Radio Plays See A Slow Down During Pandemic Too

Apr 2, 2020

Like virtually everything else, the music business is being shaken up by the current pandemic. 

Iowa Public Radio’s Studio One is part of the non-commercial radio world, which is an interconnected system of stations, promoters and record labels, and the music you hear on shows like “Studio One Tracks” has not been spared from the slow down we’re all feeling.

The new music that we receive at Studio One is ordinarily a pretty constant flow, with an average of 40 full-length releases coming to my attention weekly. There are also plenty of singles and advance tracks from forthcoming albums.  Reviewing that music and deciding what to add for airplay on our Studio One shows can be a daunting task. 

Some of the CDs (still a popular format for our purposes) and digital downloads I receive are sent by the record companies or even the artists themselves. But most of the new music is sent by a promotion company. There are several of those, both big and small.

What promoters do

We've seen a huge amount of stations either power down, or stop receiving new add submissions because they're unable to get back into their station. - Trevor Morrison of co-sign promotion

It’s the promoter’s job to make the job of selecting music for airplay easier. When I get a new disc from a promoter, information is provided about the band or artist, and particular tracks are suggested as the ones to play. It’s in everyone’s interest (including you, the listener!) that this process moves along smoothly. 

“We’ve seen a huge amount of stations either power down, or stop receiving new add submissions because they’re unable to get back into their station, whether it be deemed unessential by the state government, or by the college/university banning all organizations/gatherings on campus…. A few stations have been trying to do remote broadcasting, but it’s all pretty new territory for most stations now," says Trevor Morrison of co-sign promotion.

There’s also a certain amount of list making involved here.

I report weekly to the North American College and Community radio chart, indicating (and ranking) what we are playing on Studio One, and what new music we are adding for airplay. NACC tabulates information from all the reporting stations and comes up with their own weekly ranked list of new music, which they make available to the record companies and promoters.

So it’s a circle of interdependence, all in the service of getting deserving new music heard.  Since so many non-commercial radio stations are affiliated with colleges, that circle was quickly disrupted when campuses shut down due to the coronavirus. 

If stations are still broadcasting in some limited way, many are simply not accepting new music right now.  However, promoters have told me that they are seeing a lot of resourcefulness in the country.  Digital music delivery via email is growing.  In many cases radio is “working from home.”

“Some stations are running all pre-recorded programming, others have some remote access to broadcast from home or find a way to add drop-ins…. Many report that since they are not able to do regular programming, current music spins will be dramatically down," says Lenny Bronstein of Heavy Lenny promotions. 

Here at IPR, we’re working to continue to bring you new music from Iowa artists by livestreaming their at-home concerts on our homepage and are launching a new virtual concert series. 

There hasn’t been a drop in new music coming out… yet

We've postponed some releases and the ones that are already out are struggling, mostly due to cancelled tour dates and events. - Michelle Feghali from Sub Pop Records

Up to this point I haven’t seen a drastic drop in the amount of new music coming in, but promoters and record companies report that more and more release dates are being pushed back. 

“There are definitely a few artists on the Sub Pop and Hardly Art roster that aren’t able to move forward on their album campaigns….We’ve postponed some releases and the ones that are already out are struggling, mostly due to cancelled tour dates and events," Michelle Feghali from Sub Pop Records says. 

With tour dates, festivals and events cancelled, “album campaigns” can’t be effectively done.  Artists and venues are filling the void with live streams on their social media. 

Some of the promoters I’ve communicated with are looking ahead to a surge of activity when we get through this.  A common refrain:  “Wait and see.”