Once again, radio gets a bad rap.
This one comes from the University of Texas professor Stan Leibowitz who claims in a paper first published in January of this year that radio airplay can actually hurt music sales. I'm not sure what, if any sample, he used to come to this conclusion, but study after study we've done at Bridge Ratings is more than enough to convince me that radio moves music product. A variety of other industry research confirms this notion.
Both physical CD's and digital downloads are positively impacted by radio airplay; that's what our consumer samples have told us. We've been doing these types of studies since 2002.
In fact, let me reiterate a quote from the summary section of a study Bridge Ratings conducted in 2005 and confirmed again in '06: "Radio airplay - especially of new music - directly and positively affects consumers interest in listening to and subsequently buying new music. Digital downloads are the primary media of the young and early adopter young adults, and CD sales are still the media of choice for adults, especially those with younger children."
Our studies have gone on to establish that a radio format leaning heavily on new music and structured in such a way as to allow listener input on the songs being played, would be highly successful with the 13-21 year old age group with bleed-over into the upper 20's. This is because (we discovered) that no matter what the age group, consumers use traditional radio stations to satisfy their need for "surprises" in the form of either unexpected programming or new music.
And it is specifically the stations currently airing a predominance of current music that garner an audience whose number 1 reason for tuning in is music discovery. Consumers of this type of radio use those radio stations as a filter, screening out the poor and playing the best of the rest.
Yes, radio does sell music - and it sells tons of other consumer products. Music just happens to be easier to sell on the radio because the product is the commercial.
Here's a calculation the record labels might want to consider:
A Los Angeles radio station with average ratings playing 8 current songs an hour is, in essence, playing 8 commercials for those artists and the record labels. We've proven music moves product.
Over the course of a typical week, if that radio station received compensation as it would for its typical commercials, it should receive $2,150,400 for the value of the airtime that week alone!
Now, of course, these radio stations benefit greatly from accessibility to that music product given so generously by music labels. It is, after all, the station's programming content. And, truthfully, those stations garner ratings that generate revenue that generates profit. True. It's a symbiotic relationship this thing that radio and the labels have, but it works - has worked - and will continue to work.
To say that radio airplay hurts music sales is a misguided statement which either needs to be recanted or at least better explained.