Today I’d like to delve into the world of radio promotion and monitoring, by sharing with you my recent interview with Jesper Skibsby, CEO and founder of WARM.
Jesper Skibsby, CEO and Founder of WARM
In addition to running WARM, which is an acronym for “World Airplay Radio Monitor,” Jesper is also a board member of DUP, an association for independent record labels in Denmark.
WARM is a service that allows you to track and monitor any music (even music from other artists) being played on the radio all around the world… in real time!
The idea behind WARM is to help make the radio world more transparent for artists, record labels, promoters, etc. Basically, it’s a tool for pretty much anyone involved in the music business and marketing side of things.
They are able to do this by monitoring over 25,000 radio stations in over 130 countries, and then providing all of that data in real time to subscribers of WARM’s service. Their service also offers geographical maps that display all of that radio airplay data.
Full Disclosure: I have not personally used WARM’s services, but I have used radio promoters and various radio marketing and monitoring tools in the past.
Isaac Shepard: Thank you, Jesper, for sharing your experience with everyone regarding radio promotion and monitoring. Can you give us a brief background about yourself and what led you to create WARM?
Jesper Skibsby: Thank you for letting me join.
Sure, well, I have worked in the music industry for several years in many different roles.
At some point I found out that tracking our radio plays was very ineffective and hard to do as an artist or small indie label and management.
So I decided to pursue the idea of building a platform and app where you can track and see your radio spins globally and in real-time, so especially the upcoming artists have a tool to help them make quicker and better decisions concerning their careers.
IS: There are lots of different kinds of “radio” nowadays. What’s the difference between internet radio, digital radio, and terrestrial radio?
JS: A terrestrial radio is usually based on an FM signal and is available in a certain area depending on the range of the frequency. An internet radio, is obviously a radio which is available online. Most FM radio stations are also broadcasting online, in real time, so most radio stations are available online.
I think DAB will be more widely used over the coming years. For example, Norway has switched to 100% DAB as the first country in the world.
While we are at it, there is also satellite radio like SiriusXM. Without going into details, satellite radio is mostly only accessible via subscriptions.
IS: How much can an artist expect to get paid if his song gets played on the radio? Do both the writers and the performers get paid? And how does that all work internationally and with the different types of radio?
JS: This question could be talked about for hours, but basically there are 2 sides or rights in most countries: the publishing rights and the recording rights (neighbouring).
In most countries there are Performing Rights Organisations (PRO) or Collection Management Organisations (CMO) to collect the radio royalties both from local and foreign authors, producers etc on both sides.
Usually, all radio stations in a given country pay a fee to the local PROs for the music usage, but in many cases the PROs do NOT pay out to the correct rights holders. The money from these stations gets paid out based on sample test, market share and estimations, unfortunately.
Screenshots of WARM service
This happens on a majority of radio stations. I’m estimating this happens on 80-90% of radio stations in any given country. I would say that only about 5-10% of the amount of radio stations have a minute rate attached to the agreement with the PROs.
However, these radio stations pay the biggest amount of money for an airplay. A minute on the radio is worth between 0.05€ to 150€ from what I have seen so far. It is, of course, the biggest commercial radios that pay the most, but with radio spins on many smaller radios (local terrestrial and DAB primarily) you can actually get a substantial payment twice a year.
Now to the bad part. All the PROs basically report to each other, rather than monitoring each other, which means there is absolutely no security for you to receive any money, especially if you don’t have a major hit.
But if you as the owner of your own music use a service like WARM, you will have the physical evidence of your radio airplays which your PRO can use to try and collect missing royalties. That is, obviously, also something publishers and neighbouring rights agencies like.
IS: Do artists earn the same amount of royalties no matter what time of day their song is played on the radio? Or would an artist earn more if his song is played during prime listening hours?
JS: It is very different from radio to radio and there are many different ways this is handled, but it’s basically decided by the PROs and not the radio stations themselves.
IS: Is terrestrial radio still relevant in today’s digital age of streaming and playlists? What about indie artists compared to major artists?
JS: I think terrestrial radio, and radio in general, will continue to be extremely relevant. 90% of the world’s population is still listening to radio.
There is, however, a big problem with radio as it is much easier for major labels to get their big artists on the big radio stations’ playlists and when commercial radio adds a song to heavy rotation, they can play it up to 300 times a month.
But for indie labels and artists, and especially niche radios, the rotation is usually much smaller and the songs they play are much more different, from my experience. So again, it makes so much sense to me, that the indies can track their music globally, even on internet, local, and genre specific radio stations in a much more detailed and deep way.
Existing radio tracking solutions mainly only cover large commercial radios which makes it inefficient for the indies.
