|Taylor Swift rules
Apple capitulates to Taylor Swift.
It took all of about 17 hours, figures The Verge, which asks “Why did Apple think for one second that it could get away with not paying Taylor Swift?” Apple Music’s Eddy Cue quickly capitulated on the issue of not paying artists during the three-month free trial period for the new Apple Music service. By reversing his stand, he gets Apple out of the headlines and validates (as if she needs it) Taylor Swift’s status in the music industry. But as The Verge also says, we don’t know how much Apple’s planning to pay artists during the three-month trial, and we’re not even 100% sure that Swift’s “1989” album will be available. That will be determined by negotiations. Other artists followed Swift’s lead, with Elvis Costello tweeting that her Tumblr manifesto to Apple was “a note from our future President.” The music industry’s hoping that artists will see more money from Apple Music and its $9.99 monthly subscription. And Apple’s hoping to wean people away from free ad-supported music services like Spotify (which is interactive) and Pandora (which isn’t). In fact, Time Magazine quotes a string of tweets from former Pandora Chief Technology Officer Tom Conrad. He says (condensed) – “We shouldn’t herald this move as progress. It’s status quo...Swift's career was built on terrestrial radio play, which is a free service and doesn't pay recording artists a dime...Apple uses music to make billions off hardware. Artists see nothing from this.”
SiriusXM faces a July 30 hearing on whether to consolidate class-action suits over unwanted calls.
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That could also fold in a couple of individual suits, like the one filed by Larry Combs of North Carolina. His attorney tells a federal court he continued to receive calls to his cellphone, even after he asked the company to quit bugging him to renew. There’s another wrinkle in the Combs suit – arbitration. SiriusXM says their dispute is covered by a compulsory arbitration clause. But Combs argues that since there was no valid contract at the time Combs instructed the company to quit calling, he’s not bound by the arbitration clause that came with the free six-month subscription when he got the keys to his new Ford F-150 truck. (Two of them, actually – Larry really likes to buy new F-150s.) The bigger news is that there will be oral arguments on July 30 in San Francisco, about whether to combine three pending class actions against Sirius, plus the Combs suit and one other. At issue is whether SiriusXM has violated the TCPA – the Telephone Consumer Protection Act – by using autodialers to call cellphones. That’s against the law, as researchers like Nielsen know full-well. It makes research work more expensive.
SiriusXM finally tops the Turtles, in Florida.
Last year a California state judge shocked the music world by ruling in favor of Turtles founders Flo & Eddie, on the question of whether SiriusXM owes artists for playing their pre-1972 music. The situation in California got even tougher for SiriusXM with a second ruling, and then it lost in New York state. But The Hollywood Reporter reports that U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles rules that “Florida is different.” That’s because unlike California and New York, “there is no specific Florida legislation covering sound recording property rights.” The judge says ruling in favor of Flo & Eddie “would be creating a new property right in Florida, as opposed to interpreting the law” – and he “declines to do so.” THR says the oldies artists also lost on their claim that SiriusXM violates the law by making digital reproductions of songs like “Happy Together” for its internal use. Most folks in the music business have thought Flo & Eddie will eventually wind up at the door of the U.S. Supreme Court – but for now, the Second Circuit Appeals Court in New York will deal with the decision there, so pre-1972 music has a lot of lawyering ahead of it, and all because of a quirk in the federal law that doesn’t address that era’s digital rights.
No break-in period required for WTOP Washington’s new PD, Mike McMearty.
But this isn’t just the announcement of a replacement for Laurie Cantillo, whose contract wasn’t renewed three months ago. (The “longtime space geek” is now working with NASA as a contractor.) This is a very different way to organize the running of a major all-news station – de-centralized, if you will. Here’s why. Hubbard Radio says new Director of News & Programming Mike McMearty has been “an editor, producer, reporter, anchor, sports reporter, assistant news director and for the past 15 years, news director.” After splitting the weekday newsroom management chores with Mitchell Miller since Laurie left, Mike will preside over a collection of managers of various dayparts and functions. His team will include Miller as Senior News Director, for weekday mornings. Darci Marchese, now full-time news director specifically for weekday afternoons. And Jamie Forzato as Weekend Managing Editor. Jim Battagliese continues as Director of Traffic, Transit and Weather. Meera Pal is the new Social and Digital Engagement Director. She reports to Julia Ziegler, former Web & Operations Manager of FederalNewsRadio.com, now designated as News Director of WTOP.com. That site runs alongside of the terrestrial and other distribution means of WTOP (103.5 and suburban simulcasts). Hubbard Senior VP Joel Oxley says “Mike McMearty has been an integral part of our success for more than two decades” – and he should understand how all the parts intersect.
