One company that measures such stats says definitely.
While it may not seem like much of a surprise that web radio plays more artists than traditional broadcasters, new data supplied by streamSerf — a company that monitors and reports on music played on terrestrial and web radio — highlights a pretty big disparity. According to the company, last month American broadcast radio stations played 25,399 unique artists (this includes public radio stations) while Internet radio stations played 829,971 unique artists. We're no mathematicians, but apparently that's 32 times as much.
While FMC has not independently verified these figures, they do seem in keeping with our recent studies of the commercial broadcasting space. In April 2009, we released a major report called "Same Old Song," which examined whether commercial radio playlists had changed at all as a result of the 2005-2007 payola investigations, after which the Federal Communications Commission and the nation's four largest radio station group owners — Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Citadel and Entercom -- signed voluntary agreements meant to curb payola and open the airwaves to more local and independent artists.
"Same Old Song" and its New York State-focused follow up indicated no measurable change in the amount of indie and local music on the terrestrial dial.
Although we truly believe that over-the-air broadcasting still has enormous potential, we also recognize the growing role internet radio is playing in exposing audiences to new and niche acts. That's why we've advocated for royalty structures that take into account smaller webcasters — in other words, we don't support "one size fits all" rates and processes that will not let small and noncommercial webcasters survive.
Recently, we've been encouraged that the larger "pure play" webcasters have reached an agreement with SoundExchange on rates, but we know there's a ways to go before business models stabilize and artists can count on digital royalties as a robust revenue stream. One step in the right direction would be to have a public performance right for terrestrial radio. Currently, internet and satellite broadcasters pay performing artists and sound copyright owners (via SoundExchange) when they play an artist's music (they also pay publishers and songwriters). Yet over-the-air broadcasters pay only the songwriters and publishers (via ASCAP, SESAC or BMI). This clearly gives an unfair advantage to terrestrial radio.
When we talked about internet radio at our recent Future of Music Policy Summit, some in the audience were especially keen to know how to get played (and paid). Some brought up recent "guaranteed play" schemes where artists fork over money to get a certain number of plays. Others wondered whether there's any money in being broadcast online, and, if so, how to track it down. One thing we can say with certainty: the best way to ensure you're getting paid for digital plays is to sign up with SoundExchange — it's free, and you also can check their PLAYS database to see if you've accrued royalties.
If you're in New York for the CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival, you might want to check out a panel on Friday, Oct. 23, called "Internet Radio: a Free For All." FMC Communications Director Casey Rae-Hunter will be on hand to discuss the topic du jour: who's making money from internet radio and how? Joining him are Emch Subatomic (DJ, KEXP; Manager, Subatomic Sound; Producer, BrooklynRadio.net), Peter Ferraro (GM, East Village Radio) Jerimiah Lewis (Radio Promotions, Yep Roc Records) and Peter Schiecke (AOL Radio Programming Director AOL). Head here for more info.