Your Station Anywhere — How Might This Tagline Change Your Radio Future?

Finding the right motto or tagline is tougher than we imagined. We had to struggle to distill our message into as few words as possible, yet convey the essence of what makes Backbone Radio unique.  Our previous tagline was “Internet Radio Simplified”. That expression was correct, but it didn’t tell people how radio can be great again.

Backbone Networks - Your Station AnywhereWe like our new tagline better, because it concisely says what we provide: freedom and power. How’s that? Let’s examine the tagline to see what we mean, starting with the noun.

STATION
Backbone creates Internet radio stations. We aren’t in the business of producing “shows” or time slots on existing radio stations.  A station is a 24/7, round-the-clock entity, and it always has programs running no matter when a listener tunes in.  Maybe listeners will find your station on your station’s website and listen there; maybe on an Internet tuner like TuneIniTunes or dar.fm. Maybe on their laptop, desktop, iPhone or Android, or any of hundreds of devices like Roku or their car’s digital dashboard.

The station is what listeners search for. A program or show is what’s playing when they find your station.  So, your station could include your show, your choice of PSA’s or none at all, shows contributed by your esteemed colleagues or best friends, shows contributed by people who pay you to air them, or any other audio content you choose. That is the importance of the word YOUR.

YOUR
In traditional over-the-air (OTA) radio, your job is at the will of someone else. Ultimately, that other person is the OTA station owner.  He chooses who to hire and who to fire based on fundamental economics, the same way he makes decisions about transmitter maintenance and janitorial services. Your job is always on the line.

You UsYou prove your value by bringing in listeners and creating a following, which in turn brings in revenue from sponsors and advertisers. Your value has to pay for your salary plus millions of dollars worth of annual station operating costs.

Imagine for a moment that you converted that value to a station that had no existing overhead burden; you retain your following, your loyal sponsors and you build your own station.  You are the station owner, and you call the shots.  This is now YOUR station, so where do you put it?

ANYWHERE
This is the key word. Anywhere.  The power of radio has always been its ability to connect with people at a very personal level.  Want to cover a concert or conference, broadcast an interview from the mayor’s office, or do your show from Cancun? You have the freedom to pick up and go out into the community where things are happening making your radio station more personal.

Obviously, you will need some overhead, but how much?  Well, for starters, on the Internet you don’t have to build a tower, so no requirement for real estate, not to mention permission from the FCC, FAA or any other government bureau.  And you don’t have to sit in the same old studio day after day. You are free to take your studio with you…anywhere.

Liz Claiborne Radio RowBecause your Backbone Radio station resides “in the cloud”, your live studio can simply be “a Mac and a mic”, plus maybe a small mixer, in your backpack. As long as you can find an Internet connection (WiFi, 3G/4G, WiMax or other) you can be broadcasting live. Your other hosts for your other shows can similarly go live from their Macbooks from wherever they are at the time.

And since your archived programs and audio, syndicated content, and a very powerful automation system also reside in your station in the cloud, just stop your live broadcast session, and your automated program schedule takes over. Your studio is wherever you are, and your station is always on the air.

So, that’s it in a nutshell. YOUR STATION ANYWHERE.  It is a complete radio station, you are in control, and you are free to take it wherever you want without limitation. Now you know what we meant by our tagline and how Backbone is changing radio forever.

Your Community Radio – What About LPFM?

It’s a beautiful thing when a technology like ours can simultaneously give a worldwide reach to a community and still be the most affordable, effective way to communicate with local residents. That’s the message we will be bringing to two conferences in May in both Boston and San Francisco.

MassAccess WGBH composite logosFirst on May 3rd at WGBH in Boston, at the MassAccess Spring Mini Conference, we will meet with local TV stations and community media centers from across Massachusetts.  Then, at the end of the month in San Francisco at the Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference, we will meet with media centers from around the United States to discuss how to employ radio to promote civic engagement.

Alliance for Community Media LogoOf course, you would expect us to be promoting Internet Radio for communities – we’ve been serving city-wide school districts and community youth centers for a few years now.  What we hope to achieve at these conferences is to help communities find an effective way to integrate their “hyperlocal” (LPFM) terrestrial radio with their Internet radio operations, and save money in the bargain.

Some of the topics we hope to discuss include:

  • Reaching out with both smart phones and FM radios
  • Engaging communities better through live, remote broadcasts
  • Operating a station with a staff of one…or fewer
  • Creating professional presence with minimal capital equipment
  • How to share audio content with/from other communities, self-syndication

This appears to be a pivotal year for community radio, and we want to be a part of it.  We hope to see you at one of these events.  Please let us know if you’ll be attending.

