On Quotas as they are Found in Broadcasting Music (2012)
February 9, 2012
Brock + Chaloux Group Inc.
In the latter part of the 20th century, quotas were discussed, debated and in some cases introduced, in an effort to address issues and challenges confronting the broadcasting of local music in various countries and territories.
There are pervasive opinions that foreign content broadcast on domestic radio without limitation stifles the creation and access to local music, a critical part of a nation’s culture and commerce, and that local music is displaced by foreign music.
We will be using the term local music to refer to music which is created, produced and performed by citizens of the territory.
What follows is a brief examination of the nature of quotas, accompanied by the rationales often invoked when applying quotas, as well as comments that may be of interest in thinking about the reaction to and experience of the quotas when applied to the broadcast of local music on terrestrial radio.
Issues covered in this review and comments that accompany them will hopefully be of benefit in contributing to creating discussion on how best to support local music.
NOTE: The findings reported are concluded from the consultation of public documents. There exists the likelihood that in some cases additional information may be available from private documents not available to the public.
The Current Environment
As identified by the Canadian-radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in 2006, the delivery of music by terrestrial radio has been beset by the massive evolution of technology and competition particularly in the last decade.
Be it personal music devices, such as the iPod (and now the iPad, Kindle Fire and other tablets), streaming, Internet radio or satellite radio to name but a few…the choices open to communities and individuals who wish to access and discover music are vast and growing.
Given that many of the new methods of accessing and discovering music either are or can be impacted by quotas, the question as to the viability, reasoning and objectives of quotas within the context of today’s reality is a question that is of immediate interest and of serious importance.
As is the case with a wide variety of goods and experiences, music today is more freely available to consumers and fans than ever before.
The gatekeepers of the past, including the dominant ones of the latter 20th century – labels, radio and retailers – have much less impact on the availability of music for both local and global discovery and consumption. This is a trend that will most assuredly continue.
Consumers not only have the ability to decide what they want and control when they want it and how they want it, they have demonstrated that they enjoy and favour having that control and consider it fundamental to their lifestyle and options.
What then is the opportunity for terrestrial radio and of quotas in particular in this environment?
Rationale for Quotas
There are many reasons that have been invoked to support the application of quotas to the broadcast of music. The expression of these reasons in terms of policy and expected outcomes can generally be grouped into one or both of the general headings of Culture or Commerce.
In some instances, both of these objectives are referenced and intertwined…a typical argument in support of the quotas being that by guaranteeing a window for local music to be heard and hopefully consumed, the business of the creator, artist, label, publisher and distributor, among others, would benefit leading to increased investment in the artist and/or investment in other artists that may either be already part of the business or that may be signed in the future.
Actual examples (with some redundancy) of rationales for quotas include:
- Cultural diversity.
- Health of the local industry.
- To defend culture and economic activity.
- To increase (a specific) language output.
- To promote diversity by making room for domestic content.
- To encourage local cultural creation.
- To develop and reflect a better perception of identity, character and cultural diversity.
- To develop, protect and promote cultural identity on a regional and national level and to establish a dynamic and creative industry in this domain.
- To ensure that the public has access to local music performances.
- To build record sales of local music and thereby create cause for increased production.
- To support the development of local culture and national identity.
- To promote diversity.
- To boost the domestic recording industry and the language.
Quotas in Canada
As found in the Broadcasting Act, Section 3, the Canadian broadcasting system
- is effectively owned and controlled by Canadians,
- operates primarily in the English and French languages, and
- makes use of radio frequencies that are public property.
Through its programming, radio provides a public service essential to the maintenance and enhancement of national identity and cultural sovereignty.
Quotas on the broadcast of local music content in Canada are intended to contribute to achieving the stated objectives.
In exchange for the privilege of having access to Canada’s publicly owned airwaves and frequencies and as a condition of license, private broadcasters are required to meet political, social, economic and cultural policy objectives that support, enhance and add value to the goals stated above. The application of quotas on the broadcast of local music content form part of their undertaking.
Canada is unique, given its physical and cultural proximity to the United States specifically the phenomenon of a somewhat shared North American cultural reality with the United States in the areas of English-language audio and audiovisual content.
