Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Climbing the Charts: What Radio Airplay Tells Us about the Diffusion of Innovation


Interesting look at how songs spread in terms of radio play. The good thing about this book is that it is not a "dumbed down story book" "economics for the rest of us" kind of book. The bad thing is that he uses a lot of jargon, which can make for some dense reading. In some points, he remembers to explain the concepts in English, in others you have to follow along. The key point about radio at least is that song diffusion does not follow an S curve like it would from being slowly spread by "word of mouth" and then taking off. New songs from big artists generally follow an "all at once" kind of curve, meaning that there's likely one source for the all-of-a-sudden popularity; a source that the author fingers as music industry promotion, including, but not limited to "payola". There are also some good thoughts on the future of music. Here's one that also highlights the language utilized throughout: "Perhaps the strongest theoretical case for the importance of boundary-spanning in general, and distributor relations with surrogate consumers in particular, comes from Neuman's Future of the Mass Audience (1991) which notes that barriers to entry for production costs and distribution costs could be (and in retrospect have proven to be) ameliorated by technology, but audience attention is inherently scarce and so barriers to entry through promotion are an eternal issue" In other words, even though you can easily make music (or write books, or whatever) without financial support, because technology has made it cheaper, getting the public's attention is still difficult and this means there is still a role for publishers as promoters/gatekeepers. There is also some discussion of the difficulty songs that do not easily fit into easy categories have, which is probably not news to some of my favorite bands like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Fishbone.

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