See Live Internet Radio Broadcasts from Las Vegas — NAB, BEA and the RAIN Summit

It’s another glorious April, and that means the broadcast world flocks to Las Vegas, where the National Association of Broadcasters event also attracts a cluster of affiliated conferences, and Backbone figures prominently in several of them.

On Sunday April 7, Backbone and TuneIn will team to broadcast the live proceedings of the Internet Radio industry’s most prominent event, the RAIN Summit (Radio and Internet Newsletter) from the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.  Speakers and panelists include representatives from Pandora, ESPN, TuneIn, SoundExchange and many more.

Starting on Monday, Backbone will be actively recruiting new college (and high school) radio stations to join the expanding IBS Student Radio Network by Backbone.  Please stop by to visit our exhibit booth at the Broadcast Education Association’s BEA2013 Conference, also in the Las Vegas Hotel (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton).  We’ll show you how schools are taking their stations on the road for live events, using only a Mac and a mic.

And of course, NAB is the most exciting draw in the broadcast world, so we hope to see you there, too.

Internet Radio Takes SxSW Music Live, Worldwide, with a Berklee Finale

South By Southwest just keeps getting bigger and better, and we had the pleasure of bringing a lot of the entertainment live to music fans around the globe this year.  Teaming up with the “Indie Ambassadors” of Presskit.to, we helped create the majority, if not all, of the live radio coverage from Austin.  In fact, in the entire SxSW Trade Show Exhibition, Backbone was the only exhibitor under the category of “radio”.

Ben Maitland-Lewis - Whole Foods, AustinAs we mentioned in our previous post, we planned to broadcast three large events, including one from the Whole Foods“mothership” store and the RockSXSW day party from the world famous Maggie Mae’s Gibson Lounge on Sixth Street.  What we didn’t tell you is our fourth music showcase would be the eighth annual Berklee College of Music’s SxSW Day Party.

See the Berklee Blogs for more photos and artist lineup on this excellent party.

We at Backbone are proud to have the opportunity to work with Presskit.to on these productions, and to have helped all of these artists reach a much wider audience from the Live Music Capital of the World.

Join the Parties at SXSW — In Person, or on the Radio

South by Southwest (SXSW) is the place to be for music and entertainment, and you can be there even if you don’t have the travel budget. This year Backbone is teaming with Presskit.to as they broadcast a number of parties and showcases from Austin, TX during SXSW — Live on your phone, computer or other device.  We’ll be using the twitter hashtag #SXSWRADIO if you would like to follow along as we move from event to event.

SXSW Presskit.to RadioLeading up to SXSW Events:

Presskit.to will be broadcasting a number of events leading up to SXSW from their studios in Charlestown.  Here are a few:

Wednesday March 6th, 8:00AM

Nobody’s Robots – A Farewell to Piebald – ALL DAY

The final recorded live performance from Boston’s Piebald. We’ll be playing the show from start to finish over and over and over. Be sure to tune in!

Thursday March 7th, 5:00PM

Presskit.to Bus Sessions from SXSW 2012

Featuring stripped down recordings from, I the Mighty, Ximena Sariñana, Crocodiles, Chamberlin, The Shills, Waters, PAPA, The Spinto Band, Herra Terra, Sean Bones, Sun Hotel, Eyes Lips Eyes

Thursday March 7th, 8:00PM

The Life Electric, Live in Studio.  This event is still coming together so check the Presskit.to web-site for more details.

Your current lineup of SxSW events:

Whole Foods Eat n GreetOn Monday, March 11th, 5:00-9:00PM they will be broadcasting the SXSW Full Circle Eat n’ Greet at Whole Foods, presented by Circle Media & Marketing. Stop by the Whole Foods at 4301 W. William Cannon Drive in Austin for a stellar lineup and great food!

RockSxSWOn Thursday, March 14th, they will have another great line up as they broadcast the Rock SXSW day party from the legendary Maggie Mae’s rooftop at 323 East 6th Street in Austin between 11:30AM and 5:30PM.

Focus Event at SXSWLater on Thursday, they’ll be broadcasting an eclectic mix of bands and EDM artists from Big Bangs at 415 East 6th street, Austin between 7:00PM and 2:00AM so TUNE IN!

Follow Backbone and Presskit.to on Twitter and Facebook for more information on these and other events.  For more information visit the main Presskit.to page for SXSW where we will provide continuous updates.