Former radio analyst and MLB player Darryl Hamilton dies in a murder-suicide.
He was shot multiple times at his home in the Houston suburb of Pearland – and it appears his girlfriend died of a self-inflected gunshot. Left behind is their 14-month-old son. Hamilton was one of those rare professional athletes who made the transition to broadcasting, working for MLB Radio after his retirement from the Mets in 2001. He stayed busy in both radio and TV, working as an occasional analyst for the Milwaukee Brewers (a team he played with), for Compass Media Networks on its coverage of the Angels, and for Gow-owned Houston-market all-sports stations KFNC (97.5) and KGOW (1560). Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred says Hamilton “was a talented and personable individual, and we were proud to call him a member of the baseball family.” The New York Mets plan a moment of silence before Friday’s game. Darryl also wore the uniforms of the San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies, with a .291 lifetime batting average and a reputation as a defensive standout. More from CNN here. Darryl Hamilton was 50.
From the Rumor Mill – Summer Deal-Market update.
It’s officially Summer, and that means it’s harder for dealmakers to chase down CEOs, group heads, “money people” and others important to the process. They tend to be away from their usual offices and routines, even if they’re available by phone and text. The most motivated buyer still looks to be Larry Wilson of Alpha Media. He’s said to be pursuing Digity, led by Dean Goodman (who doesn’t want to leave) and Garrison Investment Trust (which does). In Philadelphia, there’s still the question of who gets standalone AC “More FM” WBEB (101.1), as Jerry Lee prepares to step back somewhat. There were conversations at the April NAB Show in Las Vegas, but so far no deal. If Cumulus really does want some of the CBS Radio properties, new CBS Radio president Andre Fernandez is definitely a deal-friendly guy. But so far, all that seems to have changed is more cutbacks at some stations (like a PD at KOOL Phoenix). Besides, there’s still the overwhelming problem CBS faces with taxes, because it’s owned its stations for so long. Fernandez and the CBS corporate people above him would rather swap than sell. And who’s got assets they’d want in a swap? iHeart has a different situation – it needs to get something like a 10-times multiple because of how much it spent buying its assets. (Does Larry Wilson want to do some swapping with iHeart? That’s a rumor.) Meanwhile, Cumulus stock (“CMLS”) dropped over 6% yesterday to $2.20 a share – for no apparent reason. Years ago, Cumulus could use its stock as currency for acquisitions, but things have changed.
“The way the radio industry handles the Voltair controversy will influence its likelihood of surviving.”
Sound like hyperbole? Dr. Barry Blesser is director of research at the Telos Alliance, and he’s been working on the PPM issue since at least 2009. Dr. Blesser just issued a four-page statement that opens up like this – “With the number of installed Voltair units approaching 600, there has been more than enough time for an explanation about why this watermark processor actually works as well as it does.” That’s his point of view, of course, and there are skeptics and agnostics. Blesser considers two “classes of explanations” - #1, that it “works because it improves on some deficiencies and limitations of the original PPM system” developed by Arbitron and now administered in the 48 PPM markets by Nielsen. Or #2, that it works because it produces “phantom listeners.” He roundly rejects that claim, and as for point #1, he says Voltair is “basically an AGC (automatic gain control) compressor” that produces better quality tones “of longer duration.” He claims that gives a PPM meter a better shot at detecting it with good quality. Summing up, Blesser says “just using the monitoring capability of Voltair makes it easy for PDs to push only those cuts that encode well into the air stream.” To him, “terrestrial radio will not have to be defined by the lab decisions of an engineer who created a system almost 15 years ago.” He wonders how long Nielsen will “[refuse] to address technical issues raised by Voltair.” No matter where you come down on Voltair, the feeling expressed here last week by Max Media’s Norfolk GM Dave Paulus seems relevant – “Every day that goes by without a definite answer to questions about Voltair is crushing our industry."
Southwest of Chicago, Kankakee Community College plans to turn off WKCC (91.1).
