If we take the UK’s most listened-to radio show- BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show – then the songwriter can expect the Performing Right Society for Music expect Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) to collect roughly £60. Stare at a royalty statement which lists £150 for a spin alongside £0.005 for a stream and you can understand the fear of letting go of the old wine.
But the economics don’t support that fear. A ‘spin’ on BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show will reach 8 million people; you need therefore to divide the £150 by the 8 million pairs of ears to get a comparative unit value per listener, and this results in £0.00002 – which is less than half a percent of the £ 0.005 that you would get from one unique person on a streaming service. What’s more, this is not an either/or comparison as those who listen to it on the radio may be more inclined to stream it on Spotify. To bring this calculation full circle, had those 8 million listeners streamed the song on Spotify (which is not beyond the realms of possibility), a cheque of £40,000 would be paid across to the artist and songwriter – not £150. ‘Not too shabby’ as some Americans like to say.
We’ve been here before, where the business affected the show (or the tail wagged the dog). The first iteration of the phonograph could only hold about two to three minutes of music. It is said Puccini used to deliberately write arias that could be cut into three-minute segments that could fit on one side of a 78-rpm disc, arguably making him the first ever pop writer. Elderton notes that during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the average duration of American pop songs fell to 2 minutes and 30 seconds. As the mafia owned and controlled jukeboxes across America, they insisted that a record was limited to 2 minutes 30 seconds, allowing them to boost their take-per machine considerably.
The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is okay as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured, or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.