Presskit.to is a small group of entrepreneurs with a diverse, collective background in music, business, technology, and marketing. Their multimedia portfolio solution empowers over 3000 artists and entertainment companies worldwide.

Broadcasting the SF Music Tech Summit

sfmusictech2012Today is the SF MusicTech Summit.  It brings together visionaries in the evolving music, business and technology ecosystem, along with the best and brightest developers, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, journalists, musicians, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. We meet to do business and discuss, in a proactive, conducive to dealmaking environment.

While Backbone will not physically be there we are working with our friends at TuneIn to “webcast” the event.  Before the event starts we are playing audio from previous events and will switch to live programming when the sessions start.

The event has three tracks and we will be broadcasting all three tracks.  If you want to learn about the how music, technology and business come together TuneIn to this event.

College Radio Has a Reason to Thrive…Let’s Work on How

Keene State College logoI saw an interesting post on PolicyMic recently by Adam Hogue, where he relates his transition from a college radio broadcaster at Keene State to becoming an NPR listener, like his (egad) father, and the general decline of Radio from its golden era. What jumped off the page to me were his views about how the future of radio seems to be college radio, because it best serves today’s youth.   Here are some of the verbatim nuggets that appealed to me:

  • All around America, there are stations that people take regional pride in. Most of these stations turn out to be college radio stations.
  • The radio is communication. It is part of our communities, and as long as it continues to evolve with the communities, it will not die.
  • College radio should be the local voice of local youth. While radio is rapidly losing the young listeners demographic (people ages 12 to 24), I believe that it is the job of college radio to be the community alternative for young people.
  • College stations need to be out there in the community and they need to stay relevant with their fan-base in order to grow. Young people have time to listen if they are given a reason to.
  • People should be able to listen to programs from anywhere and enjoy them.  Today, radio has the power to be anywhere; it is no longer confined to a frequency alone.
  • Radio stations need to play music, no matter what the music is, and have local personalities that bring people in and keep them loyal…radio should be a way to learn about new music or just listen to what people have to say about it.
  • It helps that most college radio stations receive a solid amount of money from the school.… A problem occurs when the school sees radio as outdated or too costly, and the station is sold off to a community.

As I see it, this short list distills down to three main points we need to focus on in order to escape the death spiral that’s enveloping Commercial Radio.  Our College Radio stations (IBS Student Radio Network stations and others) need to:

  • Create compelling content to attract and hold onto loyal, repeat listeners,
  • Become an active participant in the community, no matter where your listeners are tuning in from, and
  • Become monetarily self-sufficient to keep from becoming a burden on their schools’ budgets.

We’re going to need some time to look at each of these points and create a plan of attack. There are other necessary improvement points, to be sure, and I’d like your input on those, as well.

I would like to invite comments, emails and blog posts from interested station managers and faculty advisors.  I think it’s time we put our collective network heads together and establish an action plan with some guidelines for how we might go about making these improvements.

Internet Radio Concert Promotion — 100,000 more attendees, no extra porta-potties

Eighteen years ago this week, in a previous life, George and I helped produce and broadcast Woodstock ’94 (Mudstock), and it was quite an experience, with 350,000 people in attendance. This week, we got to participate in another weekend concert, Outside Lands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and I marvel at how differently big events can now be covered.

outsidelands logoAt Woodstock, we had dozens of television trucks and vans with satellite uplinks, requiring connectivity to and between the two stages, which was our primary responsibility as “fiber optic gurus”. For the most part, all of these broadcasters were on site to provide live news feeds for networks and local stations, as well as the occasional celebrity interview.  The complexity and cost was huge, while virtually none of the concert entertainment was broadcast live.

Outside Lands Stage - 2012Fast forward to 2012.  Over the last few months, in partnership with TuneIn, we’ve enjoyed exploring how today’s music festivals can build their reach to a worldwide audience, without breaking the budget of the event promoters.  We started out with New York’s Hot 97 Summer Jam hip hop festival in June, helping Emmis Communications promote the event exclusively on TuneIn radio the week leading up to the concert, then live Internet radio coverage of the show, and then best-of the concert the week following.  It was a major hit.

So, with that success, Emmis decided to do similar promotion for their Power 106 concert in Los Angeles later that month. It, too, was a big success.