It’s not the scenario of “students not interested in radio” but the stark realities of money. Chicagoland Radio & Media says says WKCC’s annual budget was a mere $200,000, but corporate underwriting and listener donations have covered only a third of that, and the school needs the money for other purposes. It cites “recent enrollment declines, coupled with dwindling state support.” WKCC is a Class A licensed to Kankakee, and the media site says that leaves “the far south-suburban counties of Kankakee and Iroquois without a public radio outlet.” The lineup is quite an old-fashioned public radio mixture of classical (including APM’s Performance Today), blues and other specialty shows, talk (Diane Rehm) and news & information (The Takeaway, BBC long-form shows). The “with a heavy heart” letter to listeners from college president Dr. John Avendano is here. Pending an angel with a checkbook, WKCC’s last signoff will be December 18.
Canadian radio revenues dipped a half-percent last year.
Inside that number, commercial FMs report flattish revenue, from $1.33 billion Canadian (about $1.08 billion U.S.) to $1.32 billion Canadian. Interestingly, the CRTC regulator says French-language FMs were up 2.4%, while the much larger English-language sector was off about 1%. Revenue for commercial AMs slipped 1.3% to about $291 million Canadian ($236 million U.S.). Generally, Canada’s radio industry, like its banks, weathered the Great Recession with much less damage than their U.S. counterparts. Another difference between the two countries – the CRTC says its owners generally are hiking their expenditures, presumably to invest in product and people. That reduced the average profit margin (“PBIT” or Profits before Interest and Taxes) from 20.2% to 18.5%. All these numbers are for the broadcast year that ended last August 31. The CRTC says “revenues have remained relatively stable from the previous year, in spite of competition from satellite, online and mobile services.”
Commercial stations in Canada don’t have much to fear from CBC selling ads.
The government broadcaster is only generating about one-tenth the revenue it had expected – and might actually be losing money on the effort, when you factor in expenses. This was a highly contentious issue a couple of years ago, but in the most recent reporting year, advertising revenue produced from the light spotloads added at the French-language Espace Musique and Radio 2 stations was only about $1.1 million Canadian. That’s roughly $893,400 U.S., and it’s a pittance compared to the CBC’s total revenue of $287.6 million ($234 million U.S.). Unfortunately for the CBC, that total revenue figure for radio and TV is down 5.6%. That’s mainly due to less money coming from Parliament, which the radio ads were supposed to help offset. The Toronto Star quotes Canadian Media Research President Barry Kiefl saying the CBC “clearly had not gauged the marketplace for national advertising very accurately…It raises the question of why they did it in the first place.” Two years ago, CRTC Commissioner Tom Pentefountas said it was “crazy” to let the CBC sell a limited number of radio ads for a three-year trial. The service operates 82 individual stations plus online distribution. See the report on AM, FM, CBC and individual market-by-market breakouts for the top 15 metros here.
Looks like Hubbard is lining up an FM translator signal around Phoenix for its “AZ Gold 1440” KAZG Scottsdale. Radio Insight prowls through last week’s FCC applications to find one from translator owner Happy Dog Communications. It asks for permission to greatly increase the power of Phoenix-licensed K224CJ at 92.7 from 10 watts to 250 watts, located on South Mountain. The translator’s been rebroadcasting East Valley Institute of Tech’s non-com CHR “90.7 the Pulse” KVIT Apache Junction. But the Happy Dog filing would change that to the HD2 channel of Hubbard’s alternative KDKB Mesa/93.3 – which is pumping out the oldies of “AZ Gold 1440.”
Tower owners are put on notice – clean up your act. That might be making sure the listed height and location of the tower are not “materially” different from the actual stick. That could also be making sure the Federal Aviation Administration issued the proper ‘No Hazard Determination,” and of course having the structure correctly painted and lighted. The caution about the Wireless Bureau notice comes from Denise Branson at CommLawBlog here.
Verizon Wireless storms back into the top five of the weekly list of national radio advertisers compiled by Media Monitors, after a long absence from those heights. Most weeks the wireless giant’s been out of the top 20, but two weeks ago it rose #16 – and now to #4, on a buy of 28,865 spots. Another strong upward move is made by the Macy’s national retail chain, up from #28 to #6 with nearly 27,000 spots. The rest of the top 20 is the usual mix of smaller wireless companies (MetroPCS at #10, Boost Mobile at #13), fast food (McDonald’s at #5, Wendy’s at #8), hardware/home improvement (Home Depot at #1, Lowe’s at #11) and auto parts.
