While I’m here in Austin frolicking at SXSWi where, judging by the attendance and attitude, business is good and there doesn’t appear to be a recession, comes word that B101 in Philadelphia has decided to pull the plug on streaming it’s content on line.
At first blush, those who follow radio and it’s current struggle to remain relevant, at least compared to it’s historical barometer, this appears as sheer madness. How could we possibly not be online with our product? Isn’t the point to be everywhere our potential listeners are?
The answer to these questions is, of course, yes! But the overriding factor here is for radio to also be successful at redefining it’s business model in the long run. And frankly, the current SoundExhange fee structure does not provide for that. Jerry Lee, owner of B101, who would never be called short-sighted, is actually reacting more to the future of rates. He looks down the road, factors in the success of his current monetization efforts and sees no way of sustaining the model….as it stands.
Mark Ramsey outlines some excellent and very logical points in his Hear 2.0 blog. The most important point, which really belongs at the top of his post not the bottom, is “…throwing in the towel is not the answer.” In this case I don’t think Mr. Lee is throwing in the towel. I think he is making a statement that we must find another way to fairly compensate artists and performers AND sustain a revenue model that allows radio to stay in business. We must keeping working with all parties to make sure that we can come to a workable model.
This is not new to the online content providers who I am surrounded by at SXSWi. This is the stark reality for online companies that don’t have the luxury of pulling back and focusing on the other product they have. They welcome anyone who is willing to step up and make a statement that might help them in their battle for a rate the guarantees that those who provide access to the music wil not be silenced.
As for radio streams? There are many other ways to use interactive tools to support the radio brand, but I’m hopeful that providing their product on line will be one of the tools in the chest. Jerry Lee and B101 is saying, right now, it isn’t.