Mayor Menino, Internet Radio Pioneer

Being in the broadcast business I cross paths with a lot of media makers. Mayor Menino was the very first in studio guest on Boston Herald Radio on their launch day, August 5th, 2013. It was my pleasure to be there when he came into the studio with Joe Sciacca.

Hillary Chabot and Jaclyn Cashman interviewed him as part of their show Morning Meeting. The Herald had recently moved to the Boston Innovation District — the Mayor was the greatest proponent of the growth of that area of Boston, and I think he was really very interested in a new media project getting launched there, and wanted to give it his blessing.

That was Mayor Menino, always looking to connect with the community and push things forward.

 


Your Station Anywhere — How Might This Tagline Change Your Radio Future?

Finding the right motto or tagline is tougher than we imagined. We had to struggle to distill our message into as few words as possible, yet convey the essence of what makes Backbone Radio unique.  Our previous tagline was “Internet Radio Simplified”. That expression was correct, but it didn’t tell people how radio can be great again.

Backbone Networks - Your Station AnywhereWe like our new tagline better, because it concisely says what we provide: freedom and power. How’s that? Let’s examine the tagline to see what we mean, starting with the noun.

STATION
Backbone creates Internet radio stations. We aren’t in the business of producing “shows” or time slots on existing radio stations.  A station is a 24/7, round-the-clock entity, and it always has programs running no matter when a listener tunes in.  Maybe listeners will find your station on your station’s website and listen there; maybe on an Internet tuner like TuneIniTunes or dar.fm. Maybe on their laptop, desktop, iPhone or Android, or any of hundreds of devices like Roku or their car’s digital dashboard.

The station is what listeners search for. A program or show is what’s playing when they find your station.  So, your station could include your show, your choice of PSA’s or none at all, shows contributed by your esteemed colleagues or best friends, shows contributed by people who pay you to air them, or any other audio content you choose. That is the importance of the word YOUR.

YOUR
In traditional over-the-air (OTA) radio, your job is at the will of someone else. Ultimately, that other person is the OTA station owner.  He chooses who to hire and who to fire based on fundamental economics, the same way he makes decisions about transmitter maintenance and janitorial services. Your job is always on the line.

You UsYou prove your value by bringing in listeners and creating a following, which in turn brings in revenue from sponsors and advertisers. Your value has to pay for your salary plus millions of dollars worth of annual station operating costs.

Imagine for a moment that you converted that value to a station that had no existing overhead burden; you retain your following, your loyal sponsors and you build your own station.  You are the station owner, and you call the shots.  This is now YOUR station, so where do you put it?

ANYWHERE
This is the key word. Anywhere.  The power of radio has always been its ability to connect with people at a very personal level.  Want to cover a concert or conference, broadcast an interview from the mayor’s office, or do your show from Cancun? You have the freedom to pick up and go out into the community where things are happening making your radio station more personal.

Obviously, you will need some overhead, but how much?  Well, for starters, on the Internet you don’t have to build a tower, so no requirement for real estate, not to mention permission from the FCC, FAA or any other government bureau.  And you don’t have to sit in the same old studio day after day. You are free to take your studio with you…anywhere.

Liz Claiborne Radio RowBecause your Backbone Radio station resides “in the cloud”, your live studio can simply be “a Mac and a mic”, plus maybe a small mixer, in your backpack. As long as you can find an Internet connection (WiFi, 3G/4G, WiMax or other) you can be broadcasting live. Your other hosts for your other shows can similarly go live from their Macbooks from wherever they are at the time.

And since your archived programs and audio, syndicated content, and a very powerful automation system also reside in your station in the cloud, just stop your live broadcast session, and your automated program schedule takes over. Your studio is wherever you are, and your station is always on the air.

So, that’s it in a nutshell. YOUR STATION ANYWHERE.  It is a complete radio station, you are in control, and you are free to take it wherever you want without limitation. Now you know what we meant by our tagline and how Backbone is changing radio forever.

Your Community Radio – What About LPFM?

It’s a beautiful thing when a technology like ours can simultaneously give a worldwide reach to a community and still be the most affordable, effective way to communicate with local residents. That’s the message we will be bringing to two conferences in May in both Boston and San Francisco.

MassAccess WGBH composite logosFirst on May 3rd at WGBH in Boston, at the MassAccess Spring Mini Conference, we will meet with local TV stations and community media centers from across Massachusetts.  Then, at the end of the month in San Francisco at the Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference, we will meet with media centers from around the United States to discuss how to employ radio to promote civic engagement.

Alliance for Community Media LogoOf course, you would expect us to be promoting Internet Radio for communities – we’ve been serving city-wide school districts and community youth centers for a few years now.  What we hope to achieve at these conferences is to help communities find an effective way to integrate their “hyperlocal” (LPFM) terrestrial radio with their Internet radio operations, and save money in the bargain.

