Jango: Who’s Paying for Play?

jangoInternet radio station Jango made news this week announcing it’s “pay for play” service for emerging artists. Musicians can purchase 1000 plays or listens to their song for $30. The station works like Pandora and other stations that allow listeners to design their own station by entering the names of artists they like to listen to, and then deliver those artists along with other, similiar sounding music based on those preferences.

For musicians that are looking to connect with listeners, it sounds like a great deal – for $30 they’ll get played 1000 times to listeners who have an affinity for their kind of music. According to their press release, Beta testing of Jango Airplay shows strong enthusiasm from artists for guaranteed spins to a targeted, receptive audience – and from Jango listeners to engage with up-and-coming acts and actively contribute to their success. On average, $30 spent on 1,000 plays results in 100 positive actions from listeners who say they like the artist, write a comment, and/or become a full-fledged fan.

Musicians who receive positive ratings from listeners can also earn more free airplay. Once they get 50 positive ratings, they get added into the free rotation of music on the station – in other words, they have proven themselves with the audience and get rewarded with increased play. Plus, artists can communicate directly with their new fans, and get more information about the people who like their music.

rainAs mentioned in RAIN yesterday, Doug Perlson wrote a piece last fall about legal payola as a revenue model for struggling webcasters, which generated buzz in some industry blogs. His piece put forth the idea that since the performance royalty forces web stations to pay for the rights to play the music, and places no value on the promotion that artists get from their music being played, that stations should then also charge record companies/musicians for the plays.

The way that Jango has structured this makes it very palatable for both the listener and the musician. The listener has control in selecting what they want to hear and can rate the music after they hear it. The musician gets more control over how often their music gets played and the chance to connect with listeners who like their stuff.

As David Oxenford mentions in his blog last fall on the topic, stations like Jango are likely obtaining permission to play the music royalty free as well – so they win twice – by monetizing the plays, and by avoiding the performance royalty fees (for that music).

This concept presents an interesting twist in the Internet radio business model, and one that may well have traction given the high performance royalties that stations are obligated to pay to play the music. Now it’s come full circle – the musicians pay the stations to play their music and the stations pay the musicians to play the music.

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