During the 1960s, the desire to support and promote Canadian music unfolded. Radio (from this point on the term “radio” refers to terrestrial radio unless otherwise specified) was heavily dominated by music created and produced in the United States. Top 40 AM radio in Canada in the 1960s was a playlist of heavily dominated American titles reflecting the Top 40 sound of the times as determined by American radio, television and promoted heavily in print through music and lifestyle publications.
The policy interest to open the airwaves to Canadian artists was confronted with the opinion expressed by broadcasters that the quality of Canadian recordings was not sufficiently high to properly compete with what was currently on the air nor was there sufficient selection in terms of genres and depth to adequately supply radio with the content it needed to satisfy the objectives as they were being developed and defined.
The decision to introduce quotas was eventually accompanied with an undertaking to provide public funding that would allow Canadian artists, through their labels, distributors and management, to have access to greater budgets that would allow them to raise the level of the recordings and (eventually) to market them even though the amounts that were made available were dwarfed by the amounts the multinational companies could and would commit to promote their artists within Canada.
As a result of the funding initiatives that included both public funds as well as broadcaster contributions, the business side of recording took on a larger role in Canada and particularly in Quebec.
In English Canada, the vast majority (at least 80%) of recordings and artists were controlled by a small number of multinational record companies – substantially more than the current 4, soon to be 3.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, and thanks in no small measure to the support of the governments of Quebec and Canada, the Quebec music industry saw the evolution of a vibrant community of musical artists and creators as well as labels and distributors. Although some Francophone artists were signed to multinational labels and distributors, the overwhelming majority were embraced, developed and nurtured by the Quebec music business.
Today, the Quebec recorded music business industry continues to successfully represent a healthy percentage of artists who are signed to Quebec based labels and to occupy a critical position within the DNA of the Quebec and Canadian music communities.
If an argument could successfully be made that Canada required quotas to safeguard, promote and develop its artists and its music industry, another argument could at least be equally made for the Quebec music industry in particular as to its role in the careers and expression of Canadian Francophone artists and creators.
Both linguistically and culturally, Quebec’s reality both within Canada and within North America is unique with its challenges and more so with its successes.
What makes the Canada and Quebec situation even more remarkable and worthy of reflection is the fact that the system of quotas in place insofar as how they apply to the broadcast of French-language music by French-language radio stations is not mirrored by the same conditions that the English-language broadcasters face within the same market. In this review, we did not find another example in the quotas examined that represented a duality of quotas within the same territory.
As a matter of necessity, an examination of the aptness of quotas in today’s reality and in particular the evaluation of quotas within the French-language dynamic should reflect on the competitive advantages and disadvantages different quotas provide when applied within the same jurisdiction. In order to put the matter in context and have a meaningful evaluation, one would need to address the question of what are the outcomes that are and were to be served by the existence of the quota systems and a limpid view as to whether the results have been as expected.
Examples of Quotas
This section represents a snapshot of local music quotas. A more detailed discussion will be found under subsequent headings.
Except as noted, we did not find broadcast quotas for local music or material relating to broadcast quotas for local music in countries and territories with dual or plural official languages as is the case in Canada (for example, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg or Finland).
In Canada, both French-language and English-language radio stations must ensure that at least 35% of the Popular Music (Category 2) they broadcast each week is Canadian content. Commercial stations must also ensure that 35% of the Popular Music they broadcast between the hours of 06:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday, is Canadian content. Although there are exceptions in specific cases, these quotas are predominant.
In the case of satellite radio, Canadian content is applied in aggregate over the whole broadcast subscription package. Licensed satellite radio broadcasters must offer a minimum number of Canadian-produced channels with at least 85% Canadian content on those services. There are no quotas on the balance of the broadcast services they offer.
Canadian content is determined by the MAPL system (Music, Artist, Production and Lyrics).
CRTC policies and regulations help to maintain a French-language presence on radio and provide exposure for Francophone artists.
French-language radio stations must devote at least 65% of all Popular Music (Category 2) broadcast each week to be French-language selections. Commercial stations must also ensure that at least 55% of the Popular Music that they broadcast between the hours of 06:00 and 18:00 Monday to Friday consists of French-language selections.
Quotas on the broadcast of French-language vocal music are intended to encourage the development of a French-language music industry in Canada and to provide Francophones in Canada with access to music that reflects their culture.
