I abandon local talk radio that’s when things start to become interesting. KOH, the previously uncontested champion, has been slowly slipping away. The acquisition by Cumulus did little to stanch the bleeding. In fact, Cumulus may be exacerbating the situation. Or they might even have caused the situation.

99.1 FM Talk was doing well, but after a while they started to look like someone in the dark waving their arms around looking for a light switch. The vision for the station seemed to dim. Then again, I’m still bitter that they stopped playing Glenn Beck.

Speaking of… rumor has it that Glenn Beck will be making a comeback to Reno radio as soon as next week! Details are slim, but he will be appearing on a new station located at 107.3 on the dial. For those who have inquired about Sean Patrick’s whereabouts, I understand he may also be part of the lineup. An official annoucement is said to be forthcoming.

So, how does this affect the ailing KKOH? Or the station that you want to love but you’re never sure you’re being loved back? I’m all for competition, but in this market it’s clear that all the stations need to step up their game. This is definitely something that I can get excited about…

Radio Withdrawal

Arbitron released the Spring 2012 market ratings a while back, but the information is becoming increasingly uninteresting. In summary, KKOH continues to drop like a rock. They posted 8.5, which means that they could easily be surpassed by one of the music stations in the near future. This is their fourth consecutive drop and the lowest share during the time I’ve been tracking their numbers.

According to a friendly at KKFT, Arbitron no longer lists non-subscribing stations. This means that an unintelligent and uninformed layperson like myself does not have access to KKFT’s current data. We only know that they are part of the roughly 30% of unidentified share.

KJFK is enjoying a record share of 2.4 and KBZZ is stagnant at 1.3.

I would like to say there were some exciting surprises, but alas this is not so.

A few months ago I half-heartedly proclaimed my independence from traditional radio. Considering this proclamation I’m not sure that I have any business commenting on the ups and down of radio. With KOH continuing their downward spiral and KKFT no longer appearing on the map, I think it’s time to move on to other matters. I suppose this will be the last time I have much to say about the state of Reno radio for a while…

Free Prose – Nothing to Read Here

As the messages and comments continue to come in, it’s clear that Bill Manders continues to be a hot topic. Admittedly, I didn’t listen to Manders much when he was on KOH. Then again, I didn’t listen to KOH much at all. I’ve listened to Manders more since he came over to 99.1 FM Talk and I’m a little curious about where the vitriol toward him comes from. He has a wide range of topics and he discusses the topics intelligently. Whatever he may have been when I wasn’t listening, he doesn’t seem to fit the bill now. I think Manders provides a unique program and will be benefit to the station.

Now that I’ve said that, let me backtrack a bit. I’ve been a big fan and advocate of 99.1 for many years. I fell in love about seven years ago when they were KPTL-AM 1300. Sadly, I think I’ve fallen out of love with 99.1. If I had to identify the turning point, I would definitely say that dropping Glenn Beck was it.

I have a limited amount of time that I can listen to the radio on any given day. Work and family commitments dictate what I can listen to and when. When I listen I’m not listening to simply fill time or have background noise. I want to hear programming that I enjoy listening to. I think that the concept of DVR has changed the way we look for information and entertainment. Instead of surfing for something to watch, we record our favorite shows and tune everything else out. Although a bit behind the curve, radio is starting to offer a similar choice.

The spring radio ratings will be available in a little more than a month; the review period ends in a few days. Although the battle of the talks is very interesting, I wonder how many people are like me. There’s too much programming I don’t like and the programming I like is not on when I can listen to it. So, I turn off the radio and plug in to exactly what I want.

If you’re a Beck addict like me, send me a message. I’m curious to know if I’m the only one that essentially dumped 99.1 when they dumped Beck.

Also, I think that 99.1 is full of Ron Paul supporters.

Return of the Ratings

After a two-year hiatus from talking about the ratings in the talk radio market, it’s time to jump back in. Without me here to express my witless insight it seems like the stations are falling apart. So, here we go…

As of this week Bill Manders is back and new life is breathed into talk radio craziness. It’s not surprising that KOH has continued it’s downward slide; however, KKFT plummeted to it’s lowest point in over four years. All “talkers” stayed the same or dropped. This seems to be the case for other formats as well – the exception being adult contemporary. You wouldn’t be here if you cared about adult contemporary music, so on to the talk.

The graph below shows how each of the four talkers (KBZZ, KJFK, KKFT and KKOH) compare in the years since I’ve been watching the ratings. Up until the Fall 2011 ratings, KKFT had a fairly steady (albeit bumpy) climb while KOH steadily dropped. The last report shows a severe drop for KKFT. I’ve been criticized for calling the latest KKFT drop an anomaly, but the picture speaks for itself.

