We found an interesting article in the latest edition of Wired about a new system for indie acts to deliver tracks to radio stations that rely on automation to manage their playlists. Well, it's not a new system, exactly — major labels and commercial radio have been using it for years.
As Wired scribe Eliot Van Buskirk writes, "indie musicians have been at a disadvantage when it comes to delivering music to larger stations. . . because the major labels use something called Digital Media Distribution System (DMDS) to send new tracks to stations digitally and securely (to minimize leaks)."
That's not the only reason indie musicians have had difficulty getting on the corporate airwaves. Payola, both institutional and in-your-face, has made it near-impossible for anyone but the best financed (and ethically compromised) musicians and labels to breach the commercial radio wall. Even when compelled by the FCC to air independent acts, massive radio conglomerates have tried to require artists to sign away their rights to digital royalties in exchange for airplay consideration. FMC exposed such behavior by Clear Channel in a series of blog posts last year.
According to Wired, a company called Yangaroo (which also services major labels) is now offering an indie-centric version of its DMDS technology. The general understanding is that most folks at commercial radio are loathe to open padded brown envelopes, so digital delivery could result in more spins for the indies.
That's the theory anyway.
FMC is working on a Payola Education Guide that will help musicians understand the historical context of this disingenuous practice, and offer advice about what can be done about it. We're also busy tracking playlists in order to determine which stations are playing indie music and how often. So stay, um, tuned.