Quotas on broadcasting local music have also been introduced in the following cases.
NOTE: There are some instances for the provision for broadcast and/or production of local content where quotas have not been introduced. These cases do not form part of this review.
In 1992 the new Broadcasting Services Act made local content part of a self-regulatory code for commercial and community broadcasters.
The current quota is 25% for CHR, Mainstream Rock and Alternative stations, of which one quarter (6 ¼%) has to be considered new material local music (Note: no specific information was discovered speaking to the nature of what constitutes new material).
Lesser quotas for other categories of music exist, the lowest quota being 5% for the broadcast of Jazz.
The quotas apply to music broadcast during daytime hours (between 06:00 and 18: 00) each business day.
Despite the introduction of quotas, international artists still predominate and as recently as last year, according to AirCheck, 9 of the 10 most-played songs on Australian commercial radio were by American artists.
The Loi du 1er février requires that 40% of music broadcast during peak hours be French-language titles, half of which are required to come from new artists or to be new productions. The concept of new artists and new productions is dealt with later in this review.
The conditions were modified in 2000 affording stations with different listener demographics different quotas.
On February 25, 2010, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sports and Tourism informed stations to raise the quota of national music. A suggested quota of 20% was proposed amid comments by some that it was a national duty to play more Irish music.
Independent stations (as opposed to public or state operated stations) comprising national, multi-city, regional and local stations regulated by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) have an obligation to play agreed-to levels of local music – in most cases 30%.
In July 2011, a quota was introduced for Dutch language music on Radio2 (the public broadcaster) calling for 35% of popular music broadcast between the hours of 07:00 and 19:00 to be produced in the Netherlands.
The quota for broadcasting local music is 80%. Music is considered to be a cornerstone of traditional life and rituals.
Philippine radio stations are required to play 4 Philippine compositions per hour.
According to Radio Law (Law 4/2000 and amended by law 7/2006), the minimum quota for the broadcast of local music varies between 25% and 40%. At least 60% of that quota must be fulfilled by broadcasting music composed/sung in the Portuguese language by citizens of the European Union. A minimum of 35% of the quota must be fulfilled with music produced in the last 12 months.
The South African Music Local Content Regulation (1997) recommended a 20% music quota to be applied between the hours of 05:00 and 23:00 and to be evenly distributed during the applicable time periods. The quota was applied to commercial, public and community radio stations.
In August 2003, the quota for community and public radio stations was increased to 40%, and the quota for commercial radio stations was increased to 25%.
The White Paper on Broadcasting Policy (1998) required the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to ensure that South African content predominates on South African broadcasts over the following ten years.
Under Catalan legislation (Act 1/1998 on Linguistic Policy), songs performed by Catalan artists must account for at least 25% of the material broadcast.
In November 0f 2011 the quota was reduced from 50% to 25%.
The quota for broadcasting local music is 30%.
Quotas were introduced in 2004 (The Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television). Public and state-run stations as well as those in border areas are required to broadcast a minimum of 70% local music between the hours of 07:00 and 23:00.
A minimum of 50% of the Venezuelan music that is broadcast must be music with a “Venezuela tradition” (genres representing the various regions of Venezuela as well as Spanish language and indigenous-language content) and 10% of international music broadcast must be written and produced by artists from other Latin American countries and the Caribbean.
There are no music quotas in Germany.
Music industry officials estimate that only 10% of German radio playlists are sung in German (2004). Reportedly only 55% of the country’s best selling artists are German – although this is an enviable figure for many other countries.
Some Issues Arising
No good deed goes unpunished…and why should quotas be any different? What follows are some issues that have arisen following the introduction of quotas or the decision not to.
In the 1980s New Zealand deregulated their radio industry. As a result, the broadcast of local content dropped to below 2% of what was being played. Widely reported, the government of New Zealand subsequently spent millions of dollars each year rebuilding their industry through grant programs.
COMMENT: This is an interesting question and one needs to reflect on what were the possibly sought-after outcomes. It appears from reports on the events that, at the end of the day, thanks to substantial grant programs, New Zealand has a robust music industry and local music is willingly played on domestic commercial radio. One must assume, in part because of the undertaking of the government, that this was the sought-after result. This is not to question how much was spent or if this was the best intervention. What it does say, is that the government chose to take these steps to deliver on an outcome by directly intervening with funding. Would radio quotas have had the same effect? Our analysis does not conclusively show that quotas, acting in isolation, contribute to building a strong local music industry.
