Our first joint venture is going to really shake things up in the radio industry.

Our first joint venture, Emergence.fm has introduced a game-changing music research platform that promises more highly targeted programming guidance for terrestrial broadcasters at a lower cost than alternatives.

The first question I'm usually asked when I tell people that we're developing technology for broadcast radio is, "Isn't streaming killing radio?" This question reflects the prevailing attitude that the choice between radio and streaming is one of either/or. The answer is no, radio is far from dead, and in many markets is alive and well. Most people, myself included, don’t really care where their content is coming from, as long as it’s content they want to hear.

The death of radio has been predicted multiple times over the past century, yet remains as resilent as ever. With over 200 million listeners in the US (and growing) across a wide range of demographics tuning in every week, radio remains a force to be reckoned with. It continues to be presented with challenges yet its staying power and ability to hold an audience is as powerful as it has ever been. According to Neilsen, radio is still to this day, the dominant form of new music discovery. Yes. Radio.

On the consumer side, the success of radio can be attributed primarily to three factors:

  • Low cost of acquisition. It's free. No subscriptions or signups to get the content.
  • Familiarity and ease of use. Most people are aware of it and have ready access to a radio.
  • Local content such as news, sports, traffic and local happenings that can't be easily provided or programmed via streaming services.

From a business perspective, radio has remained reslient due to the fact that it has a different royalty structure and traditionally a different relationship with the recording industry that allows them to operate much more profitably than any of the streaming services could ever dream of at the moment. Both Spotify and Pandora have yet to produce profits and are still losing millions every quarter.

The tools for terrestrial broadcasting have come a long way in the last 20 years. However, most of these innovations have focused on engineering and production, advancements like station automation and digital radio. Very little has been done to help station managers and program directors gain a more timely understanding of their audience and confront the competitive programming challenges that help with audience retention and time spent listening (TSL) to the station.

What is Music Research?

Watch the Emergence explainer video:

Streaming allows the listening experience to be tailored through immediate, interactive feedback. The thumbs up/down feature on Pandora is a great example of this. Programming a radio station however, is still more art than science, and has been mired in the past. The concept of music research has been around for decades, and music research tools and methodologies have pretty much remained stuck in amber for years. Music research has typically been expensive, outdated and inflexible, and many stations, particularly smaller ones, don’t use it due to these shortcomings.

Emergence.fm Music Research changes the paradigm by offering a low cost, yet extremely powerful set of web-based, hosted research tools for programmers to easily engage and understand their audiences.

How does it work?

Programmers set up a test, which typically represents a subset of the music library that is used to program a station for a given format. Let's say the format for a station is classic rock. Music Research will tell you if you're playing "Back in Black" too much or not enough. This is referred to as "burn.”

Knowing the burn of a song tells the programmer when to give it a rest and play something else. Along with tracking burn, familiarity of the song and its net positive score, or how much the listener "likes" the track, are recorded. Tracks with low familiarity and high net positive scores (i.e. "I haven't heard that track before but I really like it") are referred to as "stealth hits" and can help the programmer identify new music to put into the rotation.

Along with feedback on songs, Emergence.fm captures a wealth of geographic and demographic data that enables station owners to understand the makeup of their audience. A perceptual question engine allows station managers to ask audience members questions that are pertinent to local advertisers. On behalf of a car dealer, for example, a station might ask listeners if they're planning to buy a car in the next 6 months, what their budget is, and what brands they are leaning toward.

Combine the perceptual engine with powerful analytics capabilities, tools for managing multiple station groups and the ability to perform unlimited tests for a low monthly fee, and Emergence.fm Music Research offers an unprecedented research solution for broadcasters. These tools allow the broadcaster to interact much more frequently with their audience and learn what it takes to expand and retain that audience with greater speed and precision than ever before.

This is the first of many solutions through our Emergence.fm joint venture. We're confident that these products will disrupt the radio industry. This shift will allow broadcasters to utilize powerful, hosted applications to operate more profitably and offer a much more interactive experience for their listeners.

In my next post, I'll explain how Music Research from Emergence.fm will help democratize the process of music discovery for the independent artist.