Dead Industry Radio: A nickelodeon for the 21st century

Meet Dead Industry Radio, a new enterprise based in Brampton, Ontario, that wants to pay musicians for each stream or broadcast of their songs.

In movies and TV shows depicting life in the rosy-cheeked 1950s, teeny boppers were always feeding nickels into jukeboxes to hear the songs they loved. That’s where the term nickelodeon comes from, despite what the cartoon and live-action children’s network that used to play classic sitcoms would have you believe.

Dead Industry Radio goes back to that concept but with a digital twist.

Instead of buying into a performance rights system or artists getting paid through a convoluted chain of royalties and rights and the like, Dead Industry Radio would pay artists half a cent per play or stream.

This would represent “a 900% increase in revenue for songwriters,” Dead Industry Radio’s website says. “Musicians currently receive roughly $0.0005 (five percent of a cent) per song stream or radio play, after all is said and done.”

The operation’s goal is clear and plainly stated: “Dead Industry Radio aims to provide an alternative to the music industry, and eventually replace commercial radio in its entirety.”

There are other elements to this proposal, including ways for bands and solo musicians to directly promote their music to fans, sell tickets and organize tours.

Bands who sign up with Dead Industry Radio will receive a statement each month, their Band Bonus, spelling out the money they’ve obtained from ticket sale surcharges. This amount will be evenly divided among the bands and can be allocated “internally toward industry companies that have a Dead Industry Radio account. Record studios, audio hardware/software manufacturers and music video recording/editing companies will have their own related and dedicated account,” according to the company’s website.

If a band or company sells merchandise through the platform, bands can use their Band Bonus toward purchases at a discounted price. Band Bonus funds can also be used on studio or video production time.

On the surface, this sounds like another way for musicians – independent musicians especially—to try to break into public knowledge in an era where everyone’s talking about blockchain and feeling ripped off by streaming. It offers a lot of the same services as other wholly digital operations aimed at musicians and performers but does seem to have a slightly broader reach.

Dead Industry Radio describes itself as a “music-based social media website…designed to provide an alternative to the current music industry.” All users sign up as “fans” initially, one of six account types offered— the others include Bands, Hosts (think venue management), Studios, Manufacturers (hardware/software makers) and Video Service (recording and editing companies)—and solo musicians can affiliate with other Band accounts as applicable to ensure proper division of royalties without having to do the math themselves.

Similar to other websites like Bandcamp, BandsinTown and others, fans can track the artists they like to get notified when new songs are available. An online master scheduler makes it easy to see which artists are on tour when and where they’re going. Bands can also use the platform to create and send newsletters to fans.

And if a fan wanted to pay more for a song, or to otherwise financially contribute to artists they enjoy, a “donate” button will be available, giving the fan the option of paying more than half a cent per stream.

Will this gain a toehold among artists? Will fans literally buy in to the idea of paying their favourites directly? Will this really represent the future of the music industry? Stay tuned.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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