An MTV veteran, he’s ready to upend the music game again—this time with iHeartRadio and royalty deals that could reshape broadcasting
Bob Pittman pulled off the deal that many said couldn’t be done, snagging the first of the major labels, Warner Music Group, to take part in a radio royalty share initiative he’s been championing for the last two years.
As the nation’s largest radio group looks to its digital initiative iHeartRadio for growth, it wants to avoid the per-user royalty unpredictability that has plagued webcasters, and Pittman was ready to put performance royalties for terrestrial radio airplay on the table to help accomplish that. WMG, perhaps the most nimble of the majors, got not just payment, but broadcast promotional opportunities as well.
For Pittman, a media veteran whose career spans Warner Communications, AOL and MTV, among others, the push to regularize radio’s relationship with labels was essential to moving both businesses forward. “It’s now possible to develop a contractual relationship with the music business that allows us both to predict what the other will do and plan ahead,” he says. The focus is on not only developing new artists but also helping give more intelligent support to established acts. “The stronger we can make the music business the better it is for us.”
Pittman has been a champion of the iHeartRadio app, which now has 70 million users—“as many as Pandora,” he says. He sees it as a game-changer. “The power is now always with the consumer. If we think otherwise, it will make us complacent and we’ll get disrupted. The music business in particular is more driven by the consumer than any other business I’ve been in.”