With the foreign-owned record labels continuing to pressure members of Congress to enact performance tax legislation, it’s worth taking a second to highlight the recent words of Texas musician Bo Carter, a nominee for the Texas Music Awards Male Vocalist of the Year.
“If people don’t hear my music on the radio, they don’t know to come to the shows or buy the CD. I don’t see any reason to nickel and dime the people who are promoting us,” Carter told Texas Monthly in an article published in their May issue.
Carter isn’t alone in recognizing the unparalleled promotional power of free and local radio. Commenting on the ever-changing media landscape Kix Brooks of ‘Brooks ‘n’ Dunn’ fame said earlier this year, “You can text, Twitter and website your ass off and it’s not going to have one-tenth the impact radio has.”
With that kind of promotional power, it’s no wonder why artists routinely use the award show stage to thank local radio stations for helping propel their career to unthinkable heights. How big a promoter is radio? Big enough to warrant a special “thank you” video from Carrie Underwood after winning Entertainer of the Year at the 2010 Academy of Country Music Awards. Even after winning ‘American Idol,’ the broadcast TV jugernaut that airs on FOX, Underwood still knows how important radio is to her success:
“This year’s ACMs, obviously, was very very special to me. And so many amazing things happened to me there, and have happened to me, and for me, and with me over the past several years. And none of it could’ve been possible without Country radio. Everybody’s just been so supportive from the beginning, and I know that you guys didn’t have to be — but you were. And you play my songs and you come to shows and you say positive things. And I feel like we have a really great relationship. So thank you guys so much for everything that you do, from the bottom of my heart. Because I know that none of this would’ve been possible without you guys. So thank you so much, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Thank you.”
— Carrie Underwood, 2010 Academy of Country Music Awards
We could go on and on. Lady Antebellum on the first time they heard their song on the radio? “The tears started coming… it was definitely something we’ll never forget.” Legendary music mogul Clive Davis? “Radio is still the leading force of determining what songs and artists break through.” Jewel on her life before radio? “I was homeless.” Jewel on her life after radio? “Limousines started showing up.”
No doubt the record labels have had a few bad years. Technology caught them off guard. But pointing the finger at a musician’s longest-serving promotional partner — free radio airplay — will hurt artists far more than it will help them. Particularly so, when you remember that the legislation supported by RIAA, directs a full 50 percent of any new fee on radio directly into the coffers of their record label member companies.