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Radio, Vinyl and Streaming Take Center Stage at A2IM’s Indie Week

"When the sea and temperature rises and we can no longer inhabit the planet, there will be two survivors, cockroaches and vinyl."

On the penultimate day of the American Association of Independent Music’s (A2IM) indie week convention — held at the Marriot Hotel on the east side of middle Manhattan — independent label executives discussed, with varying levels of optimism, how the music industry is changing through streaming, but also reminded attendees that old school radio is still an important element in promoting music.

“Radio still matters,” Razor & Tie co-owner Cliff Chenfeld said. In the new digital world, “its not like the old days. If you had a record on the radio, you sold some records,” Chenfeld said — and then it was over.


The longer a song is on the radio, the better results in the streaming world. In that same panel on radio, RED senior vp of promotion and artist development Danny Buch admonished indie labels; when working records to radio, you shouldn’t measure success on how high the song charts with the station, but rather on how long you are getting airplay. If you “chase a record over a longer period of time, it lets the public catch up” to the artist behind the song, he said.

Beggars Group U.S. president Matt Harmon questioned the industry standard of allowing 1,500 streams to count as one album equivalent. That helps the major labels, who may get those 1,500 streams mainly from Spotify’s free tier, while only getting 14 percent from the higher-paying premium tier. He added that indie labels like Beggars might get as much as 70 to 80 percent of their streams from premium tiers, and doesn’t think that the 1,500-stream standard makes for a good apple-to-apple comparison when measuring the strength of a song or album. In a later panel, Epitaph gm Dave Hansen said that when his label thinks of radio, “it starts with SiriusXM and Pandora,” because both provide so many niche opportunities and play a good “discovery” role for their listeners.

Yet, in the earlier panel on radio, SoundExchange president and panel moderator Mike Huppe pointed out that no industry generates more revenue off of music than radio, which brings in $15 billion a year in advertising. Yet, as a percentage, radio pays less to the industry than other licensees. (This discrepancy is the subject of the Fair Play Fair Play Act, currently in committee in Congress.)

Finally, the panel turned its attention to the one area where the indies stand tall against the majors efforts: vinyl. “Vinyl is the most reliable format we can forecast,” said Secretly Group principle Darius Van Arman, who added that opinion that vinyl’s growth is not a bubble. “When the sea and temperature rises and we can no longer inhabit the planet, there will be two survivors, cockroaches and vinyl,” he said.