In July 2010, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) decided that for at least the next three years the minimum quotas for local music would not apply to digital-only stations. Commenting on the decision, Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) declared that it was “unsustainable and inequitable” for its members to have to meet local music quotas when internet stations do not.
CRA CEO JOAN WARNER: “The more dynamic competitive environment brought about by the emergence of online music services means that placing Australian music quotas exclusively on the ‘easy targets’ of broadcast radio licensees places the sector at a distinctive competitive and economic disadvantage.”
This is a clear example of the issue of the non-enforcement of quotas on relatively new and emerging platforms that are competition for terrestrial radio, and who are an increasingly attractive source for music and music discovery for global as well as local audiences.
COMMENT: A level playing field would of course be desirable, but it is questionable if it is possible or probable. A quota for local content on Australian radio that is being streamed broadcast as internet radio may perhaps be possible, ignoring for the moment public opinion as to the unrestricted world of the Internet. However, as has been demonstrated and reported at great length, the feasibility of imposing content restrictions and/or quotas on web-based content and platforms that emanate outside of a territory is questionable and there is much debate on the legality of such measures in cases where it has been considered. There are issues, as well, concerning access to information and the free-flow of content and culture. All of these elements ensure that the debate will continue.
In France, French singers are increasingly switching to singing in English, in part driven by the ease of export within the European Union. There is extensive coverage of this phenomenon and it appears to be growing.
Other factors include having access to a larger world market for content recorded in English and potential lucrative opportunities to work within the English-language music industry structure.
The access to quota-free online music has reportedly also driven this trend to English-language content and performances by French artists and creators. The widespread development and appetite for social-content websites allowing artists to develop fan-bases and followings are factors as well.
An informal survey of more than 6,000 French Anglophone artists and bands found that they were finding it harder to get their music heard on French radio because they are outside of the French-language quota and are competing with international artists for the remaining broadcast share.
Other salient points include the fact that between 2003 and 2011, the number of French language albums released dropped from 718 to 158, a decrease of more than 75%.
COMMENT: With free and unrestricted access to releasing and providing online content, artists and creators, now often separated from their audience by only one degree of separation, have opportunities to reach out and develop audiences and sustainable careers without relying on terrestrial radio. Given the unfettered nature of the technological landscape, the restrictive path to airplay on terrestrial radio is daunting for many artists who, not surprisingly, elect to showcase their music and to reach audiences by following other paths.
This is not to say that terrestrial radio is not important in providing access to and promotion of music as well as contributing to the development of successful careers for some artists; however, for many artists and creators, terrestrial radio is only one of many opportunities in their toolkit.
IRELAND and FRANCE
In 2010, there was a debate in Ireland as to what was being played, not whether it was being played. More specifically, the question was not about not playing Irish music, it was about the fact that Irish radio was not playing the music the regulators wanted played. This was partially a question of emerging artists which is treated later on in this review.
In France, David El Sayegh of the Syndicat national de l’édition phonographique (SNEP) was quoted as saying “Music FM stations only use 15 singles to meet 90% of their quota.”
The debate about the perception that broadcasters choose to use a narrow range of titles and repetitively broadcast them to respect the intent of the quota and at the same time, appeal to their audience, continues.
COMMENT: The question as to what is being played and is it appropriate will probably be around for as long as quotas are, and perhaps longer. What is the right content, who is an admissible and thus a “countable” artist…these questions rage on even when definitions as to qualifications have been part of the process. The appropriateness of the criteria, especially in changing times, will continue to be debated.
IRELAND and SOUTH AFRICA
In 2010, there was debate in Ireland about the fact that many shows were being broadcast in non-peak hours, specifically during early weekend hours, a time period with a smaller audience than peak broadcast times.
There was also a reflection in South Africa that the 25% local music quota was being routinely ignored due to loopholes such as playing local content in off-peak hours, non-enforcement of quotas, and radio broadcasters using other admissible substitutions (interviews with South African musicians and broadcasting live music)to replace local music content.
There are similar reports of this nature in the Philippines and Uruguay where reportedly there is little implementation by broadcasters or enforcement by regulators.
