One network’s success with ending the dual format

I’m just about to move on from discussing the nuts and bolts of public radio’s dual news/classical format. But I did want to add this footnote about Vermont Public Radio after a recent chat with Jody Evans, the network’s program director. I’d called her about Classical Public Radio Network, in fact, because the network relied heavily on CPRN when it was getting its first all-classical stations on the air four years ago.

For several years VPR chugged along with a dual news/classical mix on seven stations across the state. But like other broadcasters, VPR was seeing its dual-format approach lose steam. When classical came on after NPR News, news listeners were fleeing to other news/talk stations.

“We had done well with the dual format,” Evans said. “But our audience was holding steady—it wasn’t growing.”

Continue Reading

Why You Don’t Hear Many Live Performances by American Orchestras on the Air

Authormarty72x72 I’m sad to say, it all boils down to $$$$. I know. It’s counterintuitive. You would think the musicians would want to be on the air, because that would help them get noticed and sell CDs or downloads. Well, classical musicians do want to be on the air, but they expect to be paid for it, because they are professionals who deserve to be paid a living wage for their work.

It makes sense that the musicians earn royalties for their CDs. After all, several middlemen (the studios, the record companies, the merchants, and the stations) are making money off the fruits of their labor.

But the radio is another matter. The stations do support the musicians when they pay BMI and ASCAP for royalties, but they can’t afford to shell out extra payments for live concerts. Stations also have to pay syndicators (e.g., American Public Media and NPR) for programming (membership fees based on market size, plus fees for specific programs), though the WFMT Radio Network offers programs free to stations. Believe me; stations are operating on very tight budgets.

Continue Reading

Classical Music as a Growth Industry?

Authormarty72x72_3 An item in the recent American Symphony Orchestra League newsletter:

In Sunday’s (3/16) Omaha World-Herald, John Pitcher writes about the ways classical music has benefited from the Internet, particularly in regards to downloads. “At eMusic, the world’s second-largest digital music service after iTunes, classical music now represents 12 percent of its overall European sales, and its business in the U.S. is not far behind. That’s a big increase for a genre that rarely made up more than 2 or 3 percent of total sales in record stores. … ‘What the Internet has done is fragment the entire music and entertainment industry, so in the future, I don’t think we’re going to see as many Michael Jackson-like mega acts,’ said Douglas McLennan, founder of the online periodical ArtsJournal and an expert on Web-based arts culture. ‘On the Internet, everything is a niche, and in that kind of environment, classical music is one of the bigger niches.’ … Perhaps the most amazing thing about eMusic, iTunes and other digital sites, though, is cross-genre buying. Nearly a third of eMusic’s classical sales go to customers who’ve never downloaded a classical piece. Similarly, iTunes sells as much hip-hop to classical buyers as jazz, the company recently told New Yorker magazine.”

Continue Reading

What’s happening with Classical Public Radio Network?

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Classical Public Radio Network will go off the air June 30, narrowing the range of choices for public radio stations looking to fill airtime with an around-the-clock, plug-and-play stream of music.

CPRN is one of several 24/7 feeds of classical music available to public stations via satellite, many of which use it or its competitors to fill overnight hours or otherwise keep costs low at times when using live hosts would be pricy or inconvenient. About 60 stations carry CPRN, which also airs on six HD Radio multicast channels. The service launched nationally in 2003, a partnership between Colorado Public Radio in Denver and KUSC in Los Angeles.

Continue Reading