If Video Killed The Radio Star, Is Streaming Delivering the Eulogy? 

Overlay wave
Radio on Air

Share This Post

If video killed the radio star, is streaming announcing its last throws?

Back in 1979 Trevor Horn, the man behind Seal’s break out album, released the prophetic pop song Video Killed The Radio Star. Putting the blame for the demise of radio broadcasts squarely at the feet of the emerging video industry, the song mourns the passing of the format with the line, ”Pictures came and broke your heart, Put the blame on VCR.” Arguably that was a bit tongue in cheek as it was the video that propelled the track to the top of the charts. 

While its video and the emergence of MTV which changed the landscape of music forever, it did not significantly impact the earning capacity of musicians. That sin is very much on the shoulders of the current streaming platforms who care more about the algorithm than a musical career, and who have frankly made content as disposable as a single use plastic bag. 

Musicians Suffer 

In the UK, a 2021 enquiry discovered that artists are struggling to pay the rent and make ends meet. Artists told the inquiry there was no way to work out how much they were actually being paid when someone listened to their music on a streaming platform.  

There is no doubt that Spotify for example has opened up the world of music to any artist by lowering the entry cost of releasing, but on the other side of that is that they just cannot get heard. As millions of tracks are released weekly, the industry has become a much more saturated market. In short there is just too much content and what once was a vehicle to get heard is a platform which drowns consumers in a Tsunami of riches. Part of that fight to be heard is getting remunerated for your art.  

Back in the day, musicians could press vinyl or print CDs, and generally would be able to make their money back over time. It has been estimated that a Spotify stream is worth from $0.006-0.0084 to as low as $0.00318 per stream”. What does that mean in real terms is that 1000 streams will not even buy you a cup of coffee coming in at less than 4 bucks. Take away distribution, label and management fees and you are left with a paltry dollar.  

Why is Music Disposable Now? 

Streaming meant that artists became increasingly reliant on performance income rather than royalties. The pandemic exposed that debilitating link and with venues now permanently closed, the value of the music has remained the same but the other earning opportunities have vanished. Add in the lack of quality control on independent or self-released titles, you can understand why Gen Z-ers flip through content at an alarming pace. 

This has also led to content being shortened and dissected so that it meets that limited attention span expectation. Shorter versions mean increased capacity of the platforms to inject adverts into the listening experience, devaluing the song itself and leading to an ever-increasing pool of uninspired experiences. 

Are The Bells Ringing for Radio’s Demise? 

Radio is facing a crisis regarding the younger generation. Research shows in the UK that at least 15–24-year-olds have switched off from the medium entirely with some stations reaching a 40% drop in listeners from that age group. Australian radio too is experiencing similar outcomes as stations stick to tired and rinsed out content that rarely resonates with teenagers. 

There is so much evidence to indicate that Spotify, Apple, Amazon Music, and YouTube account for almost a third of their listening time. When they do listen in, that fickle attention span is curtailing their time tuning in. When you add in the fact that Spotify have previously stated that, “over time 20% of all listening on our service will be non-music content” amounting to over 540 million quarterly users, the radio industry is quaking in its boots. 

Digital Disruption 

Digital Disruption is nothing new. It has ripped the heart out of free to air television and newspapers. Advertising revenue disappears down the black hole of insolvency and in Australia the traditional formats are fast merging into a race to the bottom. Just like other media, people have been accustomed to getting content for free and will not suffer the inconvenience of a pay wall. DAB+ in Australia is beginning to catch up, but at the end of the day, the money required by artists to invest in the platform as a medium of release is questionable when there are only 24 hours in a day to get your content heard. Add in the fact that the major record labels have an iron grip on the stations and independent artists are faced with that never ending descent into poverty. 

What can be done? 

At Aussie Sounds we are tackling that problem head on. As CEO, I recognised early through the pandemic that many of our beloved musicians were suffering immeasurably as their means of income completely dried up. The economic disaster that has since plagued the entertainment industry and the lack of venues willing to pay correct weight for the artists they showcase, is an ingrained construct that will be the prevailing winds which will become the habitual norm. Artists need a new place to perform where their financial needs are met, and a new paradigm can be enforced. 

Arguably it is the new technological horizons that can offer the best benefits for our artists. Having vertically integrated advertising in an augmented reality event is a way to keep audiences engaged and establish brand loyalty to corporate sponsors. Providing an immersive experience that creates an interactive gateway for advertisers can be the only way forward for young users who will be the early adopters of that technology. Giving an equal share of that advertising revenue to the performers that appear at our events is our driving ambition and we will not waiver from achieving that truth. 

Ultimately though, as we revert to the original question, ‘What is the future of radio?’ undeniably it must change. Musicians have no other option than to be exploited by streaming platforms like Spotify. They cannot pull their work from these platforms like the top-end celebrities, meaning they will be stuck in a cycle of servitude. This will lead to a decreasing circle of influence for radio and a shift to the farthest reaches of the media landscape. 

But this is where the rubber meets the road. Aussie Sounds will always have their collective backs. We do not want them to suffer in silence. We want their music to be celebrated and their way of life guaranteed.  

So, partner with us and shape the future of musical content. Embrace the revolution and take back what has always been yours.  

Turn On. Tune In. Never Drop Out! 

Stay up to date on our news and events

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Latest articles

We take a look at Dandelion Head. Releasing his latest single at the back end of 2022, Two Hands was a sumptuous journey into the purity of sound.