COMMENT: The question of circumventing the intent of the quota by broadcasting local music in low-audience time slots is being or has been addressed by some regulators by specifying applicable time periods in which quotas are to be respected and calculated, and monitoring radio to ensure that they are respecting the distribution through those time periods.
In Canada, regulations require that at least 35% of the Popular Music (Category 2) selections broadcast between 06:00 and 18:00, Monday through Friday during any broadcast week, be Canadian selections, and at least 55% of the Popular Music (Category 2) vocal musical selections aired by French-language stations each week between 06:00 and 18:00, Monday through Friday during any broadcast week, be French-language selections.
In 2011, the Ukraine reduced local music quotas from 50% to 25% in part because radio successfully argued that they did not have enough content to come up to the 50% level even with heavy repetition. There were arguments heard that there should be no quota at all. When the reduced quota was announced, it was presented as being a compromise between 0% and 50%.
COMMENT: The question of the quantity and quality of supply of local music content is one that is often raised. In the 1980s, Canada developed a comprehensive approach to the creation and production of quality sound recordings as a response to comments from Canadian broadcasters. Quotas, in and of themselves, are of lesser value when there is insufficient quantity or quality of local music to be aired. Well-thought out quotas, when supported with measures and programs to support local music content creation, production, and marketing make for better outcomes.
A report released in June 2011 by the Observatoire de la culture et des communications du Quebec (OCCQ) of the Institute de la statistique du Quebec, using Soundscan data, included the following:
- CD sales declined for the sixth year in a row, declining a total of 37% between 2004 and 2010.
- The market share for digital products sold in Quebec was 17%, significantly lower than the 36% recorded for the rest of Canada and the 42% recorded for the United States.
- 2010 also represented the first time since 2002 (the start of the OCCQ’s studies of sound recording sales) that the number one album was not Québécois.
- With 30% of sales in 2010, Francophone album sales were at their lowest level, ranging between 30% and 40% since 2006.
- The Francophone share of Québécois albums showed a downward trend, down to 58% from 73% in 2006.
Not a pretty picture, especially when compounded by the overall drop in the gross numbers from which these numbers are developed.
COMMENT: Given the reality of how music is accessed and consumed today, not only in Canada but globally, should support of the local industry be measured by sales alone? Additionally, should the measurement by which success is measured be limited to Canada (or Quebec) only? Given the reality of today’s music environment, there are potential audiences virtually anywhere in the world for Québécois music.
Variety and Diversity
There has been much written and debated about the effect that quotas have on stifling variety in programming. It would seem empirically, without having access to data to either refute or support the argument, that in cases where quotas exist, there is a tendency for broadcasters to heavily weigh the broadcast of a relatively few number of well-known artists and a fewer number of their songs in order to satisfy both the quota requirements and the need to positively address the need to respond to the needs and expectations of the broadcaster’s listeners and to satisfy the advertisers, the broadcaster’s bread and butter.
It is helpful to recall the experience of Top 40 AM radio in the 1960s and early FM radio where the playlists were often short (woefully short as viewed by today’s opportunities) but the success in terms of listenership and secondarily by the sales of those artists finished product cannot be argued. One could also easily argue that as listeners back in the day – what choice did we have?
In time, regulations were introduced in Canada that restricted the amount of times a particular selection could be played within a specified time frame. Some consider this the sunset of the halcyon days of hit radio.
Critics of quotas call into question the value of including well-established artists and monster successes of the past in calculation of what is admissible to the exclusion of perhaps other artists and their content who would benefit more proportionately to being broadcast.
Emerging artists are part of the development of music and the future of music and the cultures it represents.
There is a growing issue about quotas being counterproductive in some degree to the exposure, promotion and development of emerging artists.
A review of discussions and opinions on the question show that while there is an appreciation for emerging artists and also for ensuring that they have access to broadcast, there is less of a consensus on what they are by definition. Questions such as where are they in their career development, what content is appropriate, can it be an established artist with emerging content…what are the magic numbers, should emerging content from emerging artists be weighted heavier than that of established artists to act as an incentive for radio to broadcast more emerging artists…are part of the reflection that continues.
The Loi du 1er février requires that 40% of music broadcast during peak hours be French-language titles, half of which are required to come from new artists or to be new productions.
