Dickey: 'It's the root of a lot of evil.'

Radio and recording industry executives grappled with their changing relationship in the post Eliot Spitzer-Sony BMG settlement climate at the National Assn. of Broadcasters Radio Show today (Sept. 23).

Moderator John Dickey, executive VP of Cumulus Media, called for an end to the decades-old practice of radio stations reporting their adds to trade publications and record companies. "It's the root of a lot of evil and somebody ought to take a stand and do away with it," Dickey said.

Clear Channel senior VP of programming Marc Chase called reported adds an "old, outmoded practice" but questioned whether it would stop. "Do we like the add? Yeah," said Island Def Jam senior VP of promotion Erik Olesen. "But we are really focused on audience." Olesen said his label is now releasing albums based on them first reaching a specific audience threshold.

Asked about the value of independent promoters, Chase said, "Put a fork in them" in the traditional sense. Labels stopped spending money on indies because they didn't see any value in them, Chase said. "For the most part it's a dying breed," Olesen said, acknowledging that some indie promoters will survive but more as information sources.

Asked about the effectiveness of labels placing spot buys on radio stations, Olesen said his company still selectively places radio time buys. "A time buy isn't going to affect a PD's decision," Olesen said. "It's about taking it to the next level. A lot of it is channeled to TV to get that big bang" to help affect a No. 1 sales debut.

No longer spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on conventions and artist showcases, Olesen said Island Def Jam exposes artists through Internet sites like MySpace, HipHop, iTunes and others, as well as Clear Channel's new Stripped online initiative. Where labels used to need a certain number of spins to gauge a song's viability, they now promote and assess a song before taking it to radio, Olesen said.

All Access founder and publisher Joel Denver said there are more opportunities for radio to recognize what is going on in the street than ever before.

"There was a lot of animosity between our company and the record industry," Chase said. But getting together and talking with the labels "has taken a lot of the fangs out of our relationship," he said.

The arrival of Arbitron's portable people meter and its ability to measure how audiences respond to specific programming elements "may change our integration strategy" of putting unfamiliar music on the air, Chase said. Finding a way to give listeners a "taste" of new music before airing it is something Chase said he would like to see.

Dickey agreed, saying labels and radio need to figure out ways to contextualize music to listeners up front. "If we don't reshape this relationship, somebody is already doing that for us. We need to take control of the relationship."