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Op-Ed: Radio Nest – By Bob Lefsetz

"Mass appeal radio, saturation radio play, is still the single most powerful connective roadway for an artist to fans… Mass appeal radio is still the one last barrier that has to be broken down… It's a very symbiotic relationship between the major music companies and the major radio stations. Once that link is broken, then I think the game is over, then I think the Internet reality, the ability to do all of the pieces of the puzzle, to get from an unknown artist to someone who can sell serious numbers of recordings, that's when I think that game will be in a whole new dimension." (Al Teller)

Radio's next.

People think the major labels' power is their money. That's wrong, it's radio. Radio is still the number one way to break an artist, just meet with a major label employee or old school manager, they'll tell you this.

But they don't seem to know this era is coming to a close.

The big insider news this week was the firing of promotion people at Warner/Reprise and the entry of an outside force to run the department. In the old days, this would be big news. Today, it's barely a ripple in the water. Because everyone knows promotion is less about skill and more about juice. It's as old school as it gets. There are relationships and favors and…money. It's the opposite of the Internet paradigm, it's an infrastructure built for a dying industry.

If Al Teller is doing anything in the music industry, I'm unaware. He can argue that he was at the advent of the new world with Atomic Pop, but that failed and he's left a lot of ill will in the business. But you should watch this video. Al's incredibly dry, verging on boring, but he certainly knows his shit. You're sitting at home decrying the ancient powers, wondering why you can't compete, after watching this video you'll be stunned at Al's experience and knowledge of the landscape. It's not something you can learn in a book, it's something you learn over time, by doing.

Now it's your time.

The major label monopoly was based on control of distribution. That's gone. Now you can be completely indie and get paid, which was almost impossible to do prior to the iTunes/Internet era.

But you still can't get your record on the radio. Insiders believe that as a result of Spitzer, it's actually more difficult to get an indie record on the radio. Even though so much money has been drained from the system, cash, drugs, CD players and flat screens, the stations don't want to deal with any indies, they're fearful of liability.

So, you're closed out.

Of the old system.

Can the present style of radio survive? Will people listen to hackneyed delivery of songs they don't want to hear when music has become an on demand item?


Got that?


We just don't know what the replacement is.

But as soon as we figure out how to turn people on to new music, so they don't have to listen to the radio, they won't.

Ignore all research to the contrary. It's self-serving crap by those with a vested interest. The same people who said people would never listen to MP3s and are still buying CDs. Music radio is in its death throes. It's going to collapse overnight. It's just a matter of when.

What comes next? Is it Pandora? Did you see the new Pandora-style interface introduced for Spotify this week ( I'd be lying if I told you I knew exactly what the new way to turn people on to music will be. I've got ideas, I believe it will be Web-based, more about human choice than algorithms, but it's gonna be developed by someone in it for the game more than the money and suddenly we'll all be using it and terrestrial music radio will collapse just like the record companies.

If Al Teller knows it, someone who bleeds Columbia Red, don't doubt it, just own it.

Ian Rogers does a very good job of interviewing Al here. Despite not having first hand knowledge of the landscape, he tees it up for Al to tell the truth of the business, which he knows.

And the truth is radio is the final lock, and when it's picked, it's over for the old school. It's what they depend on. You can raise money on Kickstarter, but you can't get on terrestrial radio. But once terrestrial radio becomes meaningless…

The CD was supposed to last forever, but it turned out people abandoned it.

Tower Records closed.

Rebecca Black is a household name despite radio's refusal to air her song.

It's a brand new world. Learn what you can from the oldsters.

But the innovation is up to you.

"Sooner or later that brick is gonna fall out of that wall and it will be game, set, match. It's just a question of time." (Al Teller)

(The discussion of radio beings around 18:00)