“Virtual Keynote on the Podcast Consumer” is tomorrow’s 3pm Eastern time webinar from Edison Research, led by its VP/Strategy Tom Webster. He’ll share “the results of this year’s tracking study on podcast listeners” and talk about “both the past and the future of podcasting, and what the medium’s next steps have to be to continue growing.” Registration for the Wednesday, June 24 webinar at 3pm Eastern time is here.
Cumulus blows up all-sports KZJF Jefferson City, Missouri, along with its affiliation with CBS Sports Radio Network, which is backed by Cumulus. Late last week, Radio Insight reported that something was up, with the KZJF website re-directing to “Z1041.com,” ID’d as “Jefferson City’s Classic Hits station.” The Class A facility had been country “Jeff” until Fall 2013, when Cumulus turned it all-sports. Tim Thomas of AC sister KPLA Columbia (101.5) will be the local morning talent on “Z104.1,” with the rest of the day filled out by Westwood’s Classic Hits service. Check it out here.
Art Bell is racking up terrestrial affiliates, even though his new “Midnight in the Desert” talk show makes no concessions to terrestrial radio formatting. This time Art’s in full control, unlike (he says) with Premiere and SiriusXM. He says “The format will be geared towards the Internet, having less commercials and more freedom of where the breaks will be.” Based on his website, about 20 stations are on-board, including American General Media’s talk KERN (1410 plus its translator at 96.1) in Bakersfield. The June 10 NOW Newsletter told you about Art’s schedule for “Midnight” – a soft-launch on Sunday, July 19 and the formal launch on July 20. As always, Art’s interested in the paranormal, UFOs, and odd/unexplained things in general. He’ll also be heard live on Tennessee-based shortwave station WTWW and Maine-based WBCQ.
Marko Radlovic is quickly welcomed home at Spanish Broadcasting System, where he spent the years from 2001 to 2011. He’d held positions like market manager, Chief Revenue Officer and COO of the group led by Raul Alarcon. This time he signs on as “Senior VP and West Coast Regional Manager.” Radlovic (“RAD-loh-vik”) most recently oversaw L.A.’s talk KABC/790 and classic rock KLOS/95.5 until his exit from Cumulus (June 17 NOW Newsletter). Miami-based Alarcon says “We are very excited to have Marko back at SBS.” He’ll be working out of L.A. (of course) supervising regional Mexican outlets “La Raza 97.9” KLAX and “Mega 96.3” KXOL-FM. There’s also a sister “La Raza” up in San Francisco, KRZZ/93.3.
Julie Devereaux and Jaybeau Jones fill in middays and PM drive at Greater Media’s top-rated classic hits WROR Boston (105.7). The company says 10am-2pm “was most recently voiced by the WROR Employee of the Day via pre-recorded listeners.” Julie’s been with WROR in various capacities since 2000 and most recently hosted afternoons. That honor passes to Jaybeau Jones, who’s worked in Chicago, Philly, Hartford and Worcester and has programmed two other stations in Boston. (He’s also hosted “70s on 7” for SiriusXM.) JayBeau had been doing part-time work for ’ROR and will occupy the fulltime 2-7pm shift. PD Ken West is “proud to be increasing the number of hours we showcase live and local talent.”
The boss-lady’s typewriter – A keep-this-anonymous NOW reader says “At the small station in the South where I started, the owners were a gruff former newspaper guy, the GM everybody was scared of, and his wife, who handled the books and also wrote some copy. She understood the money part of the radio business pretty well, but not the copy-writing. To her, as long as the advertising copy fit on the pre-printed page for sixty-second copy, everything was okay. The real problem was which typewriter she used. Sometimes she’d use one with fairly large type, and that was okay for us announcers. But sometimes she’d write her spots on an old typewriter with a font that was 8 points big, which is not very big. And for the weekly supermarket specials on bread, eggs and pork loin, she would even cram in extra lines at the bottom. In those days you had seventy-second carts and 100-second carts, and sometimes we’d have to use the ‘hundreds’ for her supermarket spots. In my mind’s eye, I can still see that woman’s handiwork, and remember talking very fast.” Remind you of your own early experience in radio? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – with or without names – at Tom@RTK-Media.com.
There’s a lot of radio in this Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter every morning – all kinds of radio. The definitions of “radio” vary enormously, but they’re all becoming a mashup in the minds of listeners, and we’d all be smart to track what’s happening. Want to reach this highly-engaged readership with your company’s marketing message? Contact Kristy Scott - Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow - Tom