Independent singer songwriter Mikey Wax tried lots of different music promotion services to get exposure for his music. But he never saw the kind of attention he got when he bought 2000 airplays for his songs on Jango. “I had nearly 400 ‘likes’, over 50 new fans, and lots of positive comments” says Wax. “This kind of immediate response is hard to find anywhere else for independent artists. I saw an increase in traffic to my website and MySpace, as well as an increase in album sales on iTunes and cdbaby.com.”
Internet radio station Jango recently launched its Airplay service which allows emerging musicians to purchase plays or listens to their music. The station allows listeners to design their own station by entering the names of artists they like to listen to, and then delivers those artists along with other, similar sounding music based on the listener’s preferences.
For some, the idea of “pay for play” is distasteful, but for musicians that are looking to connect with listeners, it sounds like a great deal – for $30 they get played 1000 times to listeners who have an affinity for their kind of music. Jango says initial testing of Jango Airplay shows strong enthusiasm from artists for guaranteed spins to a targeted, receptive audience – and from Jango listeners to engage with up-and-coming acts and actively contribute to their success. On average, $30 spent on 1,000 plays results in 100 positive actions from listeners who say they like the artist, write a comment, and/or become a full-fledged fan.
Once a musician gets 50 positive ratings from listeners, they get added into the free rotation of music on the station – in other words, they have proven themselves with the audience and get rewarded with increased play. Plus, artists can communicate directly with their new fans, and get more information about the people who like their music.
The word payola has had a negative connotation for radio. The FCC closely regulates the exchange of payment for airing a program or song, and requires that such be announced on air. These regulations arose following scandals in the 1950s involving radio stations and DJs and record companies. As recently as 2007, four major radio companies were charged with payola violations by the FCC and forced to pay huge fines.
Unlike broadcast radio, Internet radio pays performance copyright fees for the right to play songs. These fees have made it difficult for commercial webcasters to find a profitable business model. The idea of charging for airplay has naturally developed as a possible business model.
The way that Jango has structured this makes it very palatable for both the listener and the musician. The listener has control in selecting what they want to hear and can rate the music after they hear it. The musician gets more control over how often their music gets played and the chance to connect with listeners who like their stuff.