Creating a Merit-Based Music Economy: Compulsory or Blanket Licensing for Interactive Subscription Services
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A2. Why Radio is (Still) So Important

Of all the mass media available to promote music to an audience, broadcast radio (mostly FM) is still the most important. There are several reasons for this:
  1. Radio provides passive entertainment. This makes it very easy for listeners to tune in without having to make any difficult choices (the hardest choice is which station to tune in).

  2. Radio provides "novelty with familiarity." Listeners get to hear new music in a program of familiar music in an unannounced order -- a carefully tailored mix of freshness within an expected context. Just the right blend to keep the interest of the most listeners without surprising them too much to rub them the wrong way.

  3. Radio provides promotion as entertainment. This is the real power: Radio provides a complete sample of each song, without replacing record sales. Radio programs entertain the audience while simultaneously promoting records.

  4. Radio is ubiquitous, portable, and easy to use. It basically works everywhere within range of a radio station, and it's simple to operate. You turn it on, choose your station, set the volume, and listen. What could be simpler than that?
Because of this, and because the program is free to anyone with a receiver (supported by selling ad space to advertisers who want to get a message to those listeners), radio has a very large audience -- you can reach a lot of people all at once, very easily.

The result of all of this is that radio has become a dominant method of promoting a record to an audience for that record. For better or worse, the characteristics of radio largely constrain the music business. Most of the music business shapes itself around this reality in response.

Videos: Music videos, which compete powerfully with radio for market influence, can't quite compete with the ubiquity of listening contexts that radio captures. You still have to watch a video to get its special effect, whereas radio is an ears-only experience, freeing the listener to do other things at the same time, whether at home, at work, traveling, or during recreation. This is an age of multi-tasking, and for that purpose, radio still rules.

Also, there are far fewer music video broadcasters than music radio broadcasters, and it is much more expensive to produce a single video than a single song. However, when the audience does turn to it, videos can provide a much more deeply engaging multi-media experience with a powerful impact. And, videos are broadcast mostly on nationwide cable channels with audiences much larger than individual radio stations.

Music videos are, in many ways, a more extreme version of music radio, and have a similar impact on the music business. But they don't reach as large a total audience as radio, in aggregate.

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