Some of the topics we hope to discuss include:

  • Reaching out with both smart phones and FM radios
  • Engaging communities better through live, remote broadcasts
  • Operating a station with a staff of one…or fewer
  • Creating professional presence with minimal capital equipment
  • How to share audio content with/from other communities, self-syndication

This appears to be a pivotal year for community radio, and we want to be a part of it.  We hope to see you at one of these events.  Please let us know if you’ll be attending.

Internet Radio Takes SxSW Music Live, Worldwide, with a Berklee Finale

South By Southwest just keeps getting bigger and better, and we had the pleasure of bringing a lot of the entertainment live to music fans around the globe this year.  Teaming up with the “Indie Ambassadors” of Presskit.to, we helped create the majority, if not all, of the live radio coverage from Austin.  In fact, in the entire SxSW Trade Show Exhibition, Backbone was the only exhibitor under the category of “radio”.

Ben Maitland-Lewis - Whole Foods, AustinAs we mentioned in our previous post, we planned to broadcast three large events, including one from the Whole Foods“mothership” store and the RockSXSW day party from the world famous Maggie Mae’s Gibson Lounge on Sixth Street.  What we didn’t tell you is our fourth music showcase would be the eighth annual Berklee College of Music’s SxSW Day Party.

See the Berklee Blogs for more photos and artist lineup on this excellent party.

We at Backbone are proud to have the opportunity to work with Presskit.to on these productions, and to have helped all of these artists reach a much wider audience from the Live Music Capital of the World.

College Radio Has a Reason to Thrive…Let’s Work on How

Keene State College logoI saw an interesting post on PolicyMic recently by Adam Hogue, where he relates his transition from a college radio broadcaster at Keene State to becoming an NPR listener, like his (egad) father, and the general decline of Radio from its golden era. What jumped off the page to me were his views about how the future of radio seems to be college radio, because it best serves today’s youth.   Here are some of the verbatim nuggets that appealed to me:

  • All around America, there are stations that people take regional pride in. Most of these stations turn out to be college radio stations.
  • The radio is communication. It is part of our communities, and as long as it continues to evolve with the communities, it will not die.
  • College radio should be the local voice of local youth. While radio is rapidly losing the young listeners demographic (people ages 12 to 24), I believe that it is the job of college radio to be the community alternative for young people.
  • College stations need to be out there in the community and they need to stay relevant with their fan-base in order to grow. Young people have time to listen if they are given a reason to.
  • People should be able to listen to programs from anywhere and enjoy them.  Today, radio has the power to be anywhere; it is no longer confined to a frequency alone.
  • Radio stations need to play music, no matter what the music is, and have local personalities that bring people in and keep them loyal…radio should be a way to learn about new music or just listen to what people have to say about it.
  • It helps that most college radio stations receive a solid amount of money from the school.… A problem occurs when the school sees radio as outdated or too costly, and the station is sold off to a community.

As I see it, this short list distills down to three main points we need to focus on in order to escape the death spiral that’s enveloping Commercial Radio.  Our College Radio stations (IBS Student Radio Network stations and others) need to:

  • Create compelling content to attract and hold onto loyal, repeat listeners,
  • Become an active participant in the community, no matter where your listeners are tuning in from, and
  • Become monetarily self-sufficient to keep from becoming a burden on their schools’ budgets.

We’re going to need some time to look at each of these points and create a plan of attack. There are other necessary improvement points, to be sure, and I’d like your input on those, as well.

I would like to invite comments, emails and blog posts from interested station managers and faculty advisors.  I think it’s time we put our collective network heads together and establish an action plan with some guidelines for how we might go about making these improvements.

Internet Radio — “By This Time Next Year” Survey Results

survey55-listen_to_one_year_from_nowHere’s something you already know in your gut, but you probably haven’t visually seen yet. The recent article by Audio Graphics summarizes “the trouble around the bend” for terrestrial broadcast radio, and how Internet radio continues to capture its listening audience. This one graph displays what online radio listeners say they will be listening to by mid-2013.

When you look at the additional survey data, you see that most of the music discovery occurs with Internet radio, which leads you to believe that Internet-only channels account for the majority of new artist coverage, since that rarely occurs on simulcast FM stations.  Not Pandora, but real Internet stations.

We are all very fortunate to be in an industry that’s on the rise, not in decline.

TuneIn Creates Internet Radio Channel For Hot 97 Summer Jam

HOT97-Summer-2012Congratulations to our partner TuneIn and Emmis Communications on the successful launch of their Internet only HOT 97 Summer Jam station in New York City.  Radio Ink mentions that the new channel will feature uncensored and uninterrupted music from from event headliners, including; Nicki Minaj, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross and Trey Songz. Listeners will also hear archived performances from past Summer Jams.

TuneIn, a free service that lets people listen to music, sports and news from all over the world, has partnered with the #1 station for hip hop and R&B in the tri-state area, WQHT-FM, “HOT 97” to create a first-of-its-kind station, showcasing the world’s premier hip hop festival, HOT 97 Summer Jam. For the first time, fans can experience nearly two decades of HOT 97’s Summer Jam from anywhere in the world, on any of the 150 devices and apps which carry the TuneIn service.

