The Explosive Growth of Audio on Demand: The Radio Industry Should Take Notice and Fix Its Rights Problems

Not only am I a huge fan of a variety of podcasts, I also co-host one. And when I’m in the car, I often use my smartphone to listen to other on-demand audio, including audiobooks. This sort of audio entertainment and information is growing–and growing fast.

Canadian radio stations would love to be able to offer their programming on and on-demand basis. I, for example, am always asked why The Ongoing History of New Music isn’t available for on-demand streaming. The issue is one of regulation. The people who hold the rights to the music used within the show have made it so damn (a) difficult; and (b) expensive to allow this to happen that we’re hamstrung and totally confused.

Believe me, if we could stream the show on demand, we would. Not only would this be a service to listeners but it’s also a potential source of profit for everyone involved.

Yet no matter how much I try, I can’t seem to get a straight answer on how to do this legally. It appears to involve acquiring the consent (and in some cases paying–in advance) a diverse group of rightsholders, none of whom seem to talk to each other about these sorts of things. I even moderated a panel at Canadian Music Week a couple of years ago that featured key people from the music rights industry (performing rights organizations, collectives, record labels, etc.)–and none of them appeared to understand any of my questions or my concerns about the roadblocks Canadian radio content creators face. After 45 minutes, I gave up.

Oh, sure, you can find all sorts of Ongoing History torrents online, but I, Corus Entertainment (the owners of the finished shows) or any of the people who created the music created therein (or own the rights thereto) are compensated. It’s totally, totally insane.

But we gotta do something. There’s a huge uptick in the public’s thirst for on-demand audio. Podcasts are experiencing a renaissance, thanks to high-quality programming like NPR’s Serial. Yet those of use who create music-based programming are screwed.

This is from RadioInk.

Edison Research held an online meeting Wednesday [June 24] where it presented The Podcast Consumer 2015. Edison’s VP of Strategy and Marketing Tom Webster conducted the meeting. This presentation gave details of the company’s 2015 podcasting data, as well as look into the future of on-demand audio for both content producers and advertisers. The following is look at many of the key points presented at this presentation and Webster’s thoughts on the future of the medium.

First, he presented some of the important stats.

Webster (pictured) pointed out that in 2006, only 22% of the public polled had ever heard of the term podcasting, and only about 11% had even heard a podcast at least once. In a study done earlier this year called The Infinite Dial 2015, done in partnership with Triton Digital, they found that this year, 49% of the public are familiar with the term podcasting and 33% have listened to podcasts. Edison found out that in 2015, 17% listen to podcasts monthly, which equates to approximately 46 million Americans. Webster fully expects that number to eclipse 50 million in 2016. The research showed that podcasting is growing and that it is becoming more of a content habit for listeners.

Who listens to podcasts? A decade ago, it was primarily males who would listen. In 2015, that number is now evenly split with 50% men, 50% women. The age breakdown, which ten years ago was primarily 25-34-year-olds, now is almost identical to the U.S. population breakdown, with the exception of those ages 65+, who only recently began to use podcasts for entertainment (6% overall).

Edison’s new survey has found that the average podcast listener is more affluent and educated than the typical American consumer.

Smartphone ownership has been found to be a major factor in the consumption of podcasts. This year, 22% of smartphone users have listened to a podcast in the last month. For those who do not own a smart phone, only 5% listened to a podcast in the month before.

Read the whole thing here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “The Explosive Growth of Audio on Demand: The Radio Industry Should Take Notice and Fix Its Rights Problems

  • July 12, 2015 at 2:22 am

    We jump through the same hoops in the States to play copyrighted music in podcasts. At the present time there are no statutory licenses for podcasts as there are for radio stations or streaming web services. There are 4 rights licenses that must be individually negotiated on a case-by-case basis (3 if you can trust a recent court ruling, which I don’t because I believe the litigation is ongoing). You can read my post about this on my website if you’re so inclined (Music to Our (Listeners’) Ears) for more details. The issue, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, seems to be the record industry cannot get past the idea that using a song in a podcast is the equivalent of putting that song on the web as a free download, but including that song in a stream is not.

    Ironically, it’s radio that might solve the problem. As larger stations and media companies get involved in podcasting, they’re going to want to include music programming as part of their podcast offerings. Right now, podcasting is dis-organized, in the sense that, as an industry, it does not speak with one voice. But, radio stations are served by industry organizations such as the National Association of Broadcasters (which, ironically, was formed to haggle over radio station licensing fees with ASCAP). As an independent podcaster, I’ll take help where I can get it. If US media companies can negotiate statutory licensing for podcasts I’ll be grateful enough to return to listening to the radio.


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