NPR has become a key site for music on the net. This reblog asks again, is their coverage fair?
Originally posted on Musea Zine:
Musea Reader – this week we look at how NPR is becoming THE leader of new music in this country.
You’re surprised aren’t you? This story is about how they have become a major player in many aspects of contemporary music, AND the possible conflicts of interest connected with how they choose the music they review and promote.
“The (NPR) Web site, officially in business only since late 2007, has become something of a tastemaking force in the fractured and fragmented music business. Through its blogs, news articles, lists, podcasts, videos and album and concert streams …, the site has attracted a steadily growing following, averaging about 1.6 million visitors a month. The site’s nine-member staff also feeds some of its audio features to NPR’s news shows… ” – Washington Post, Paul Farhi.
NPR, National Public Radio; PBS, Public Broadcasting System; NPR Music Stations across the country, The NPR Shop, and related music and news programs, have gotten into music big time. The interconnected web of all these is changing the music industry. They are becoming THE major player in music promotion. They have taken the place of record chains that have gone out of business. The music business is not in record stores anymore. It’s on the net. And NPR is becoming the major center for promoting and selling new music on the net.
But is NPR plagued with any shady payola like practices similar to those that government regulators found in the music business before? There is no clear cut evidence to support that. But the signs pointing to problems in that area, are strong.
The mainstream media and NPR won’t talk about all of these music industry changes and conflicts of interest , but I will. These changes are either too new for NPR to be aware of, or they refuse to be questioned about them for fear it would hurt their income from sponsors, or advertisers. Do I think there is some grand conspiracy strategy here? Hardly, this network of stations, websites, and programs is too vast. But I do think their basic business policies in these hard financial times, are putting revenue ahead of all else. And they are allowing revenue schemes to trump fairness, openness, and transparency in their music promotion and coverage.
The question is this, does this NPR network of music outlets, have similar types of shady special promotion deals with the BIG FOUR, the 4 major record companies, that some of the record chains had. Transparency is vital to keep NPR clean, and right now transparency is slim to nonexistent. Note footnotes at the bottom. These links will fill in many of these points. OR contact me for more info.
Note the following:
NPR has major coverage of major live music festivals such as SXSW Music Festival and Bonnaroo Music Festival. Note that they cover only musicians that fit their website and radio station formats.
NPR gets a ‘legal’ (?) kickback from any sales that its website produces through ‘revenue sharing’. This involves most of the major online music selling companies. The details of how this works are not clear, and hard to find. NPR is reluctant to talk about this. They are also reluctant to tell how their music is chosen for review, and why some artists are promoted, while others are not. NPR also has an in house NPR SHOP that sells some records and other gifts.