This collaboration enables HOT 97 to expand the content it distributes to hip hop fans and illustrates how broadcasters are using the TuneIn platform to distribute programming which can help expand their over-the-air brand.  The radio industry is rapidly transitioning to digital formats, and traditional radio stations are working quickly to adapt and compete in an evolving streaming and digital landscape.

We expect that this will be come a new model for traditional terrestrial stations to follow extending their programming within their community and enabling them to be heard anywhere, without restrictions or boundaries.

Backbone Radio YouTube Channel – Internet Radio Simplified

You-Tube logoOver the years we have given a lot of training sessions on Backbone radio.  Afterwards many people said, “that was simple”.  With that kind of response we felt that we were doing the right thing by providing the personalized service of one to one online training sessions, going to conferences or even a few visits.

Since it is so simple we decided we should just do a quick set of videos on how easy it is to get started with Backbone radio.  So today we are launching a playlist of videos on how to operate Backbone radio along with our new tagline, “Internet Radio Simplified”.

There are only four videos:

  1. Installation and Configuration
  2. Loading Content
  3. Creating Rotational Playlists
  4. XTSR Station Training Video

The first two are quite short, less than 3 minutes a piece.  The third one, while a little over 7 minutes, provides a bit more depth on rotation and how it can be used as a powerful programming tool for your station.  There is a forth one from XTSR at Towson University, this is the video they use if for the training for their station operations.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL44AC0624A240407E

In launching Backbone Networks YouTube Channel we found a number of other great videos created by our stations or by our friends in the industry.  Even if you are already a customer and use the software daily please watch. Leave comments here or on our YouTube channel about what you think.  We would appreciate your feedback on what you like and what we could to to improve them going forward.

We are also looking for additional topics for short videos on using the our service.

Rethink Music – Radio’s changing place in the market

rethink music logoI went to the Rethink Music Conference last week.  It was great to catch up with people and to meet some new ones.  Overall there was much hope for the future but still a lot of grousing about the current state of the music business.

The biggest complaint was that performers were not getting paid enough by Spotify.  One tweet said, “I don’t know how any artist can be psyched on #spotify after that presentation #rethinkmusic no real signs of how this ser…“.  This perception by artists is a dramatic shift in the music industry from traditional music promotion.

As Seth Godin, the Keynote speaker, noted the first day of the conference, the music industry is not in trouble, the record industry is.  In this YouTube video with Ariel Hyatt he notes, “there has never, ever, ever, ever been a better time to be an independent artist”.

he continues to actually answer the question about how the artist should be psyched.  “The internet is radio without having to pay the programmer”.

The trouble is many do not perceive plays by Spotify, Pandora, Rdio or other music and Internet radio services are promotional.  This changed with the belief that performers should be compensated for non-interactive streams and enshrined in the rates charged by SoundExchange.

Where terrestrial radio pays $0 for performance royalties those that broadcast via satellite or the Internet must pay much more.  Pandora, while generating lots of revenue, is running at a loss due to the burden or their royalty payments.  With the SoundExchange rates going up in the future some believe that you can not create a music service with non-interactive streams that is profitable.

Yet if you examine what happens with new artists that get played on Pandora their music sales often go up.  PandoraSpotifyCollege Radio and many other broadcast media are inexpensive promotional platforms unlike anything the music industry has ever seen.  If you look at the results of the Hackathon associated with the Rethink Music conference you see that there is still a lot of creativity being applied to the music industy. If the music industry would just embrace the new broadcast medium with old eyes about how promtion works we could create an even more vibrant music industry without the middlemen between an artist and their fans.

Backbone at SxSW 2012, launches “Internet Radio Simplified”

There’s no event that’s more exhilarating than Austin’s South by Southwest, an annual festival that combines InteractiveMusic and Film, all tied together with the new, expanding Trade Show floor.  Of course, Backbone was right in the middle of it, demonstrating “Internet Radio Simplified” for the crowds.

SXSW Trade ShowNaturally, we were delighted being the only turnkey Internet radio station provider in the event, and even more pleased so often to hear “there’s nothing else like what Backbone does”. So that’s why we bring a mobile studio to these events, to show attendees how quickly and easily they can be on the air. And because everything they need for a remote broadcast fits into a backpack (Mac+mixer+mics), setup time is only a couple of minutes.

Backbone at SXSW 2012Our mission at SxSW was twofold:

We think we did pretty well on both counts.  We met student radio representatives from a number of large universities, all of whom voiced that being part of the IBS-SRN would be a major upgrade for their radio clubs.

On the partnership front, we can’t say too much here, but we’re continuing to make good progress for your Backbone-hosted station.  For example, in the area of delivery, not only is your station now available in both the TuneIn and iTunes radio tuners, but we expect to soon have your station become available on a new service that allows your listeners to actually record your shows for later listening, just like time shifting TV programs on your DVR.  We also met up with our friends from the Public Radio Exchange who tell us that they are getting quite a reception for their Public Radio Remix efforts that is available on XM/123, terrestrially and on the Internet.

From Texas we jumped on a plane and headed back to New York for the College Media Association’s NYC12 conference.  More on this soon.