I heard it on the radio

A while back you may recall the trumped up hubbub over “XM sg radio [pause for two beats] … ONLINE.” David Bruce Murray over at musicscribe blog took it for a test spin, which is about all I really know of it, except that I’m skeptical. Their public cattle call for material was and is not encouraging, since it suggests a dearth of corporate resources devoted to the enterprise and scant up-front commitment from within the industry to launch a station with even a modicum of playable stock. Given XM’s reluctance to put sg on its menu of satellite options, Sirius - the new sat-rad kid in town - would do well to undercut rival XM and get in on the sg action. Sirius installed a new leadership team a couple of months back, bringing in Mel Karmazin as CEO (he built up either Clear Channel or Infinity, I forget - one of the big radio chains anyway). The Sirius modus operandi this past year (at least pre-Karmazin) was to build new channel offerings around personalities (Howard Stern, Elvis, Eminen, et al). So if they found the right personality to front for and brand an sg station, then sg would seem to be a fit for Sirius. I’ve heard here and there that the few overtures Sirius has made to industry types has been met with some resistance (translation: the industry cut probably wasn’t fat enough and the folks listening to the pitch probably weren’t in a particularly longview frame of mind). Taken together, the apparent reluctance of the industry to seed XM sg online with ample stock and the cold response to Sirius only reconfirms the conventional wisdom that the sg market works more like OPEC than a traditional supply-demand network. Rather than making decisions that hedge against long-term contingencies and aim for maximal growth over time (even occasionally at the cost of some short-term profits), the junta of sg potentates manage their affairs so that access to the barrel of fish that is sg consumers remains as controlled as possible.To record label owners, distributors, promoters and other sundry string pullers like the NQC board, satellite radio is not the blessing some consumers imagine it to be. If you think local country and pop stations struggle to compete against satellite radio, try putting the local mom-and-pop gospel stations up against it. When cash-conscious casual sg fans who might shell out a $25 monthly donation to the local Christian radio station finds out they could cut that back to $12 a month and get top-shelf sg on satellite radio, what happens? Or, worse/better yet, what happens when all the people who aren’t within signal range of a tower-fed station (or don’t sit in front of a computer all day listening to streaming online stations) discover that satellite radio can give them what they want for so little and without Sister Selma’s devotional and prayer time in the mix? It’s another facet of the digital dilemma in the music industry generally, and the only reasons it isn’t hitting sg harder right now are that 1)trends everywhere else usually take at least five and sometimes up to 15 years to reach sg and 2)industry executives and leaders are by and large actively resisting these kinds of innovations where they can (rebuffing Sirius) and dragging their feet when they can’t (not stocking XM). Look at digital downloads: a la carte sg music stores online are not in the best economic interest of an industry full of artists who rely on table sales for a big portion of their revenue, not in the interest of labels whose business models are built around concert-venue sales and brick-and-mortar retail outlets, and not in the interest of the promoters who can attract big groups mainly on the promise of big crowds, ergo good table traffic. Why shell out $15 for three decent songs and seven sorry ones on a cd when you can go online and cherry pick whatever you want? Do the McKameys or the Inspirations stand a chance with their music standing alongside SSQ and GV on iTunes? Probably not with the kind of consumer that would shop online for music. And lest you think I’m howling mad at the moon, that there’s no critical mass of consumers and fans to support this kind of new-fangled claptrap even if someone would invest in it, that only a fool would sink resources into some digital boondoggle, consider this: The little birdies tell me that Gaither is eyeing a branded gospel satellite radio offering in the not-too-distant future. Radio is the weak link in his media chain, so it’s a wise bidness move. And Gaither is not exactly known for his stupid investments.

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