IS: In the streaming world, there is a magic moment at the 30-second mark when a song is played. If a listener stops or skips the song before 30 seconds, the streaming platform is not required to pay royalties for that interaction. However, if a listener listens for 30 seconds or more, the interaction is considered a “play” and the streaming platform is required to pay royalties on that play. Is there an analogous paradigm in the radio world? I’m thinking of situations where say maybe a radio stations previews a snippet of a song they are going to play in the next hour, or perhaps a portion of a song is played during a talk show.
JS: I don’t think any radio stations think this way. Their focus is to play the music their audience wants to hear, and not to try and save money of playing a song less or more than 30 seconds.
It’s a myth that this could make sense for any radio stations. You have to remember that the PROs will collect the money, and, in many cases, this money is a flat fee which makes this theory completely irrelevant.
IS: Can WARM also track bumper music, show theme songs, and other types of transitional music use on radio stations?
JS: Yes, you can upload any Mp3 into WARM.
IS: Why might an artist want to use a radio promoter, instead of just doing his own promotion?
JS: There are lots of very experienced radio promoters out there. If you can find a good one and you can afford it, it can definitely be worth it.
IS: Is it better for an artist to focus on building up radio play in specific regions first, or is it better to start with worldwide promotions?
JS: That is a question I cannot answer as it is very individual and depending on many different parameters. But when your music is released, it’s available globally, so it naturally makes sense to think globally, especially with English, Spanish and instrumental music.
IS: Is it possible for an artist to track things like how many times listeners call in to request his songs?
JS: No, I have never heard of any data deliverables like that. But I don’t believe that most radios play music based on requests on phone anymore. It does happen, of course, and in some countries more than others, but primarily the radio stations have rotation lists and shows where the music is planned in advance.
IS: What are some practical steps indie musicians can take to increase their exposure on radio?
JS: There is so much. Firstly, I believe it’s about targeting the right radio stations rather than a lot of radio stations. I believe that both indie artist and labels can do a lot in terms of radio directly.
So, one of the things you can do is to identify the right radio stations. So let’s say you make alternative rock or deep house, you can simply monitor a similar, more popular song.
This way, in WARM, you will see the radio stations which are most likely to play similar music, like yours.
Perhaps you will also see some interesting new markets you did not expect. From there, it’s about finding the right approach and write a personal email, or try to call them. The keyword in radio promotion is personal relations.
Remember music is globally available when it is released online, so why not think radio in the same global market? Especially for the indies it can be more important to go for accessible and emerging markets where you can make an impact, rather than trying to compete in the biggest markets.
I have a theory that music can be discovered anywhere, especially now with recommendation systems, and playlists, which does not work from a geographical point in most cases.
IS: WARM says that it offers “real-time” reporting. What exactly does that mean and how can an indie musician use that feature to his advantage?
JS: Real-time information in terms of WARM, means that you can see [the] time and date stamp of the radio play on the specific radio station, city and country. And this is accessible within 10-15 sec. after the play has ended.
To have real-time access to your data like radio is crucial for you to make smart and quick decisions. We currently see somewhere between 10-15,000 new songs uploaded to streaming services every day. The competition is high and there is so much music out there. So it’s obvious that you need to be able to work smarter and not harder.
IS: WARM says it covers over 25,000 radio stations. That sounds like a lot, and I’m sure that some stations have much more influence than others, but for context, can you give us insight into how many radio stations exist in the world?
JS: Yes, through our reports and studies we believe there are about 45-50,000 radio stations in the world. Which is the number we are aiming for in total coverage. However, our coverage is in 130 countries where our highest density of radio stations is in the most important markets. Which means our coverage in Greenland and Mongolia is not great at the moment, but Europe, North and South America and Australia is quite good.
IS: Also for context, how many radio spins does the average indie artist get per day worldwide, compared to established and superstar artists?
JS: I don’t have these numbers. But for reflection, the song I have seen have the most airplays in a peak month, was Adele – Hello. It had 220,000 radio spins in 30 days.
IS: What role do you think radio will play in the music ecosystem 5 to 10 years from now?
JS: I think that the format of radio will probably change over the coming years, and FM will most likely be much smaller, whereas DAB and Internet radios will grow. I don’t think radio is going anywhere in the long run.
IS: Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview. To conclude, would you like to share any words of wisdom, warnings, or encouragement to musicians regarding the music industry as a whole?
JS: Thank you so much for having me, it was a pleasure.
I will finish off by saying, take control of your own data! If you as the creator or label don’t want to invest in your own data, you cannot expect anyone else to want to do it.
And, also, Monitoring Over Reporting is the key in the future of rights managements and distribution of royalties.
WARM offers a free trial to monitor a song for a month. Also, they tell me that they are working on a new royalty calculator feature that will allow you to calculate the royalty amount you should be getting paid for your airplay.