EXCLUSIVE REPORT: A2IM's Gordon Looks To The Future Of Indie Music On The Radio
March 5, 2007

With a pending deal between the FCC and four major radio companies - CBS Radio, Clear Channel, Entercom and Citadel - set to give independent artists unprecedented access to the airwaves, American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) Board Member Peter Gordon is excited for the future of indie music.

Gordon, who was the lead negotiator for A2IM in the pending announcement, tells FMQB that final details may take "a few days," but "we have an understanding in principle. We have agreed to agree, which is always nice."

"This is a chance for our industry to take matters into our own hands and find our own corrective measures, as free markets should do," adds Gordon. "This points to the success of individuals that can move forward and do the right things for the right reasons."

Asked to define what constitutes an indie label, Gordon replied, "In general terms, if you are not owned and controlled by a major label, and your market share is not reported by a major label, then you are an independent label. It has to be fully defined, but those are the general working principals."

"Independents have grown over the years," said Gordon while explaining how this deal was able to come to fruition. "We are now properly organized with the A2IM. We know how to marshal our resources. We didn't really have a single voice before, so we were a hard group to grab ahold of and work with on a national basis. Now that we know our constituents, we've put all that knowledge and professionalism to good use and are bringing it to radio. They need to be commended  for seeing the opportunity as a chance to turbocharge themselves in the market and become more relevant than they have ever been."

The forthcoming agreement will find radio stations from the four companies offering 8,400 half-hours of free airtime to independent and local artists across a wide range of genres including Country, Hip-Hop, Rock and more. The time devoted to independent artists would be required to air between 6 a.m. and midnight.

Details of the breakdown of half-hours per radio company are still being worked out. Gordon says they were first looking for a "basic level of commitment which shows that this is being taken very seriously. We also have to respect that every radio group will implement them with different programming concepts and points of execution. We certainly respect that and will work with them on an individual basis to make sure this is successful. We're not trying to make it one-size-fits-all. We're trying to be flexible within their programming philosophies. That's what makes us good as indies. We are agile. We are forward thinking and willing to work with radio to herald this relationship for the right reasons."

One question among some programmers that FMQB talked to today found them wondering if the programming half-hours needed to run in blocks. Some stations feel they have two or three hour programs dedicated to new music equally from both independent and major labels. So would that type of programming fulfill the pending agreement?

"We've looked at it in principle as an indie programming block," explained Gordon. "There may be variations on a theme, depending how a station is formatted and their relationship with the market. But the block is the first operative principle. From there we have to see what type of programming fits in best with what the listener is experiencing. We don't want to be considered out of context, but we want to have that point of recognition. The whole point is indie content is being isolated as something very special and an important segment of the programming."

Asked if stations could relegate the half-hour blocks to their HD channels, Gordon replied, "This is terrestrial right now."

Gordon also wanted to stress that he sees this agreement as "not the end of a negotiation, but the start of a relationship. Maybe we are starting with 8,400 half-hour blocks, but that could double or triple. This is really the hope and the promise of two sectors coming together to add a freshness to the approach. We really can't do it without radio." 

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Jon Zellner
EVP/Programming Operations

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