Until an artist has 2 distinct albums that have been certified Gold (50,000 units sold), he or she is considered to be a new artist.
A production is defined as “new” for a period of 6 months from being first broadcast as a title having at least 3 plays during peak hours (06:30 – 22:30) for 2 consecutive weeks.
In 2011, after numerous consultations and with the co-operation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) and the Association québécoise de l’industrie du disque du spectacle et de la vidéo (ADISQ), the CRTC defined emerging Canadian artists on commercial radio (Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2011-316.)
English-Language Emerging Artists
An English-language emerging Canadian artist is a Canadian (he or she meets the “A” criterion of the MAPL system) and who has never previously charted or reached the Top 40 position on specifically identified music charts or the Top 25 position on specifically identified music charts.
An English-language emerging Canadian artist retains that status for a period of 36 months from the date he or she reaches the positions on the specifically identified music charts.
If an artist who is part of a group with an established identity launches a solo career or creates with others a new group with a new identity, that solo artist or new group will be considered a new artist for a period of 36 months following the dates its selection under the new identity reaches the position on the specifically identified music charts.
French-Language Emerging Artists
A French-language emerging Canadian artist is considered emerging until one of the following 2 thresholds has been reached:
- A period of 6 months has elapsed since sales of one of the artist’s albums has reached Gold Record status according to Soundscan; or
- A period of 48 months has elapsed since the release of the artist’s first commercially marketed album.
The term “artist” includes groups operating under a defined identity. If an artist who is part of a group with an established identity launches a solo career or creates with others a new group with a new defined identity, that solo artist or new group will be considered a new artist according to the above criteria.
COMMENT: While the debate continues, emerging artists turn to other opportunities for distribution and access. The internet and social networks afford them access on a very large scale but the need to build audiences falls squarely on their shoulders when they go this route. With radio play, the odds are greatly increased for an artist to find an audience and to advance their careers.
Discovering New Artists
In the latter part of the 20th century, radio was a major contributor as to how music was discovered, appreciated and consumed.
The music world during the latter half of the century was controlled by gatekeepers, without whose support, music, although freely created, had difficulty being mass-produced, distributed and accessed.
The combination of labels and distributors, broadcasters and retail combined to promote music that had made its way into their system. Careers and opportunities for artists and creators who found themselves outside of this structure faced enormous challenges in getting heard, let alone developing sustainable careers.
The world has changed.
Thanks to the spread of the Internet virtually everywhere in the world, consumers, fans and audiences for music, have the ability to discover and control what music they listen to, when they want and how they want.
Physical retail, if not over, is in its final days of being a major factor for both the music industry and artists. Terrestrial radio, the long-standing dominant broadcaster of music and developer of taste and community, is now but one of many platforms that audiences and fans can enlist in their ongoing search for good music and the experience that comes with discovering and listening to music.
How do today’s audiences find their music – new and old?
For some, terrestrial radio continues to be a trusted source and supplier of the music of their lives.
For others, notably younger generations, the ability to access internet radio, often specialized to the nth degree, is an avenue of choice. Being able to go online and be one click away from one’s favorite artists and music is a reality and the ongoing development of more sophisticated recommendation software is proving to be highly respected and appreciated by avid music fans.
And not to be forgotten…word of mouth is a powerful influencer and factor for music discovery…and will always be so.
Outcomes and Evaluations
In assessing the success of any measure, it is important at the outset and as part of the process to identify what are the specific outcomes and objectives that quotas are to address and how should the outcomes be measured to evaluate their effectiveness.
In reviewing territories where quotas have been introduced, we have been challenged to discover either precise quantifiable expected outcomes or significant evaluations and assessments on the results following the introduction of those quotas.
In the case of Commercial objectives, there are instances where the quota is part of a larger toolkit addressing creation, production, marketing and distribution of quality local sound recordings.
The toolkit may include other legislation addressing other media and platforms, public funding and support of musical works, tax incentives and other fiscal instruments directed at supporting and growing the creative and business processes.
There has been a movement of late to include the issue of sustainability into the discussions concerning government support and encouragement of the arts, including music. The reflection includes consideration that support through loans, grants and other public measures should lead to the recipient becoming self-sufficient and sustainable in time.