That brings us to Outside Lands–August 10-12, 2012.  TuneIn assembled the team for this broadcast, with not only Backbone Networks but also a professional broadcast team with deep experience in branded radio stations, RFC Media from Houston, TX.  Unlike Woodstock, this concert was broadcast live, and it required no trucks, no satellite uplinks and a minimal crew…all with just “a Mac and a mic”.RFC Media Tent - Outside Lands

Results?  It was unquestionably another big success.  While Golden Gate park only holds about 65,000 people for an event like this, through Backbone Internet radio and TuneIn, over 100,000 unique listeners around the world tuned in for nearly half a million listener sessions.  What amazes me is that a regional concert in San Francisco can pull listeners from all over the world, as you can see in the listener cluster “hot spot” map for the concert week (click to enlarge).

Outside Lands Listener MapLike every other business activity, concert promotion has now been changed by the Internet, specifically Internet radio in this case. Going forward, we will learn even more about how to have the greatest impact and highest return on a very small investment.  We’ll share that with you.

Next up for TuneIn, RFC Media and Backbone: The Bumbershoot Music Festival in Seattle on Labor Day Weekend.

Peace, love and radio.

Things I Learned About Talk Radio Last Week

New Media Seminar 2012 logoLast Thursday I got up early and took the 5:45am Acela Express from Providence to NY Penn Station for a full day of the most interesting conference I’ve been to in many years.  It was TALKERS Magazine’s annual New Media Seminar, where some 350 talk radio stars and producers shared their view of where the industry is headed.  And I loved every second of it. I won’t even try to give you all the detail of the day, but I will give you a few nuggets that relate to our business at Backbone.

First, the First Amendment is still a ball in play, and we got that message from all sides.  No less than Sean HannityEd Schultz and Gov. David Paterson impressed upon the crowd that boycotts and retaliation are uncalled for when the listener can easily “change the dial”.  Of course, our Internet radio “dial” now allows for thousands of choices, with each of those stations having virtually unlimited freedom of expression.  Which brings me to my second point, Tom Leykis.

The persistent message all day was that talk radio is changing right before our eyes, whether it’s in slow motion or as a blur.  That technical change is the transition from terrestrial to the Internet.  The operational message is that nobody’s job is secure in traditional radio, you must prepare for the change now.  “Don’t expect to drive to work and park next to the building with the tower. The tower will be gone, and so might you.”

Panelists and talk show hosts Lionel and Tom Leykis talked about the importance of career preparedness, and it was Leykis who was the day’s most specific panelist about this subject. He tells us that while you still have a job in traditional radio you must get to know your sponsors and accumulate a database of your fans, because you will wish you had done both when you are out on your own, trying to start up your own station, like he did.  He told me later he took a couple of years and created his own station the hard way, not the Backbone way.  But he succeeded, and Leykis represents the future for many of the future-looking panelists and conference attendees.

Holland CookeIn another session, talk radio consultant Holland Cooke was, as you would expect, full of great ideas and tips on how to bring more people to your Internet radio site and station.  We were all warned not to try to take notes while he presented, because he threw more at us than we could keep up with. (“If you work on-air, at a local radio station, your job, as-you-know-it, is toast.”)  The first thing I did when I got back on the return train home was to buy myself a bunch of hyphenated domain names to increase my SEO.  You don’t understand?  Contact me, or better, Holland, at talk-radio-consultant.com and ask him.

Because of conflicting vacation plans, I won’t be able to attend the October version of this Seminar in Los Angeles, but we won’t miss out.  George and Paul will be there for sure.

You should, too.

P.S.  Michael Harrison, CEO of Talkers announced at the beginning of the Seminar that this would be the last “New Media” Seminars, because he’s been hosting them for 15 years, and this media is no longer “new”.  It will henceforth simply be called Talkers Seminar. Meanwhile, I notice in today’s news that Blogworld Expo is just now changing its name going forward to NMX, New Media Expo.

Internet Radio — “By This Time Next Year” Survey Results

survey55-listen_to_one_year_from_nowHere’s something you already know in your gut, but you probably haven’t visually seen yet. The recent article by Audio Graphics summarizes “the trouble around the bend” for terrestrial broadcast radio, and how Internet radio continues to capture its listening audience. This one graph displays what online radio listeners say they will be listening to by mid-2013.

When you look at the additional survey data, you see that most of the music discovery occurs with Internet radio, which leads you to believe that Internet-only channels account for the majority of new artist coverage, since that rarely occurs on simulcast FM stations.  Not Pandora, but real Internet stations.

We are all very fortunate to be in an industry that’s on the rise, not in decline.