For the stodgy folk who perk up when they read "FCC" and "$12.5 million settlement," yesterday's story about radio payola was perfectly enticing. Today, the INTERESTING part of the story is starting to be fleshed out: The borderline-monopoly radio companies, like Clear Channel and Entercom, have agreed to devote thousands to half-hour blocks to independent music.
San Diego's two main modern rock stations, 94.9 and 91X, aren't owned by the conglomerates, but will we hear Belle and Sebastian on pop station 93.3 or Buddy Guy on classic rock KGB?
The more important question: Will it matter? If my headline wasn't a hint, I'm a bit skeptical. For this to be more than a hollow gesture, it has to open doors for musicians. The other day I heard all 12 1/2 minutes of The Decemberists' "The Island" on 94.9. A listener was playing it as part of the station's DJ promotion. It was cool to hear, but I'm not sure that song will turn many new people onto the band.
To succeed, radio has to be part business savvy and part artistic creativity. This payola deal swings the balance from pure business to pure creativity.
Here's a link to the story about the indie music portion of the deal
And if you really want to cry, check out the wonderful breakdown by USC music industry professor Jerry Del Colliano on his trademarked (?) blog.