KBZZ (1270 AM) – KBZZ peaked during the SP08 review period with a share of 2.4. They had some fairly wild swings before leveling off at 1.2, which is slightly below their average of 1.46 between SP07 and FA11. The station dropped to .8 share for the period following the addition of Savage. In my opinion, the station is sort of a mutt. They aren’t all entertainment and they aren’t all politics. With such a weird mix, who is their target audience? Who cares?

KJFK (1230 AM) – Nothing new to report here. They have pretty much the same line-up they’ve always had. Their share is currently 1.6, which is just a smidgen above their average of 1.55. The station has found it’s niche and is clearly happy to maintain altitude.

KKOH (780AM) – KOH has gone from hurting to flailing. The station always seems to enjoy a bump in the fall ratings period; however, this time they dropped by almost a full point. For as long as I can remember, KOH has been top dog with a double-digit share. We are approaching a point where one of the music stations could overtake KOH, most likely KRNO or KWYL. It seems that KOH should have been a cash cow for Cumulus, but they’re certainly not taking advantage of it. Cumulus doesn’t even list KOH (or Reno, for that matter) on their list of stations. This is odd considering Cumulus now owns roughly one quarter of Reno’s market, including the number one station. The station has always had exceptional programming. Now, it seems that good programming is the exception. Although I’ve taken issue with some of the things Dan Mason has done, he does well as a show host.

KKFT (99.1 FM) – KKFT has me stumped. The station’s ups and downs painted a picture of a long and steady rise. Their share went up as KOH went steadily down. This last period they went from a 3.3 share to a measly 1.2, which is their lowest point in more than four years. The only thing that seems to correspond with this change is the addition of Sean Patrick; however, I cannot believe that Sean Patrick single-handedly drove two-thirds of the stations listeners away. The decrease could also be partially attributed to the general decrease in the number of people listening to talk stations.

Unfortunately, I think KKFT may be putting itself into a KOH-style tailspin. Dropping Glenn Beck will likely be disastrous, but we won’t know until SP12 comes out. On the other hand, I think the addition of Bill Manders is sheer genius. There are still a lot of people who don’t know about 99.1. These people now know there is another talk station besides KOH thanks to Manders. The downside is that Lars Larson has been pushed back and cut down to two hours. I consider Lars to be the station’s flagship program and this could affect the station negatively. The addition of Manders should be a net benefit, though.

With all the chaos between KOH and KKFT it will be interesting to see how they choose to fix the problem…

Intrigue and Change in Reno Radio: Part II

KOH is not the only station that appears to be looking for the right rhythm. 99.1 FM Talk has also been making a lot of changes. In April, the station upgraded to 50,000 watts and also added Sean Patrick to the lineup. Recently, the station dropped Glenn Beck and put Laura Ingraham on in his place. Time will tell whether these changes will help or hurt the station.

Regardless of what you think about the programs on 99.1 FM Talk, there is an overarching problem that I believe plagues the station: No one is really surprised when things change anymore. You just never know what programs will be on from day to day. And you never know whether the change is permanent or temporary. For example, the station was apparently flirting with Laura Ingraham when Glenn Beck was still on. It would be Glenn Beck one day, Laura Ingraham the next and then back to Beck again. And then it’s Laura Ingraham and it never goes back.

It’s too early for me to know what to think about Sean Patrick. It generally takes 3 to 6 months of listening before you can fairly judge a host. I rode my bike to work almost every day from April through September, so my exposure to The Sean Patrick Show is minimal. I will say that his show has improved since it started. He is definitely becoming more comfortable.

So, why does any of this matter? KOH seems to be struggling and the other talkers have an opportunity to grab listeners who are looking for an alternative. People who are disenchanted regarding the firing of Bill Manders will find the change to 99.1 quite comfortable. Probably more comfortable than listening to someone they perceive as being responsible for Manders’ departure, regardless of whether or not that is a fair perception.

While KKFT seems poised to win in the afternoon slot, I’m not sure why they dropped Beck. Laura Ingraham is good, but Glenn Beck is HUGE right now. He dominates the media in a way few others can. This was driven home a few days ago when I heard my mom complain that Glenn Beck was no longer on the air. She isn’t big on radio or politics, but she was discussing the change with her friends. My mom was talking about Glenn Beck.

I enjoy reading comments and blogs that mock KKFT. They always use current ratings to discount the station – they never look at the change over an extended period. Bob Hastings over at BATTLE BORN POLITICS made the following comment: “The closest News/Talk station in the Reno ratings is KKFT with paltry 3.3 rating.” Keep in mind that KOH has scored below their average in 7 of the last 9 ratings periods. KKFT is almost double their own average. And that’s even if you include the spectacular current rating in the average.

KKFT has a chance to kick KOH while they’re down. Consider that when I started tracking the stations KOH had more than 10 times the share that KKFT had. In the current period KOH has less than 3 times the share. You can call me clueless and mock KKFT’s “paltry” ratings, but the Reno radio landscape is changing.