In isolation, quotas are probably not as effective as when they are included in a more all-encompassing approach to supporting and developing local music. The challenge is to ensure that the strategic fit of each element in the toolkit is either contributing to the common goal or objective or that it is complimentary to realizing the expected outcome.
In the case of Commercial expectations, a review of results to date has been limited as there is not a significant source of information that would lead to a reasonable evaluation of the success of quotas (and other measures) in driving the model as intended. The issue of measurement and metrics is confounded because the metrics, where they do exist, are based predominantly or entirely on the sales of physical goods…a holdover from the music industry at the end of the twentieth century.
Physical sales of recorded product have been in free-fall since 1998 making measurement and comparison from one year to the next somewhat meaningless. Where year-to-year or period-to-period comparisons have been invoked, we found that they are not reliable as they tend to reference local sales of local music (in terms of decline) against overall sales of music (also in decline) as a measure of success or failure. The complexity of the issues, the ability for extraneous factors to impact the dataset, and the ability for rogue elements to impact the analysis, call into question the value of these assessments.
Other measurements, including digital sales, live performance receipts or other economic drivers such as publishing, ought to be factored into the analysis to give it sufficient credibility as a tool for evaluation and for planning.
Given that revenue from physical and download sales will continue to wane in the years ahead, would a more meaningful index of success include “ears”, the amount of people actually accessing and listening to local artists and their creations?
If this is a reasonable consideration, then radio is but part of the toolkit (albeit an important part) and the creative and business music industries, with other partners such as broadcasters and platforms, should be evaluating how best to support the broadcast of and access to local content to address the future.
In the case of evaluating the impact on Cultural objectives, we have not found any material speaking reliably to this question. The issue of defending language or culture strictly through the intervention of quotas on broadcast music is too limiting, as many factors will impact this compelling challenge and probably should also be viewed over a longer time frame than simply year-to-year.
There also may be, in certain situations, some creative obfuscation. As an example, within the European Union, one cannot discriminate in favour of local music but one can discriminate in the case of language. This might lead one to think that where defending language has been invoked in defending the introduction of quotas, in reality, the intent may be something else, albeit similar.
Given clarity as to why quotas have been considered and adopted – the identification of purpose and outcomes – perhaps the question should be examined as to whether other measures, undertakings and support would be of value and possibly even more so than quotas are.
Put simply, if the stated role of radio as to local content is to expose and promote local music, then, other than quotas, what would be other opportunities for broadcasters to actively promote and contribute to achieving the stated goals, be they cultural, commercial, a combination of both or other goals yet to be identified.
Pulling Together (Floors and Ceilings)
Given the coverage online to the often polarized debate on quotas by stakeholders in different countries, it appears that consensus is hard to come by on the question, nature and need for quotas.
The writer having been personally involved in discussions leading up to the 2006 review has experienced this phenomenon and offers the following observations as a contributing element to the development of future successful outcomes involving quotas.
The interests of broadcasters, the music recording industry and creators and artists are somewhat diverging on the matter of quotas. They have their own challenges in contemplating what constitutes fair and manageable quotas as well as being impacted by them in different ways.
Part of the challenge going forward is to establish goals and outcomes that could and would be agreed to by all the stakeholders and that metrics be readily available or developed to support the measurement and delivery of those goals outcomes as well as keeping stakeholders engaged.
As is often the case in matters such as this, the question of floors and ceilings arises. Is the quota the ceiling, the maximum one should expect with efforts limited to achieving only that, or is it a floor, a minimum, and given the buy-in of the implicated parties, with the appreciation that surpassing the quota thresholds would contribute to the benefit of the identified stakeholders without detriment to any party.
The questions of avoidance, compliance and in some cases the very questioning as to whether a music work or artist qualifies or doesn’t arise from these perhaps natural conflicts and beg for consensus.
Given all this, the freedom to find whatever music you want, when you want it, how you want it…the challenge for terrestrial radio to continue to be relevant for music audiences is paramount.
How to balance this dynamic with regulations on what is played and how and will continue to be a significant challenge for broadcasters and regulators.
Artists, creators, the music industry and the broadcast industry need each other.
By bringing the parties together and through discussion with and participation of and commitment from the parties, and arriving at creative and meaningful solutions, regulators and policy makers, can do much to best promote and enhance local music and its desire to find its place both domestically and globally.
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