KPIG Asks Listeners To Pay For Streams

An Internet radio legend has announced that they will stop offering free streams and tuck access to their station behind a subscription service.

KPIG has had a few lives in its pursuit of Internet radio success. It was one of, if not the first broadcast station to stream starting back in 1995, when Internet radio pioneer Bill Goldsmith, owner of Radio Paradise, was the webmaster.

“KPIG’s quirky programming was a perfect fit for the Internet when it began webcasting in1995. KPIG was the first commercial FM station to webcast its programming, and it was quite unlike anything anyone had ever heard before”, says Goldsmith. “Internet radio’s early adopters had to put up with lousy audio quality, frequent interruptions, and buggy player software — but they would do that in order to hear KPIG’s music, DJs, humor, live broadcasts…”

In 2001 Mapleton Communications bought the station. The next phase came when KPIG stopped streaming in 2002 in reaction to pricey performance royalties. That’s when they first started experimenting with subscriptions, making the stream available only through RealPlayer’s RealPass for a monthly fee. Again, from Goldsmith: “From 1995 until 2002 KPIG was one of the most listened-to stations online, with an audience size far outstripping any other FM/web simulcast. Unfortunately, the fear and confusion surrounding the 2002 CARP decision on Internet radio royalty rates caused the station’s owners to drop the webcast for over a year.”

At some point, KPIG started streaming again and has been streaming its eclectic americana format based in Freedom California to dedicated listeners worldwide, albeit a much smaller audience than back in their early streaming days. The question now is, will that audience pay for the streams they’ve been listening to for free?

A recent Nielsen study showed that about 25% of listeners are willing to pay for unique radio content – provided it’s commercial free and has value to them. They’re looking for something they can’t find on the free channel, and if they find it, they’ll pay to listen. I’ve talked to a few web-only stations who have told me that their subscription offerings are doing just fine, with a solid base of listeners who are willing to pay. More and more stations are trying it – Pandora’s Pandora One offering is just one example.

In the case of KPIG, Goldsmith for one is skeptical: “Given the number of free choices that listeners have these days (virtually all other online radio streams are free) it seems doubtful that they’ll attract more than a handful of subscribers.” On the other hand, they’ve got a unique brand and a loyal following, so who better to test the waters?

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5 responses

  1. KPIG’s management must be desperate, delusional, or both.

    This is the kiss of death for KPIG. The beginning of the end. They are doomed to obscurity from here on, assuming that wasn’t the path they were on already.

    For other webcasters thinking of doing the same, I would only recommend them to go Freemium as opposed to Premium (you can google the term freemium if you’re not familiar).

    Unfortunately, I think KPIG didn’t have too many choices. I am willing to bet their streaming operations didn’t have that many listeners, so it had no way of monetizing significantly via ads. And they will soon find they will only get a few hundred subscribers *at best* from what I can guess. Maybe even just 150-300. And that’s really not going to cut it either.

    What this means is, KPIG isn’t any different than 10,000+ other net radio webcasters out there in the same boat, majority just doing it for the hobby. Just can’t compete without extra value. Cutely calling KPIG listeners “Pigs” just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

    Feel free to share or highlight this post if readers would find it interesting. Thank you.

  2. One more comment if I may:

    >More and more stations are trying it – Pandora’s Pandora One offering is just one example.

    That quote from the blog post is not really accurate. Pandora and many others are trying Premium. KPIG entirely stopped offering any free streams. While subscription is present in both models – these two are entirely different business models.

    thank you!

  3. I think KPIG should offer subscriptions on a sliding scale or something. I love KPIG and would be willing to support it in any way that I could, but do not change what LE left us. This is just not KPIGGY. I would like to see a tip system for the DJ’s too! It’s connection man! That is what it’s all about. The money will follow.

    P. S. Get a better sales force!!!! PEACE!

  4. Really – REALLY?? Great station, but there are plenty others…

  5. Why not offer the stream with ads? Part of the reason I love KPIG is the local ads, frankly–it’s nice to hear the down-home KPIG-produced ads for local businesses, especially since I visit the Santa Cruz area regularly and actually want to hear about them. Can’t figure out why advertisers or the radio station or both don’t understand that the ads probably work for enough of the people listening to the stream to be worthwhile. I mean, it’s radio (even if it’s on the Web), and people are perfectly fine with listening to some ads.

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