An Open Letter to the Radio and Record Industry

Dear Record Labels and Radio Stations,

I have been a fan of your work for a long time, and more recently became involved with it on a deeper level. But I’m not writing today about me. Today I’m writing about you, and more importantly, your relationship with each other, or the lack thereof. Unfortunately, you will probably never read this. It will only be read by people who listen to you on a consistent

I am writing because I am concerned with what is turning into quite a chasm in your relationship. I only know what I’m told and I confess to not being an expert in this. But from what I understand, the record industry wants radio to pay more for using the songs. And the radio industry in turn, doesn’t want to pay anything for using songs, but actually wants to be paid for playing them. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to take a moment to look at each side and propose a solution. So if you don’t like what you’re hearing, don’t worry, I’ll get to the other side momentarily.

First, let’s start with radio. You either make money by selling commercials or raise money by getting listeners to support your station. This money is what pays your bills, salaries, etc. These listeners, both the listeners your advertisers desire and the listeners who support your station, are attracted to your station because of the music you play. Therefore, in a very simple equation, the music makes your money. If you would like to exclude the music, that’s great. Be a talk radio station. Then the listeners listen only for you, and all money paid or given is due to you. But if they listen for the music, then you are using that music to finance your own operation. And that’s a great idea. But Jesus said, in Luke 10, “The worker deserves his wages.” I know the economy is tough. In normal businesses, they have to find ways to make do. Sometimes there are layoffs. So I guess you could view this that way. You could lay all the artists off. Then you don’t have to pay them. But then you don’t get their work either.
It’s only fair. The state of the economy is not asking you to work for nothing. I realize that fewer listeners are involved each year. I understand that can be discouraging. I know you’re trying to find ways to make radio continue to be financially viable, but I don’t think you can not pay for the music you obviously use to your benefit.

Second, record labels… You make money selling records, or at least by selling songs. The average consumer knows about said song because most of the time, they heard it on the radio. From what I’ve been told, the radio stations’ case is that they deserve to get paid because they are advertising for your product. And while that is not completely the case, it does stumble across a truth. You do benefit from radio playing your song. So, until you figure out how to market your music successfully without radio, you still need this partnership. And I know (inside information follows) that you haven’t figured that out yet. I know you’re trying. I know a radio hit does not guarantee sales anymore. But at the moment, it is still your most common avenue to introduce music to the general public. So they have a case when they say they are doing things that benefit you.

My point is that you two need each other. You are both in the midst of a rough economy trying to make things work on your balance sheet. But the answer is not hurting the other. Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. Otherwise, I would be out selling that answer and not writing this blog. What I do know is that for decades the two of you have worked together to
introduce thousands, maybe millions, of artists to the world. Music has saturated our culture. And it’s because you worked together. I don’t see why you’re trying to fix something that’s not broken. The current situation has worked. Let the radio stations pay a reasonable amount to use the music. The problem is that you can’t agree on what is reasonable. Well,
don’t try to make your year’s budget on this issue. It doesn’t need to greatly increase or decrease. Consider it a partership, like it always has been. If you need to make more money to balance your budget, then do it in other ways. Have a bake sale.

Now, for those of you who are in the mainstream media (right, like that’s going to happen, but just in case it does), that is the end of my letter to you. I am very grateful for all you have done over the years. You have made and shared so much music with me. And now you’re allowing me to make and share music myself. So, thanks. I hope you can work it out.

For those in the Christian media, I have one more thought. You are part of a kingdom. You are created and purposed for the glory of Christ. The king is in charge here. When a king has economic problems, does he set his knights against his farmers? His blacksmiths against his cooks? No. Why? Because he needs all of them. Remember the person you are fighting is a child of God. And more importantly that you are connecting pieces in a puzzle, a tapestry, if you will, that will express the glory of God to the world. If you can work together. And I think you can. Because friends are friends forever. Thanks for reading.