Back in May, we told you about "Same Old Song: An Analysis of Radio Playlists in a Post FCC-Consent Decree World" — a data-driven study that analyzes radio playlists from 2005-2008 to determine whether the policy interventions resulting from the recent payola investigations have had any effect on the amount of independent music played on terrestrial radio.
You see, we wanted more than anecdotal evidence that commercial radio doesn't play much independent or local music (despite "voluntary agreements" between four major broadcasters implicated in the payola investigations and the American Association of Independent Music). "Same Old Song" examines four years of airplay – 2005-2008 – from national playlists and from seven specific music formats: AC, Urban AC, Active Rock, Country, CHR Pop, Triple A Commercial and Triple A Noncommercial. FMC calculated the “airplay share” for five different categories of record labels to determine whether the ratio of major label to non-major label airplay has changed over the past four years.
As it turns out, there hasn't really been any change in the amount of indie music on commercial radio, which seems kind of weird when you see bands like Grizzly Bear taking up the eighth slot on the Billboard Top 200. But you don't often hear even the bigger indie acts like Spoon or Arcade Fire on commercial radio, even though they're on TV and movie soundtracks and the covers of magazines (yes, those still exist), etc. Clearly there's demand for this music, so why is there so little of it on the commercial dial?
Our radio playlist studies aim to provide some insight.
Yesterday, we released a New York State-centric version of "Same Old Song," which comes to a nearly identical set of conclusions as the original report. Why did we crunch the data for NYS stations? Because that's where the whole payola investigations of the early aughts began.
In July 2005, then-New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced the results of the Office’s examination of the relationship between major labels and commercial broadcasters. “Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, airtime is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees,” Spitzer said as he announced the findings and settlement with the record label Sony BMG. “This agreement is a model for breaking the pervasive influence of bribes in the industry,” he continued, referring to Sony BMG’s agreement to stop making payments and providing expensive gifts to radio stations and their employees in return for airplay for the company's songs. In the following months, Spitzer announced additional settlements, eventually collecting more than $35 million in fines from the four major record labels and two radio station groups.
After completing its investigations, the Attorney General’s office sent its evidence to the Federal Communications Commission. Two years later, in April 2007, the FCC issued consent decrees against the nation’s four largest radio station group owners – Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Citadel and Entercom. In addition to paying fines totaling $12.5 million, the station group owners also worked with the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) to draft eight “Rules of Engagement” and an “indie set-aside” in which these four group owners voluntarily agreed to collectively air 4,200 hours of local, regional and unsigned artists, and artists affiliated with independent labels.
The New York State edition of "Same Old Song" focuses on playlist data from 52 music stations licensed in New York State, broadcasting in a variety of formats, from 2005-2008. Like the earlier, national study, the new report shows that independent labels — which comprise some 30 percent of the domestic music market — are left to vie for mere slivers of airtime, despite negotiated attempts to address this programming imbalance.
You can check out "Same Old Song: NYS Edition" here, in both full report and Executive Summary form.
And the original "Same Old Song" report can be viewed here.