Speaking on a panel at the Future of Music Summit in Washington D.C. earlier this week, I was surprised at the ambivalence (at best!) of musicians towards Internet radio and the opportunities it offers them to build their fan bases and advance their careers.
After all, if you're a bluegrass artist in St. Louis or a cabaret singer in San Diego or a folk-rock act in Boston, which form of radio is going to offer the most opportunities to you -- AM/FM radio, satellite radio, or Internet radio? Obviously, I think, the latter. AM/FM and satellite radio will almost certainly give you no airplay at this point in your career (or, actually, for those first two genres, ever), whereas if Pandora includes your CD into their Music Genome Project, you'll get airplay when their listeners are listening to a station based on an artist whose music has similar characteristics to your music, AccuRadio would be happy to give you airplay on our various region-specific and genre-specific channels, and if Bill Goldsmith at Radio Paradise likes your work he might give you a great backsell after he plays your work.
But I believe there are opportunities for Internet radio to give even MORE support to developing artists than we do today (or than AM/FM or satellite radio ever will).
For example, it might benefit all parties involved if airplay for music from developing acts could be geo-targeted to the regions in which those acts are operating: If there's a bluegrass band like, say, Henhouse Prowlers that only tours in the Midwest, perhaps Internet radio stations should focus airplay of their tracks to listeners in the Midwest. (For East Coast listeners, that same slot in the hour could be given to a bluegrass brand that tours up and down the East Coast. And so forth; you get the principle.)
However, here's my idea of the day:
How about offering an "Artist Support Button" on our media players? As I envision it, this might be a 100x100-pixel button that resides near our "Play," "Pause," and "Skip" buttons or adjacent to the artist name in the "Now playing" section of our media player. (This could of course vary by webcaster.) Based on the desires of the artist being played at the moment, it could say either "Visit my website" or "Like me on Facebook" or "Catch me on tour" or "Buy this CD" or "Join my e-mail list" or "Tip the artist" and would link to the appropriate destination (And I'm envisioning that the button could be changed regularly -- e.g., "Catch me on tour" only when the artist is actually on tour.)
At the Future of Music Summit, musician Ben Weinman of the Dillinger Escape Plan said that the average fan of his band spends $100/year (including spending on concert tickets, CDs, vinyl, commemorative t-shirts for each song (!), house concerts, etc.). If we could help bands like his add new fans, the revenue potential for them could HUGE -- and it would be a win/win for everyone.
What do you think? (Have I got the germ of a good idea here?)