Source: Economist    2012-08-19  我要投稿   论坛   Favorite  


Clear Channel and radio broadcasting.

Come stream with me.

Is there money in digital radio?

FRANK SINATRA knew he was getting a raw deal. He could sing but he was not much of a songwriter, so he never saw a cent when most of his 300 or so singles were played on American radio. He spent years fruitlessly lobbying Congress to change a 1909 royalties law, which requires radio broadcasters to pay composers but not performers. Broadcasters-a more formidable lobby than artists or record labels-have long fought any change, arguing that airtime gives singers free publicity. But this month the artists and labels have had some good news.
弗兰克·辛纳特拉(FRANK SINATRA)知道自己受到的待遇不公正。他歌唱得好,但写歌不在行;因此,虽然他大约300首单曲中的大部分在美国广播电台播放,他却从来没拿到过一分钱。一项1909年的版权使用费法要求电台对歌曲作者付款,但不必对歌者付款。他多年游说国会修改这项法律,但毫无成效。广播公司的游说比艺术家或唱片公司更强大;他们长期以来反对对这项法律的任何修改,理由是广播免费宣传了歌唱家。但本月歌手与唱片公司终于听到了些好消息。

On June 5th Clear Channel Communications, America's largest radio broadcaster, announced a deal with Big Machine, a country-music label, to pay performance royalties on all its radio channels, terrestrial (ie, over the air) and digital. The plan is for Clear Channel to pay the label and its artists, who include Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw, a cut of its advertising revenue.
美国最大的广播公司清晰频道(Clear Channel Communications)6 月5日宣布与一家乡村音乐唱片公司大机器(Big Machine)达成协议,将为它播出的所有大机器名下的歌曲演出付费,无论歌曲是由地面频道或数字频道播出。根据该计划,清晰频道将按广告收入比例向大机器及它旗下的艺术家付费,其中包括泰勒·斯威夫特和蒂姆·麦克罗(Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw)。

The agreement indicates that Clear Channel plans to invest more in digital radio, the part of the industry that is growing. But unlike terrestrial broadcasters, digital stations are obliged by a 1998 law to pay fees to artists whenever a song is played. This skewed system has made life painful for digital platforms trying to build an audience, such as Pandora, which pays out more than half of its revenue in music royalties. "We can't make business work online with these rates," says Tim Westergren, founder and chief strategy officer of Pandora. His firm has spent $50,000 this year lobbying Congress to change the law.
这项协议表明,清晰频道计划增加它在数字广播上的投资,而正是数字广播在广播业中前景可观。但与地面广播公司不同的是,按照一项1998年的法律规定,无论何时,只要数字电台播出歌曲,它都必须向演唱者付费。这种扭曲的制度让试图招徕听众的数字平台日子很不好过;仅以潘多拉(Pandora)为例,它收入的一半以上都用于支付音乐版权费。潘多拉的创建人、首席策略师蒂姆·威斯特格兰(Tim Westergren)说:"版税如此之高,我们没法开展在线业务。"他的公司今年已在游说国会修改法律上花了5万美元。

Only 2% of Clear Channel's listeners are digital and 98% terrestrial, so the deal looks costly. But Big Machine supplies only a small proportion of Clear Channel's music. And paying a share of ad revenues hurts less than paying per song. The idea is to see what this does to the bottom line before negotiating with other labels.

The deal may also reflect anxiety on Clear Channel's part. Its leveraged buy-out in 2008, just before the ad market collapsed, has left it heavily in hock. It has enough cash to keep things humming for a few years, but in 2016 debts of $12.1 billion fall due. The company will probably need a maturity extension. "There's no way to pay that," says Melissa Link of Fitch, a ratings agency. "They need growth."
这项协议可能也反映了清晰频道方面的担忧。2008年,它在广告市场崩溃前举债收购,这使之负债沉重。几年内它尚有足够的资金周转,但2016年有一笔121亿美元的债务到期。该公司或将需要延期偿债。惠誉评级公司(Fitch)的梅利莎·林克(Melissa Link)说:"钱他们肯定还不了,他们需要发展。"

All eyes are now watching to see whether Clear Channel can make money from digital radio. It already has iHeartRadio, an internet network launched in 2008, which relies on ads rather than subscriptions. In September 2011 the network began offering customisable playlists, like Pandora. It offers 11m songs, compared with Pandora's 900,000-but has only a tenth of its rival's listeners. The big source of growth is among smartphone buyers, who account for 70% of Pandora's streaming. Yet Pandora also relies heavily on advertising (only 10% subscribe), and mobiles have proven difficult for ad sales.

Second only to television in its reach, terrestrial radio does not face much of a threat from digital, especially given the royalty burden on digital providers. Air-wave radio has held on to listeners, because it remains free and convenient, particularly for car-bound commuters. Though carmakers are starting to integrate digital-radio platforms, streaming audio can eat up most mobile data plans. It is not expected to steal many listeners soon. But for artists, the Clear Channel deal has hit the right note.

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